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How Bad Is It to Mow Your Pasture Very Short?

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  • How Bad Is It to Mow Your Pasture Very Short?

    I hate to mow down my pasture short, but our garden tractor only has the shorter length that is for a lawn (maybe 2.5 or 3 inches???)

    I hate mowing away our the grass that we need for grazing, but otherwise I have to wade through tick-infested tall grass to catch the horses.

    So it all got mowed too short. And the waste of good inches of forage feels terrible.

    Is it worth it to buy a new mower?

  • #2
    What size area are you talking about?

    Here, you don't want to mow too short because it is hard on the grass, leaves too much of the bottom exposed to our hot searing winds.

    Most mow lawns very short first time in the spring and then not too short most of the year and again the last time in the fall very short.

    I would say, maybe your local county extension agent, that may be part of your court house officers, will be the best to ask how to manage the grasses you have there.


    • #3
      Well, it's too short to maintain a healthy pasture.

      3 inches is what they recommend for lawns to adequately shade the roots etc. Pastures should be kept a little longer.

      To contact the county extension. They can tell you much better what you need to maintain a healthy pasture.


      • #4
        Is it your only pasture, or do you have another that you could toss the horses out on for a little while while it grows back?
        Super short isn't ideal, but if you can give it a break, it will grow back! (Just look at any hayfield - around here at least, they cut them super short, but as long as it rains a little, they bounce right back.)


        • #5
          What happens with a short mow is that unless there is alot of rain, it tends to kill it off when things get dry. If its too short now, water it if you can and keep the horses off of it and let it recover as much as it is going to. Do that now, before the really hot dry weather comes in.
          My warmbloods have actually drunk mulled wine in the past. Not today though. A drunk warmblood is a surly warmblood. - WildandWickedWarmbloods


          • #6
            Does your tractor have an "arm" that allows you to raise and lower the deck? My John Deere GT requires you to raise the deck, then turn a knob to whatever inch setting you want. I just leave it up to do pastures, but also give the grass a couple days to recover a little before turning out on it.
            Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.


            • #7
              Well, it is good for reducing ticks, but bad for concentrating worms, so pick your poison. You generally want to try to leave it around 4" but I totally get the dilemma -- I only have a garden tractor as well and am pondering what to do about that. 3" is much better than the 1" a former BO used to do, drove me nuts. I'd love to have a bushhog, but still waiting for a money sack!
              Life doesn't have perfect footing.

              Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
              We Are Flying Solo


              • #8
                I would buy a new mower. But then I am an equipment junkie big time.
                Just like our eyes, our hearts have a way of adjusting to the dark.--Adam Stanley


                • #9
                  I leave the deck up in "park" position when I use our zero-turn to mow the pastures. It winds up being about a 5-6" cut, which is perfect.
                  Click here before you buy.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                    I leave the deck up in "park" position when I use our zero-turn to mow the pastures. It winds up being about a 5-6" cut, which is perfect.
                    That is what I do also when mowing around the barns and pens.
                    Good, because some times the ground there is less than smooth.

                    Lifting the deck clear up to the resting spot is where I leave it, don't know how many inches that may be, but it is the highest it goes and seems good enough.

                    If the OP has a very large area, pasture mowing with the finishing lawnmowers may be hard on said machine, go slow.


                    • #11
                      Grass that's too tall isn't much better for the overall health of the pasture. Producing seedheads is an "end of life cycle" for most grasses, so you'll slow/stop blade production after a while if seeds mature.

                      What KIND of grass do you have? Various types have various requirements for lowest healthy mowing height.

                      I did find reference to "don't use tall fescue if mow heights will be less than 1.5"" , but others where it seems 2.5" is the lowest you'd want to mow.

                      HOWEVER, that is not talking about grazed pasture. Wherever you mow down to, horses will chomp it lower for a while,and that's where the damages start to occur.

                      Mowing greatly reduces ticks over unmowed, so you'll be ahead of the game just by mowing. But the lower you mow, the less shade the root base will get in the Summer, and the less healthy the underground roots will grow. Taller blades require deeper roots.

                      So, for us, our lawns even get cut high in the Spring, even if it means mowing more often, to encourage a longer/deeper root system for when the rains stop.

                      I mow the pasture pretty high - 5-6"
                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                      • #12
                        I mow my pasture with a riding lawn mower all the time, and have for years, without a problem. On the highest setting, but I do put it down from the park position. I only have a couple of easy keeping horses and a couple of sheep, so I'd really be okay with wasting forage and killing some grass, but it hasn't seemed to make much of a difference. And my critters all have negative fecals.

                        So not worth it for me, but obviously your situation may vary based on climate, stock rate, worm load, and so on.
                        "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
                        -Edward Hoagland


                        • #13
                          Most grasses hold their "growing" reserves in the 2.5-3" of growth. There area few varieties that hold their reserves lower. If you tape into these reserves you can damage the regrowth of the grass. Another thing that can be an issue is that shorter the grass the highter the sugar content. Depending upon your horses it could cause some health issues. In rotational grazing operations farmers perfer not to graze thier pastures below 6" and usually do not turn livestock out till pastures are at least 12" (of course depends on the stocking rate).
                          The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire. ~Sharon Ralls Lemon