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Bermuda hay field into pasture?

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  • Bermuda hay field into pasture?

    What is the work involved in turning a working bermuda hay field into pasture for turn-out? I don't know a lot about hay fields vs pasture so any info would be greatly appreciated.

    TIA!

    (BTW, read thread on turning alf. hay field to pasture)
    The Mighty Thoroughbred Clique
    Freaky Farm Hermit Clique

  • #2
    Fence it off? Unless it is some strange variety of bermuda I don't know about, bermuda is perfectly acceptable pasture grass. My front pasture are bahia but my back pasture is a mix of bahia and bermuda.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by sirena_chaucer View Post
      What is the work involved in turning a working bermuda hay field into pasture for turn-out?
      Build a fence around it. Done.

      Did you have some specific concerns about it?

      --
      Wendy
      --
      Wendy
      ... and Patrick

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        I guess my concern was that it was straight bermuda and had been used multiple years for hay...it isn't important to put some mix seed on it, the bermuda won't be too rich? What does baling vs grazing do to the ground?
        The Mighty Thoroughbred Clique
        Freaky Farm Hermit Clique

        Comment


        • #5
          If bermuda isn't too rich for them to eat, it isn't too rich for them to eat. No matter how they get at it. In my humble opinion.
          My warmbloods have actually drunk mulled wine in the past. Not today though. A drunk warmblood is a surly warmblood. - WildandWickedWarmbloods

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by sirena_chaucer View Post
            I guess my concern was that it was straight bermuda and had been used multiple years for hay...it isn't important to put some mix seed on it, the bermuda won't be too rich? What does baling vs grazing do to the ground?
            Depending on where you are, you may want to overseed with a cool season forage to ensure an adequate pasture year round. Bermuda does VERY well being grazed, but again, depending on location it may not grow at an adequate rate all year.

            Any pasture can be too rich at times for certain horses, but in general bermuda should be fine. Just make sure to ease the horse(s) onto pasture if they aren't used to it, as you would in any pasture situation.
            It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.
            Theodore Roosevelt

            Comment


            • #7
              Where are you located?

              If you overseed with rye grass in the fall, ryegrass will will continue to grow until it gets to hot in the late spring. The height of the rye grass will prevent to bermuda from growing and establishing itself in the spring after being dormant for thw winter. You will need to cut the ryegrass down or make ryegrass hay to allow the bermuda to have sunlight.
              In my opinion, I would not overseed a well established bermuda hayfield/pasture. But that's just me.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by jcotton View Post
                Where are you located?

                If you overseed with rye grass in the fall, ryegrass will will continue to grow until it gets to hot in the late spring. The height of the rye grass will prevent to bermuda from growing and establishing itself in the spring after being dormant for thw winter. You will need to cut the ryegrass down or make ryegrass hay to allow the bermuda to have sunlight.
                In my opinion, I would not overseed a well established bermuda hayfield/pasture. But that's just me.
                You make a good point. The rye will overtake the bermuda in the spring if its not mowed. I simply mentioned overseeding because not knowing where the OP is, how big the pasture is, how many animals may be grazed on it, etc.; overseeding may be necessary. Depending on location there are other options besides annual rye.

                OP- if you give us your location we could probably give better advice.
                It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.
                Theodore Roosevelt

                Comment


                • #9
                  Fence it and then take horses back off if they start grazing it below 2-3 inches. Bermuda is very grazing/traffic tolerant so it will be fine. Some other grasses don't do as well so they might not do double duty as pastures quite as easily.
                  "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." --Dwight D Eisenhower

                  Boston Terrier Rescue of NC - www.btrnc.org - Adopt for Life!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    How big is this hay field?
                    How many horses are going to put in the hay field?

                    You could keep it as a hay field and still let the horses graze it before and in between cuttings, as long as you as don't have too many.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Thanks everyone! This is GREAT info. So appreciated.

                      It's in eastern South Carolina and would not do double duty for a hay field AND pasture, only pasture.

                      It's about 35 or 40 acres. I was wondering whether it would be too rich or if it would tolerate grazing year round without ruining the pasture-whether it needed to be overseeded with some other grass. I was thinking of creating 3 pastures, and putting 6-8 horses on night turnout 5pm-8am on 1 of the pastures, leaving the other 2 to rest. Rotate as needed. That is our year round schedule and I'm considering moving the horses to this new location, but was concerned about putting the current herd on one single pasture that big and that well maintained. Also wanted to give myself the option for more horses in different herds/different turn out options.

