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Talk to me about land prep for barn and pasture

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  • Talk to me about land prep for barn and pasture

    So my husband and I fell in love with a house/piece of land that we purchased last year...

    The total property is about 15 acres and the place where I'd like to put the barn/pastures etc. is approximately 4 acres. it is farily flat but does have a very slight downward slope (that in its current state helps with drainage when it rains).

    The idea is to put in a 4 horse/grooming/washstall barn with a tack room and apartment above it, paddock/grass ring, and second paddock. We've had it surved etc. and had zoning rules etc. all checked so we're good to build on it, I just was wondering about:

    1. the actual process of converting natural field to workable pastures and

    2. if someone could give me a 101 lesson on the process for grading/prepping the spot where the barn would go...

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  • #2
    You'll save a lot of money, time, effort and stress (and did I mention money?) by hiring a professional excavator to do your site prep. Even a slight slope can create a drainage nightmare if you don't take care of the uphill side with well-placed swales (and perhaps drain tiles). And if you'll have run-outs or paddocks accessed directly from the barn, drainage becomes even more of an issue so you don't end up with horses hock-deep in crud after the first hard rain.

    As for turning fields to pastures... talk to your local seed/feed store to see what's best for planting in your area, then do soil testing to figure out if you need fertilizer, lime, weed killer, etc. BEFORE you put any seed down. If you have to do a major overhaul, you'll be best served by letting the new stuff sit for at least a year before letting your horses onto it. Hooves are the enemy of new grasses.

    Congratulations on the new place!
    Patience pays.


    • #3
      I will also emphasize drainage, after having to do major fixes for my horse barn which was built by the previous property owners in a low spot.

      The ground should be graded all the way around the barn with a 1% slope so that water runs away from it rather than towards it. Ideally, you'd want the 1% grade for any dry lots as well.

      The downward slope that you have can be well utilized but some kind of building pad will have to be built level for the barn.

      As for pasture, do the research for your area and speak to your local feed/seed store for advice. If the land is old, untouched and used to be pasture you may not have to do anything except put up good fencing and overseed or fertilize.

      Good luck!


      • #4
        We put in a pad of dirt to raise the barn and immediate surrounding area 5ft above the other field areas. We let the dirt pile sit AFTER being leveled and packed a bit by the bulldozer shaping it up, this was from fall to spring. Snow, cold, rain, worked on the pile, getting air out, making it much more solid, for barn construction when summer weather arrived.

        Brother-in-law suggested getting the dirt in place and letting weather do our work for us over winter. He is a barn builder, knows his stuff. Our barn being higher has been a huge help in drainage, flood prevention.

        So I would totally agree with getting in a ground professional who knows your area, dirt layering you will be dealing with. Getting drainage dealt with ahead of time will prevent bad situations from happening later. We have drain tiles around the outside, paddocks have been sloped away from the barn, farm drain ditches were cleaned and deepened, KEPT clean and mowed, so water can move away quickly when the storm times come. This is in addition to the dirt pile that raise the floor of the pole barn way above all the surrounding dirt levels.

        The barn has not flooded despite some terrible storms dropping incredible amounts of water, saturated seasons of storm after storm. Flooding has not climbed that high to go in the doors.

        We are on the high side of the river, so water going thru doesn't stay. You might want to check the property and local maps, to see what kind of water WILL be going thru the property. We didn't buy in the lovely flattish area of farms with the 12' deep roadside ditches. TOO scary thinking of that kind of water, and later flooding did prove that water there didn't leave fast even with those ditches.

        My friend down on the low side of the river, gets flood depth water pretty regular, has 3 pumps and a generator to keep the house safe.

        So it is well worth the extra expense of having some experts in to give you advice and plans to deal with water if you get some "100 year" weather.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Melissa.Hare.Jones View Post
          You'll save a lot of money, time, effort and stress (and did I mention money?) by hiring a professional excavator to do your site prep.

          My Pro talked me into placing my barn farther from the house than I originally wanted just for this reason.
          In 8 years my barn has never flooded, compared to friend who went the cheap way (used the idjits who did her modular house - which also floods) whose barn leaks...a lot...

          Turning fields into pastures can take as long as 5 years+ if you do it my way: the lazy way
          I hand-seeded with a walk-behind spreader (just 3ac & 2ac) and then let horses have at it.
          Finally, last year I was mowing pasture, not just stands of weeds.
          *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
          Steppin' Out 1988-2004
          Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
          Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


          • #6
            I am also interested in hearing ideas about making land into pasture. We are considering a place in the NC Sandhills. The property had splotchy grass/weeds here and there but it needs help to be horse pasture. A real estate lady made it sound like we would need to till the land. This sounds expensive and might make the pasture take longer to be ready for horses? I'm no expert, but I'm wondering if we can't just seed and fertilize??


            • #7
              Before you try to "fix" or alter ANYTHING, find out what the PROBLEMS are. Spend enough time on the property to find out what the land is: soil, micro-climates, drainage patterns, wind and storm directions, neigbor problems, etc. etc. etc. Perhaps you could find an "old-timer" neighbor farmer to help you with this.

              Reminds me of the story of a guy TRYING to start a vineyard (very trendy around here) on Barren Ridge. His vines were dying until neighboring farmers told him that "Barren Ridge" got its name because it got very little rain, unlike surrounding areas. Guy put in a watering system and got by.


              • #8
                Call your local Extension Office. County Agents will make site visits and give you some valuable advice. The service is free (you pay for it with your taxes ).

                Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão