Pasture Management

Wolf-Kim

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Well, it's been in the long time coming, but I think I would like to get more aggressive with my pasture management. The main problem? Don't have very much money to put into this.

Weed control? Usually later in summer, the pasture gets pretty weedy and since the FIL sold his bush hog, we have nothing to mow the pasture with. Thought about goats, something to eat the non-grass stuff, but we only have a 3 strand electric fence. And we have enough issues with the horses getting out because the weeds ground out the fence. Hubby's biggest pet peeve is having to catch and contain loose animals, so goats are a no-no... for now. We've tried round-up(*gasp* I know, I hate using the stuff) but 5 acres of pasture is a lot to spray with one of those gallon hand held garden sprayers. Contemplated burning, people say they burn for weeds, any experience on this?

Fertilization? Other than the horses contribution, the pasture has never been fertilized. I don't have one of those handy dandy (and expensive) manure spreaders, that would be so wonderful and useful. Any ideas on cheap manure spreading?

Planting? Although I don't think the pasture particularly needs planting, just weeding and fertilizing; just thought I'd throw it out there. One of these years, I will be getting into the habit of planting winter rye, that way the pasture is green year round.

So, any suggestions or comments for beefing up these pretty sorry looking pastures?
 

Beekissed

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Takes time if you don't have lots of money. Mowing regularly is one option. You could also hire someone to brush hog it for you or even let someone bale up the hay from it. This is what I would do....let it grow for hay and let someone bale it up. The more they mow, the better the quality of hay they will get.

They say the best way to restore pasture is rotational grazing but it sounds like you guys don't want to deal with anymore ruminants....so mowing often is your best option. Mow when the grass is 6-8 in. and never mow it down lower than 2 in.

This way your shorter grasses have time to do their thing, go to seed, reseed themselves, etc. The longer grasses and weeds don't get a chance to seed or proliferate. Any really bad weeds like burdock or thistle can be mowed aggressively and dug out individually. Eventually they will be eradicated.

I'm using a couple of hair sheep on rotation to improve the grasses on my place so that my chickens have more nutritional grasses available. I didn't have to mow any last year except a few clumps of tough stuff they wouldn't eat. Funny thing is, come fall they would eat those tougher grasses....I'm thinking they were fescue.

They got really plump on the fall fescue...they say it has way more nutrition in the fall.

I do plan to seed some white and red clover in my orchard this year....for the bees and the sheep. Won't be enough to hurt the sheep but it will help cover the bare spots.
 

miss_thenorth

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We are going to be working on our pastures too this spring. With only three acres, my horses clip it pretty much to the wood come the end of summer. I am seriously thinking of keeping them off the pastures this summer to give them a time to regrow and heal. In doing so, I am thinking we need to address the weeds , and also overseeding with a pasture mix.For manure spreading, so far, we have loaded up the wagon and manually spread the manure out with a shovel. but I have a friend who knows everyone in this small community, and he came over last month to say he had a guy who would spread our manure for us come spring. Ask around the old timers, they might know of someone who will have a manure spreader for you to use. Also, when I empty the rabbit/quail droppings, I fill up the wheelbarrow and spread that stuff too.
 

inchworm

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Ok - stupid question time.....

What is hay -- is it just dried grass? What types of grass? Same as in a lawn?

Inchy
 

Wolf-Kim

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inchworm said:
Ok - stupid question time.....

What is hay -- is it just dried grass? What types of grass? Same as in a lawn?

Inchy
Hay is pretty much grass. Coastal Bermuda hay is bermuda grass. Just cut, dried, and rolled into a bundle for later use.

Many people like to fence their animals in a smaller lot and just use the larger pastures for hay. Keeps the grass from being trampled and/or killed off.
 

Farmfresh

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Inchy there is hay and there is HAY. Some is very nutritious and some is basically junk.

There is a LOT to learn on the subject. Hay is classified as grass hay or legume hay or mixed hay.

Grass hay is made from basic pasture types of grasses. Here in Missouri we have timothy, orchard grass, brome, fescue, and oat as our basic grass hays. I Kansas they also bale prairie grass hays that feature big and little bluestem, grama, switch grass and indian grass.

Legume hay is made from legumes - plants with nitrogen fixing root nodules on them. Common legumes are beans, peas and peanuts. Common legumes made into hay are clover, lespedeza, and most importantly alfalfa.

Other plants that sometimes end up in a hay, like weeds, are called forbes.

Mixed hay combines some grasses and some legumes. Hay of this kind is supposed to be most nutritious as it supposedly provides a complete protein for the animals - like eating beans and rice.

Nutritional values in hay depend on lots of things. The type of grasses and legumes involved. The mineral content of the soil where the plants were raised. The maturity level of the plants and the cutting and curing process. For example if you have a rain on the hay after it is cut and before it is baled it can severely damaged or even ruined.

The same thing that makes good hay ALSO makes good pasture. In addition to mowing, which is VERY important, simple things like dragging a harrow around the pasture to spread out manure pats and spreading lime will help the pasture a lot. Over seeding legumes will also help to fix nitrogen in the soil.
 

ksalvagno

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We overseed with grass seed in our pastures. It is slow but eventually we have more grass than weeds.

We section off a small part of the pasture and then spread our manure straight from cleaning it up. We dump and spread it one wheelbarrow at a time. Spread it on thick so it is like a layer of topsoil when done. Takes a long time but no compost piles to turn and when it does fully compost, beautiful grassy area. Don't let the animals on it until it is fully composted. Also a great time to get that area worked on with nice grass. We just used T-posts and cheap fencing to fence our areas off and used a corral panel for a gate.
 

inchworm

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What is straw? I always gotten the impression that hay is a leaf used for food and straw is a stem used for bedding. Correct? Do they come from the same types of plant or do you have to plant something different to get straw?

Inchy (whose only livestock is chickens at this point ;-)
 

Wolf-Kim

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ksalvagno said:
We overseed with grass seed in our pastures. It is slow but eventually we have more grass than weeds.

We section off a small part of the pasture and then spread our manure straight from cleaning it up. We dump and spread it one wheelbarrow at a time. Spread it on thick so it is like a layer of topsoil when done. Takes a long time but no compost piles to turn and when it does fully compost, beautiful grassy area. Don't let the animals on it until it is fully composted. Also a great time to get that area worked on with nice grass. We just used T-posts and cheap fencing to fence our areas off and used a corral panel for a gate.
What do you overseed with?

My FIL says that the pasture has a lot of bermuda in there. Which is good because everything I've read says bermuda is a very tough, drought resistant grass. It's just our pasture has had a lot of abuse over the past couple of years. At one point the poor thing had 10 horses in it. Two horses to an acre!

I guess what I'll do is round up some help and just hand throw some manure(rabbit).


-Kim
 

valmom

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Straw is a grain stem that has had the grain (seed) heads already harvested off like oats or wheat. Usually used for bedding in some places (horrible bedding- I hate straw stalls) or mushroom growing. No nutritional value, but some horses will eat it if bedded on it.

I agree that for a large area of weeds you either have to disc it under and re-plant or aggressively mow for several years so the weeds don't have time to go to seed. I also overseed with orchard grass- one of my favorite hays so I figured if I could actually get some into a pasture the horses would like it. But, animals have to be kept off it so it can take hold without being eaten or trampled. I am trying, on my small acreage, to get one of my back pastures to be grass. I have 3 areas fenced- one large one that is dirt/mud with the round bale of hay in it. One in the back that is basically rocks and weeds and whatever grows there that the horses have full access to (that's why it is rocks and weeds) and one that I am trying to get the orchard grass established on that the horses have been off for a year now.
 
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