Pasture Tips and Practices

The Horse Outreach Workgroup has put together a great list of tips on what should be happening in pasture management for each month. The workgroup consists of representatives from local Soil Conservation Districts, Maryland Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service, University of Maryland, Delaware Cooperative Extension, and the Maryland Horse Council. The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Office of Resource Conservation provides coordination for the workgroup.

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Here are some pasture management practices that you should be keeping in mind for the following months:

November
  • Discuss grazing and conservation cost-share programs with soil conservation district staff to see whether financial assistance is available.
  • If spring spot seeding of pastures is needed, pre-order certified seed to take advantage of dealer discounts and seed availability. Make sure delivery is scheduled for February of the following year.
  • Begin turning horses out on tall fescue fields set aside for winter grazing (i.e. stockpiled) once orchardgrass and other pastures have been utilized.
  • In fields that will be frost seeded with clover, closely graze to 4 inches to remove excess residues to allow for better establishment.

October
  • Apply lime to pasture according to soil test or nutrient management plan recommendations.
  • Early in the month, continue the suppression of perennial weeds using mowing or herbicides. Herbicides should be the type that move in the plant with accumulating sugars (translocatable herbicides) to active growing points.
  • Remove excess left-over vegetation and be careful to not allow thick windrows of mowed vegetation or patches of thick dead vegetation. The windrows or patches will shade the underlying grass, killing it and leaving an open area for weeds to encroach.

September
  • Do not allow horses to graze pasture grasses below 4 inches in height because food reserves and growing points are in lower stems of grasses.
  • Work on suppression of fall weeds with either routine mowing, biological control (goats and sheep), or herbicides.
  • Make plans for winter liming based on soil test recommendations.
  • Apply remaining 1/3 of annual compost or fertilizer amount to pastures.
  • Determine percentage of white clover in pastures. If clover is less than 25% of pasture, plan to broadcast seed in February.
  • Place order for hay to cover fall and winter needs.

August
  • Plant certified pasture seed optimal for grazing horses and soil conditions of grazing pastures between August 10 and September 10. Early planting is critical to provide adequate fall growth to ensure robust spring stands. Do not graze reseeded pasture for a minimum of 6 months.
  • Begin resting tall fescue pastures for winter grazing.
  • If drought conditions and slow grass growth exist, close off pastures and feed hay to horses housed in sacrifice lot/heavy use area.
  • Put your soil erosion correction plans to work to make sure all projects are completed before the fall rainy season.

July
  • If drought conditions exist, feed hay to horses in sacrifice lot/heavy use area. Close off and rest all pastures. Irrigate pastures if possible.
  • Continue to manage grazing horses by moving them from a pasture grazed to 4 inches to a pasture rested to 6 inches height or more.
  • Evaluate pastures to identify those that have less than 50% desirable grasses so that they can be scheduled for reseeding in the fall.
  • If late summer reseeding of pastures is planned, pre-order certified seed to ensure seed availability and an August delivery date.
  • Establish contracts with agricultural service providers that can apply lime and/or fertilizer if recommended by soil test.

June
  • Consider reserving one or more pasture fields (early to mid-June) for late summer grazing (i.e. summer stockpile).
  • Adjust grazing system to manage for slower seasonal pasture growth by providing longer recovery times for paddocks between grazing.
  • Continue to mow recently grazed pastures to no lower than 4 inches to maintain vegetative growth and to control weeds before they go to seed.
  • Cut thistles after ‘strawberry moon’ (June full moon).
  • Allow animals to graze any pasture fields rested since March.
  • Identify summer weeds and initiate control method. Contact your local University of Maryland Extension Office for help with identification and control methods.
  • Submit soil samples to a certified soil testing laboratory every 3 years to receive annual lime and fertilizer recommendations.

May
  • Mow recently grazed pastures to no lower than 4 inches to maintain vegetative growth and to control weeds before they go to seed.
  • Apply another 1/3 of the recommended annual fertilizer application to pastures. Delay grazing fertilized or limed pasture until after about 0.25 inch of rainfall has fallen.
  • Evaluate soil erosion in sacrifice lot/heavy use area and other heavy use areas (gates, feeders, run-in sheds, waterers). Contact your local soil conservation district for assistance with soil erosion control measures.

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