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Pasture experts...split fields or leave open

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  • Pasture experts...split fields or leave open

    Is it better to have one big open 4 acre field (for at most 4 horses) or to split it into 2 or 3 and rotate?

    Ditto with a 3 acre field that has 2 horses (will have at most 3 on it).

    What I love about the open area is they can run and play more unobstructed. Rotational grazing may help save the grass ?? but then they can't stretch their legs as much (not that any of these guys run much). We have them open right now, and have been advised to split them and rotate, but then I keep thinking...that will be 4 horses on 2 acres or so at a time, so is that really better in the long run to keep moving them around?

    One huge advantage I see is the grass, we can treat/fertilize/etc with them OFF of it and move them before it gets too damaged. But having not dealt with rotational pasture management before, the cynic in me wonders if it will actually make that much of a difference vs letting them have the whole 4 and supplement with round bales. Duh.

    WWYD?
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  • #2
    My experience with similar densities is that it is better to split and rotate.

    Even now that I have twice as much pasture per horse, split into 3 fields, I am thinking of splitting the largest so I can rotate further.

    Try to split them into long thin fields instead of square ones to maximize the opportunities for running around.
    Janet

    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).

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    • #3
      No advice, but I'm also interested in answers...

      Comment


      • #4
        I split and rotate my pastures with horses and cattle. But we have 180 acres of pastures split into 8 differant ones. If I only had a few acres and 3 or 4 horses I'd want it open as much as I could so horses have some room. Its always a trade off I think when you have limited acres but I go for health of horse first.
        Quality doesn\'t cost it pays.

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        • #5
          Split them up - but like Janet suggested - make them long rectangles rather than squares.
          The reason for splitting vs not - if not split, the horses will gravitate to certain areas ignoring others. This allows weeds and brush to grow in the 'abandoned' areas. By splitting the pastures up, more of it will be used, weeds will be kept at a minimum, and brush growth is discouraged. You can seed, fertilize, etc.
          Bridal Sweet 05/28/1983 to 01/23/2008


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          • #6
            Another advantage of splitting the pastures is that it makes it much easier to introduce a new horse, or segregate one if needed for some reason (e.g if two are fighting).
            Janet

            chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).

            Comment


            • #7
              I have something of an unconventional answer. I know rotating is better for growing grass but Grass is the Enemy.

              I don't want my grass "too good" lush and rich and lovely = fat, laminitic, sore

              so I do NOT rotate or segment my 5.5 acre pasture.

              on the other hand I am considering adding fence inside my fence to make a track a la natural hoofcare ... Jamie Jackson calls it Paddock Paradise

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              • #8
                Grass is the enemy? Not for me its the cheapest way I have to provide good lush forage for my mares and foals without the grass I'd be out of business. The more lush and fast growth I have the better.
                Quality doesn\'t cost it pays.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by webmistress32 View Post
                  I have something of an unconventional answer. I know rotating is better for growing grass but Grass is the Enemy.

                  I don't want my grass "too good" lush and rich and lovely = fat, laminitic, sore

                  so I do NOT rotate or segment my 5.5 acre pasture.
                  That is what a sacrifice paddock is for.

                  And I disagree. With an undivided field they WILL get a LOT of "lush and rich and laminitis inviting" grass during first growth. Then they will get a lot of weeds.

                  With rotation (and a sacrifice paddock big enough to run around in) they can get a SMALL amount of "lush and rich and laminitis inviting" grass at a time. And if you do it right, the other field will be over its growth spurt before you rotate to that field, so they will get less "bad grass" in total.
                  Janet

                  chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Interesting thoughts, still can't decide...

                    I agree with county, it seems like more room=better (and I am very envious of your acreage!).

                    My husband agrees with Janet and others, split the pastures and have grass vs weeds. I just know I love to watch my babies run the length of the pasture in a big circle, and I hate the gallops with dead halts at fences when they run out of room. I just wonder for them, if it is better that they have more space and room to move/graze even if they are picking at grass stubble and weeds (I don't mind buying round bales, mind you).

                    I could do 2 acre rectangles...vs a 4 acre rectangle...so confusing.
                    Celtic Pride Farm
                    www.celticpridefarm.com
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                    • #11
                      actually we don't have a weed problem. we bush hog once a month and that keeps the weed seeds from forming and spreading.

                      the only problem we have in our pastures are bare spots. which is fine.

                      I have two sacrifice paddocks and use them mainly to introduce new horses and for the two fatties / IR prone draft crosses. the rest are in the pasture 24 x 7

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by webmistress32 View Post
                        I have something of an unconventional answer. I know rotating is better for growing grass but Grass is the Enemy.

                        I don't want my grass "too good" lush and rich and lovely = fat, laminitic, sore

                        so I do NOT rotate or segment my 5.5 acre pasture.

                        on the other hand I am considering adding fence inside my fence to make a track a la natural hoofcare ... Jamie Jackson calls it Paddock Paradise
                        Thanks for the above reference, I've been looking for it.


                        Great thread!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I would split them. I have 5 horses rotating through four 2-3 acre pastures, and it's really worked out well for me. One is the designated "sacrifice pasture" with a run in shed for bad weather. My insulin resistant boy wears a muzzle and his turnout gets limited when need be (I have two small paddocks off of stalls for containing a horse).

                          If you don't want to permanently split with fencing, why not use electric fencing? I split my sacrifice pasture with electric every spring to start to recover the grass. It's easy, and you can change the split as you need to. With small pastures, it might be the easiest thing for you to do, and the most cost effective.
                          "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." - Confucious
                          <>< I.I.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Depends on which kind of work you prefer -- hauling hay for supplemental feed (which you will most likely have to do anyway with a pasture that small), or fighting with the damn fence all the time (if it's electric or otherwise temporary) or a gargantuan effort at first to put in permanent fencing (and then keep it maintained).

