The weather is beginning to warm and spring pasture grasses are growing, but wait! Don’t turn those horses out too early!
While your horses may have been hanging out in a sacrifice area over the winter to protect your pastures from damage, there are good horse health and pasture management reasons to wait before returning them too soon to open fields.
Spring Pasture Recommendations
Follow these spring recommendations to make sure you are not damaging the pastures you have worked so hard to protect over the winter.
According to Dr. Susan Kerr, WSU Regional Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist, here are a few springtime guidelines:
- Turn animals out on spring pastures when grasses are at least six to eight inches high and the soil is not saturated.
- Use rational grazing, moving to a new pasture cell every 1 to 4 days. This creates uniform grazing and avoids horses eating only desired forage grasses.
- Let grass regrow to at least six to eight inches before re-grazing.
- Use a sacrifice area to prevent overgrazing, even in summer. Many cool-season grasses go dormant in the heat of the summer. Avoid grazing at that time.
- Fertilize as needed when plants are actively growing. Test your soil to determine nutrient needs.
- Mowing or grazing pastures will keep them in the vegetative state longer and provide maximum forage.
- Drag pastures to break up manure clumps and incorporate the nutrients quicker.
- Aeration can reduce compaction and rejuvenate forage.
- Identify and control your weeds to keep pastures in healthy forage grasses.
- Avoid overstocking your pastures. Usually one acre of quality pasture can support a single 1,000-pound animal for the grazing season.
Learn More About Protecting Spring Pastures
Springtime is the ideal time to assess your pastures and create a pasture management plan. It is also a perfect time to address broadleaf invasive weeds in your pastures. Using a handy tool like the smartphone app iNaturalist can make your assessment easier.
Looking for more helpful hints to help your agricultural endeavors this spring? Check out our handy TIPS on Land and Water Management for Small Acreages in Oregon below!
If you have questions about pasture management, please contact the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District at 503-210-6000 or e-mail your questions to [email protected].