                      Sound like too much for the pasture?? I am really concerned about maintaining the pasture b/c it looks so nice right now, I don't want it mismanaged!

                      Btw, what is the ideal rest period for medium-to-heavily grazed fescue pasture?
                      The Mighty Thoroughbred Clique
                      Freaky Farm Hermit Clique

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Do you use this hay field for hay? Or do you purchase your hay?

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Like I said, it won't do double duty as hay field and pasture. It will just be pasture. I purchase hay.

                          TIA!
                          The Mighty Thoroughbred Clique
                          Freaky Farm Hermit Clique

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The best way to ensure you don't hit the pasture(s) too hard is to calculate average annual production per acre, calculate daily intake of your horses (usually by finding an average per 1000 lb horse, then totalling your horses' weights and figuring accordingly) and see how they differ. You could call your Extension agent to figure that out.

                            Like this:

                            Annual production per acre x acres = How much you have

                            Annual intake by horses = How much you need

                            Grazing primarily influences pastures based on three things:
                            Density (animals per unit of space)
                            Timing (is it the growing season? Bermuda grass is a C4 or warm season grass)
                            Duration (how long are they there)

                            Handy calculator: http://www.range.colostate.edu/calculators.shtml


                            Of course, if you really want to improve your pasture health and local ecosystem, you can begin transitioning from your non-native grass to a more diverse array of native warm and cool season grasses like gamagrass, big and little bluestem, purpletop, virginia wildrye, wavy hairgrass, and so on. Great for wildlife and year-round forage, when done properly.
                            My website

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Don’t know much about Bermuda hay or grass. But the only difference between my timothy/orchard hay fields and my pastures is how often I mow it and fence.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by QacarXan View Post
                                The best way to ensure you don't hit the pasture(s) too hard is to calculate average annual production per acre, calculate daily intake of your horses (usually by finding an average per 1000 lb horse, then totalling your horses' weights and figuring accordingly) and see how they differ. You could call your Extension agent to figure that out.

                                Like this:

                                Annual production per acre x acres = How much you have

                                Annual intake by horses = How much you need

                                Grazing primarily influences pastures based on three things:
                                Density (animals per unit of space)
                                Timing (is it the growing season? Bermuda grass is a C4 or warm season grass)
                                Duration (how long are they there)

                                Handy calculator: http://www.range.colostate.edu/calculators.shtml


                                Of course, if you really want to improve your pasture health and local ecosystem, you can begin transitioning from your non-native grass to a more diverse array of native warm and cool season grasses like gamagrass, big and little bluestem, purpletop, virginia wildrye, wavy hairgrass, and so on. Great for wildlife and year-round forage, when done properly.
                                Not trying to be snarky or condescending but you must be an Ag student. As Rodney Dangerfield said in Back to School to his professor, loosely translated; It doesn’t work that way in the real world of horses. Nor is it necessary. What you posted is correct “by the book” and in an ideal situation. But most of us have to work with, what we have to work with. Just mow it, fence it. And maintain it to the best of your practical ability. If you have to put too many horses on it so be it. Throw hay to make up for the lack of grass. We all would like to live on the ideal farm but that’s very expensive.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by gumtree View Post
                                  Not trying to be snarky or condescending but you must be an Ag student. As Rodney Dangerfield said in Back to School to his professor, loosely translated; It doesn’t work that way in the real world of horses. Nor is it necessary. What you posted is correct “by the book” and in an ideal situation. But most of us have to work with, what we have to work with. Just mow it, fence it. And maintain it to the best of your practical ability. If you have to put too many horses on it so be it. Throw hay to make up for the lack of grass. We all would like to live on the ideal farm but that’s very expensive.
                                  I'd appreciate hearing which parts wouldn't work for you and why. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to farms or ranches of course, but by and large having a numerical idea of what you're working with is pretty easy and provides some idea of carrying capacity.

                                  Or was it the native grass part? It definitely is more work, no question, to restore an ecosystem. Trashing one is pretty easy though. One just has to throw too many horses in and hope for the best. I measured the productivity of just such a pasture in Soapstone Prairie, Colorado. It's had no horses for 4 years after decades of overgrazing, and it still hasn't recovered its productivity even slightly, thanks to the overgraze-it-and-hope-for-the-best approach the previous owners had. Luckily, pastures where the OP is are a bit harder to damage as severely.

