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Spring Pasture Management

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  • Spring Pasture Management

    Hello all - new to the forum, and nearly as new to keeping my own horses on my property.

    Winter will be ending here in the Wisconsin northwoods soon. I have a couple of horses that have spent the winter with access to inside stalls, a small feedlot, and a 2-acre pasture. I know that soon I will need to restrict them from that pasture, so that they can't destroy it before it has a chance to recover from the winter.

    Through the summer I'm pretty good with keeping that pasture clean, but I know the melting snow will leave behind a lot of manure. It's a poorly-growing pasture anyway ('soil' in the northwoods is mostly sand), and I run a chain drag to break up manure periodically in the warmer weather, to help improve the soil.

    I'll want to do that as well with all the manure thats been left there over the winter, but I'm unsure when I should do that. Should I do that before the grass starts growing again, or will that do the same damage as my horse's hooves might? Or, should I just wait until after the grass is growing well?

    Also, I've heard lime is a good additive to counteract the acidic soil up here, so I'll probably get some of that down too. Should I consider seeding as well?

    Thanks for any replies, this newbie (and his horses), are very appreciative of the help.

    cheers, dan

  • #2
    Welcome, Dan!
    I am not the best resource for pasture mgmt tips - I should probably be cited by the Pasture Police for Neglect

    I've been told dragging before seeding is a Good Thing as it allows the seed to get into the trenches and avoids birds eating too much of what you spread if left right on top.
    Also manure that overwintered will have broken down nicely and dragging it in should enrich the soil and help.

    I do nothing to help my 8yo pastures (former bean/corn fields) but every Summer I still have to mow them at least twice to keep the grass down. This, even though I have 1 horse & 1 pony out 24/7/365.
    They're out "grazing" now - on what I have no idea, but if it makes them happy.....

    I have about the same acreage in pasture that you do.
    *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


    • #3
      Lumpy pasture. Gophers, ruts, big grass clumps. Too late to roto?

      What to do about lumpy pasture with gopher mounds, some hoof ruts, big grass clumps? I moved 2 horses into one of my unused (for about a yr) pastures yesterday. I really don't like how it felt for me to walk in it. What to do about it? Is it too late to roto it? Or would some other implement help?

      Are pastures typically replanted in the fall? What if I did it now?


      • #4
        I'd recommend starting with a soil test that your local ag extension should be able to help you with ...

        Based on results, you will find out what you need to bring pasture into best shape possible for growing grass. I just spread 2 tons of lime per acre; everything else was ok. (You may also consider liming fields/paddocks to counteract urine impact.) I also overseeded with lespodesia (sp? (a legume)) to increase nitrogen in soil over time in poorer soil areas, and fescue to help fill in a few bare spots. Horses will be off those fields for at least a month, if not two, to let things get somewhat established.

        Just had a great conversation with a veteran farmer the other day - he advises against spreading manure (aged or otherwise) in a concentration that will adversely affect the existing nitrogen balance (hence the importance of a soil sample).

        Glad to see there is a fellow 'field picker' ... I'm sort of nuts about it and pick them every other day.


        • #5
          I can answer the question about dragging the winter's built up manure: do it when it is dry enough so the tractor doesn't damage the field. That has nothing to do with when the grass is growing.

          Agree it is a good idea to test the soil before adding things.

          In my experience if you seed a field, you need to keept the horses off it for about two months or the seed is wasted.

          Welcome to COTH!
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          • #6
            sorry, didn't mean to hijack your thred. I meant to make a separate post. oops