by American Stalls August 13, 2023
It is hard to believe that summer is already halfway over. Are you noticing that the horse pastures are not looking quite as lush as they did earlier this season? When it comes to maintaining grazing pastures, mid-summer is a great time for a close evaluation. Taking the time to do some August upkeep will help ensure ample grazing for your herd into the fall. Here are some tips for checking in on the health of your pastures:
Growth Patterns - Horse people are usually tuned in to the damage that wet, muddy conditions can cause, but dry weather can be equally devastating to pasture health. Hot, dry conditions can halt grass growth and leave the area at risk of becoming overgrazed. Inspect pastures regularly to see what grazing patterns are developing. Horses prefer short grasses, but if the roots are not protected, areas become barren, and weeds will take hold. Monitoring pastures is an important first step in maintaining healthy grass growth from the summer through the fall.
Rotational Grazing - Most horses don’t have an unlimited amount of space to roam and graze, this means that grass pastures need to be maintained. Rotational grazing is the best practice for maintaining optimal grass growth. It can be done by building separate smaller paddocks or breaking up larger pastures with temporary fencing. Horses should be allowed to graze in sections that have at least 6” to 8” in growth, then moved to a new section when the grass growth gets down to 2”-3”. One of the sections in rotation can be made into a sacrifice area with improved ground so horses can be turned out when conditions aren’t right for grazing.
Mow & Harrow – After the horses have been removed from a section of pasture area, it’s a good time to mow. Mowing keeps weeds from crowding out new grass growth, allowing pastures to thrive through the fall. Just be sure to not mow too low or too often which can further impede grass growth, especially during dry spells. After mowing, harrowing allows manure clumps to be broken down to a point where they can be useful to the soil and health of the grass rather than impeding it. Regular harrowing is great for stimulating grass growth.
Need for Seed? – Assess what the pasture growth looks like as well as the ground beneath the grass after it’s been mowed and harrowed. Then determine what next steps need to be made to remedy any issues in the pasture. Are there certain types of weeds that are especially pervasive? Are there areas of bare patches where the grass has been overgrazed? Consider taking a soil sample to gain a better understanding of what the pasture might need to thrive. Mid-summer is a great time to fertilize and re-seed to get the most growth potential.
If you are looking for more tips on rotational grazing and soil health, local county extension offices can provide a wealth of knowledge. If you would like more information on planning a pasture system around your horse barn that is efficient and aesthetically pleasing, contact American Stalls and talk to their knowledgeable staff about your next stable planning projects.