                                  As for my background, the above advice and training I got from a multiple generation rancher, former Extension agent, and PhD. And a few other people who have both a century-old family background in ranching as well as scientific training, including two heads of their grazing associations (with hundreds of producers each). I've seen it put into practice multiple times, generally with good results. I've never been one to believe that science and "the real world" are of necessity opposites, and frankly find that sort of Luddite anti-intellectualism tiresome. A good land manager combines experience with scientific and adaptive management strategies. They're pretty complementary, and one can support the other, when combined properly. The best ranchers I've known have combined their family knowledge of the land with scientific monitoring techniques, and my God, the things they accomplish!

                                  I'm not an Ag student, incidentally. Not that that's an insulting allegation--most of the Ag students at my current school are also multi-generation ranchers or farmers and well-acquainted with how "things work"--and they still use monitoring and estimate forage production.

                                  Feel free to not do any of it, if you think it's worthless. A lot of Colorado and Wyoming ranchers would disagree with you but it's a free country. Not everyone can afford the hay it takes to feed the number of animals they have, so they can't afford to overstock and throw hay out, and wreck the pasture.

                                  I hope that clarifies why I suggested the above.

                                  Anyhow, apologies to the OP for going off track.
                                  My website

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by QacarXan View Post
                                    The best way to ensure you don't hit the pasture(s) too hard is to calculate average annual production per acre, calculate daily intake of your horses (usually by finding an average per 1000 lb horse, then totalling your horses' weights and figuring accordingly) and see how they differ. You could call your Extension agent to figure that out.

                                    Like this:

                                    Annual production per acre x acres = How much you have

                                    Annual intake by horses = How much you need

                                    Grazing primarily influences pastures based on three things:
                                    Density (animals per unit of space)
                                    Timing (is it the growing season? Bermuda grass is a C4 or warm season grass)
                                    Duration (how long are they there)

                                    Handy calculator: http://www.range.colostate.edu/calculators.shtml


                                    Of course, if you really want to improve your pasture health and local ecosystem, you can begin transitioning from your non-native grass to a more diverse array of native warm and cool season grasses like gamagrass, big and little bluestem, purpletop, virginia wildrye, wavy hairgrass, and so on. Great for wildlife and year-round forage, when done properly.
                                    This is actually a very good rule of thumb for trying to estimate how much grazing you might get out of your pasture (or pastures if you decide to cross fence). It's not going to be 100% accurate because weather conditions and soil fertility will play a big role in how much production you'll actually get but this will definitely get you in the ballpark. Lots of horse people don't bother to plan ahead when it comes to pasture management and then they can't ever seem to catch back up once the pastures are damaged. Even smaller acreages can be intensively managed to have good grass.

                                    Be prepared to walk your pastures often so that you can keep a check on how much the horses are actually grazing down the grass. Remember that they are terrible spot grazers so although from a distance it might look like there's plenty of grass, there may actually be a lot of areas that are overgrazed. It helps to pull them off, mow the pasture to get rid of the overly mature grass that they're not eating, and then allow for regrowth before putting them back on it.

                                    I may have missed it but how many horses were you planning to put out on the 35-40 acres? If you allow for some of the pastures to grow up prior to the frost killing them, you'll essentially have hay-on-a-stem that can be grazed during winter months. You'll just have to be careful not to let them graze too close and start digging up dormant plants.
                                    "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." --Dwight D Eisenhower

                                    Boston Terrier Rescue of NC - www.btrnc.org - Adopt for Life!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      6-8 horses on 35-40 acres? If it's any sort of decent grass density, that's well over 4 acres per horse and there should be zero issues over-grazing it, assuming you rotate pastures if it's fenced into smaller sections.

                                      Resting for 2 weeks is usually the goal, but in the "off" season for the grass (ie Winter for Bermuda), or more horses/acre or less grass/acre, you'd want more rest time. I don't know how much slowing down Bermuda does where you are, so its downtime may be minimal
                                      ______________________________
                                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        This is been very very interesting reading. Thanks to all for their input. I have found the majority of farms seem to have over-grazed pastures and it is my goal to NOT let it happen on my farm!

                                        I understand they are spot grazers and that it doesn't sound like a lot of horses on the acreage but it is AMAZING how much they graze it down. I am going to cross-fence it but wondered how often "thereotically" to rotate. I imagine you can just "eye-ball" it but it is very, very interesting to know the scientific approach as well.

                                        I agree that both approaches used in a complimentary manner is probably the best way to maintain a farm!

                                        I am actually very curious now about the native grasses idea.

                                        Thanks again for all the info, everyone!
                                        The Mighty Thoroughbred Clique
                                        Freaky Farm Hermit Clique

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