                            Four acres is about as small as you can go and still kid yourself that you "have pasture". I do it with about that for currently five, has been as high as eight or nine, and have them split now because one butthead horse keeps picking on an arthritic horse. That's gonna end as soon as I figure out what to do with the butthead.

                            In any event, I would not split a field unless a had a common paddock that any divided pasture could be accessed from and could serve as the hub of feeding/watering routine that stays the same regardless of pastureage.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Split em

                              I'd split them and then you can rotate and or have a small sacrifice paddock.
                              If you have the money put an inner fence so you can ride around them as well.

                              MW
                              Melyni (PhD) PAS, Dipl. ACAN.
                              Sign up for the Equine nutrition enewsletter on www.foxdenequine.com
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                              • #16
                                We have about 3.5 acres pasture and had 2.5 horses ( 2 for a while, then 3, now back to 2). Last year we did not split it and did try to mow regularly, but it was haphazard at best and the pasture was weedy and bare in places. This year we split into 3 pieces, roughly an acre each (one is slightly smaller) and rotated our grazing, and it really helped improve the grazing. And, I should add, I am looking for good grass; no laminitics here.

                                First of all, it helps make the mowing and poo-picking more manageable because of the smaller area. It's not a huge deal to poo-pick an acre, but it's impossible to do a good job if you have to traverse 3.5 acres at once. Overwhelming! Same with mowing. You can easily mow an acre at a time without having to devote hours to the job. And it helps keep the horses in one space and make them graze down an area well before moving on; otherwise they can be very wasteful. As much as they like to run, I think most horses would prefer the extra time on the grass v. having to switch back to hay sooner (my horses are still on grass here in NY).

                                We did the interior fencing with electric & solar since all of the perimeter is hard fencing (and I can say that my horses never tested the fencing; they had adequate grazing in each pasture that they never felt the need to try to escape). The beauty of this is that we will be taking it down soon so we can lime and overseed, then it will go back up in the spring. If you're unsure - try something like this for a summer and see what you think.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by MissBri View Post
                                  Split them up - but like Janet suggested - make them long rectangles rather than squares.
                                  The reason for splitting vs not - if not split, the horses will gravitate to certain areas ignoring others. This allows weeds and brush to grow in the 'abandoned' areas. By splitting the pastures up, more of it will be used, weeds will be kept at a minimum, and brush growth is discouraged. You can seed, fertilize, etc.
                                  Sorry I have to disagree with the fact that they will over-graze some areas and leave others.

                                  IMHO I have 5 horses on 9 acres, and I have one 2 acre paddock that has the pony on it.

                                  Mind you 2 of the 5 are weanlings and no one in the large field has any health issues, but they use the WHOLE area, not parts. Its all eaten down the same, nothing really long and nothing bare. But I also drag the field 2x a month and bush hog it so it stays nice.

                                  Personally, if you have to split it, then split it in 2 paddocks.

                                  If you can avoid it, I try and keep the ratio of 1 horse : 1 acre of land.

                                  But again thats just IMHO
                                  www.simplicityweimaraners.ca

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    2, & rotate. Even better, 3 (one small, dry lot). Keep 'em mowed, drag to spread (or pick up) manure, and DO NOT let the horses eat either of the grass lots down to the roots. productivity is great as long as the grass doesn't get too short. Growth is proportional to leaf/stem area, so if it's 6" long it grows nicely, if it's .2" long it grows VERY SLOWLY. But if it's 12" they won't eat it.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Carrera View Post
                                      Sorry I have to disagree with the fact that they will over-graze some areas and leave others...Mind you 2 of the 5 are weanlings and no one in the large field has any health issues, but they use the WHOLE area, not parts. Its all eaten down the same, nothing really long and nothing bare. But I also drag the field 2x a month and bush hog it so it stays nice.
                                      How very efficient. I drag and cut my fields every few weeks too, but regardless there are definately areas they graze down and areas they ignore (latrine areas). I'm thinking your horses are the exception, not the rule.
                                      "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." - Confucious
                                      <>< I.I.

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                                      • #20
                                        I've got mine split in a manner that lets me open them up to full size for running and cavorting.

                                        When you split them, it doesn't have to be evenly. You should consider shade areas (if any); traffic flow; ease of moving horses in and out (no corner gates); etc.

                                        In the pages and pages and pages of pasture "stuff" I've been reading the past couple of years - long pastures are fun - but I see hard stops (hard on the joints AND the turf) and racing with horses next to each other... leaving damaged turf.

                                        My horses rarely run straight lines. They loop and circle and run up the hill, turn around in the area behind the barn that's only 50' wide - and down the hill and around in big loops again. That's in 2, 1/2 acre sections that have a 12' gate between them. The half-acre sections are pretty square. Then there's another 2/3 acre section that has another 12 gate to it that connects it to the other sections. The 2/3 acre area is more rectangular and they hardly EVER run around in that section.

                                        So, I suggest breaking up the large fields for rotation purposes and for controlled grazing, fertilizing, manure management. If the grass gets long - then let them graze in the morning before the sun builds sugars. Or, if the grass gets long, keep them in an area that is already grazed down and mow the long grass. I believe a better term would be "controlled grazing" rather than rotational. JMO..

                                        One more plus for some small, close in lots - to have a horse close by for watching, for farrier/vet appts, get ready to trailer, etc.

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