Horses and rotational grazing - Help!

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by futurefarmer, Apr 1, 2013.

  1. futurefarmer

    futurefarmer Junior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2012
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    3
    My mother has 25 acres in North-Eastern NSW on which she runs around 10 horses. She has been grazing the horses in a continuous fashion and after many years the pastures are in a truly sorry state....totally overgrazed, bare earth in places, extensive compaction, some topsoil loss due to lack of ground cover, huge weed infestations. I've finally convinced her of the virtues of rotational grazing and she is now very eager to make it happen, so I was hoping for a little advice from anyone who has rotationally grazed horses before.

    I've read that for horses you should graze until the pasture is no less than 5cm (2in) in length and spell until it reaches at least 15cm (6in). What I'm struggling with is:

    1. Any idea what sized cells you would approximately need for a group of around 10 horses, and how long you would graze them in each cell? The total grazable area is 25 acres.

    2. Suggestions on good ways to manage the fencing. E.g. should she create small cells using electric tape and step-in poles, and move these around within the boundary fences?

    3. Is there anything else that you would suggest to help mend her land?
     
  2. mouseinthehouse

    mouseinthehouse Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2012
    Messages:
    782
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    My initial thought it is going to be very difficult. 10 horses grazing on 25 acres 24 hrs a day every day is too much (as you have evidenced). 10 horses grazing on 5 acres or less 24 hrs a days is too much. You would have a very short rotation in every cell to avoid trashing it. I have four horses and we utilize about 70 acres for their grazing with no other stock. This year, given it has not rained here for nearly 6 months, we have needed all 70 acres! We still have a lot of cover but it is just dried off grasses which don't support any real nutritive value. I am going to have to supplementary feed for the next few weeks. Our paddocks haven't been overgrazed for ten years and we went into spring with thick feed on much of it. With such a small amount of land and a lot of horses and the current condition of the land I think it would be an uphill battle. If you have large cells (say 3 or 4 acres) it is better but even 3-5 horses on just a few acres will strip it to nothing in about 3 weeks and the would still need supplementary feed. I wouldn't think three weeks is enough time to allow the other cells to regenerate to a sufficient degree and pretty soon you are back to where you started. She would also need to collect all the manure (perhaps she does this already?). Even then, horses will 'sour' areas of small paddocks ie they won't graze where they have manured/urinated a lot even if it is collected which further reduces grazeable area. In your mums' area perhaps she has higher rainfall and gets faster growth which may make a difference?
    Personally, unless I kept horses yarded for most of the day, every day, I would never contemplate running more than four or five horses on 25 acres and even then it would need prudent management. But I can only really speak of my experience here in our neck of the woods.
     
  3. futurefarmer

    futurefarmer Junior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2012
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Thanks, mouseinthehouse. Where are you located?

    At present she does not collect the manure. In a rotational grazing set up, does it become less important to collect the manure? Given they should more evenly distribute it throughout the cell, wouldn't you just leave it there to compost and fertilise the paddock during the rest period?

    Suppose I could get her to reduce the number of horses on the property. What sized paddock (cell) would you suggest, and how often would you expect to move them?
     
  4. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    Messages:
    5,925
    Likes Received:
    8
    Trophy Points:
    0
    You could follow the horses with chooks or turkeys or some other scratching bird to break the pats up, spread them around and eat the larvae in them. I don't know much about horses so I don't know if that would be enough to stop them not wanting to eat where they poo and pee? If you really want to go for broke, follow that by pigs to turn over the soil. You'll then get eggs, chicken and pork production off the same bit of land. You may need to reseed the land after the animals move on to get a good mixture of pasture grasses going. You could also investigate suitable tree species for browsing to supplement the grasses - planted as hedgerows between paddocks.
    How much area you confine them to will depend on how often you want to move them. And how much grass cover there is. If you don't mind hard work then a daily move onto a small patch of land will allow your mum to get a feel for how much land is needed and whether she needs to supplement feed. And of course they'll need water too. Once she gets a feel for how much land they need then she could size up the 'pen' and move them less often. Is she checking them daily anyway?
    If daily moves are contemplated then the simplest lightest fencing arrangement that she can afford would be the way to go. You don't want the system to fail because changing fences around gets to be too much hard work.
     
  5. matto

    matto Junior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2009
    Messages:
    685
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    16
  6. mouseinthehouse

    mouseinthehouse Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2012
    Messages:
    782
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    We are in South East South Australia. I honestly don't think your Mum has enough land to rotation graze 10 horses. You just won't have enough space and time to allow regrowth and you can't possibly keep more than four horses on say 2.5 acres at a time without defeating the purpose ie they will trash the cell eating it down to nothing. Therefore if you divide the horses into three cells of 2.5 acres each you could only really leave them on it for maybe four weeks maximum. They will all need a lot of supplementary feeding especially if they are working animals you just cannot support four horses on 2.5 acres unless you have very lush good quality spring feed. You only get two more moves of say four weeks each and you are back at the start with the first cells only having 2 months to regrow. It would never work here except for a brief spring/early summer period. You also need to factor in that it will take some time to rehabilitate the entire area and it will need pasture seeding before you start any of this. If the land is degraded already that is going to be difficult without complete removal of horses for a period of time. Manure removal is very important to keep worm burdens down even if you run poultry over and to maximise preferable grazing.
    I wouldn't advocate light electric fencing setups of the push in peg variety. Yes they are somewhat easier to move but unless you have very good horses who respect fences, no spooky ones etc then a lightweight set up can end in disaster. Better to go with droppers and safety tops on them and good wide tape that packs a kick. You do not want horses running through fences and taking the whole lot with them. Believe me I have had horses for thirty years and worked at a country racing stables and thoroughbred breeding property for the last 7 years and I have seen it all including the scenario your mum's land is in right now (possibly worse!). Horses are so hard on the land and they need maximum area if they are to be grazed 24/7 year round. There is just no getting around the need for a lot of acreage per horse. Sorry to sound like a wet blanket but it's a difficult one!
     
  7. briansworms

    briansworms Junior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2011
    Messages:
    1,161
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    You can put the manure in piles or rows and cover with shade cloth. Introduce worms to the piles. As they cool the worms will move further into the piles consuming the maure as they go. Once the piles are well and truly broken down it can be then spread back over the ground to help fertilize the area and re introduce worms back into the pasture.

    Horse manure is the best bedding you can use to breed worms so they will breed fast and consume huge amount of manure :)
     
  8. Terra

    Terra Moderator

    Joined:
    May 16, 2007
    Messages:
    757
    Likes Received:
    23
    Trophy Points:
    18
    I would be reducing numbers and set up a interesting complex of laneways , A bit outside the square (typical for me ) have a look at Jaime Jackson's book Paddock Paradise more in line with helping with hoof care and general social and mental welfare of horses , just cutting up your paddocks into smaller ones wont help much and will just give you a new range of problems . If your going to refence the property i would be going down the paradise track , there are places for rest , places to poop , encourages movement , horses need to do a lot of miles this system encourages that . You could have a large area that you can grow feed on .
    Rob
     
  9. Sandman

    Sandman Junior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Looks like not enough food for the horses. Either reduce the herd or provide supplemental hay and/or feed. It could be tough convincing her to sell any of the horses - in my experience it's like convincing someone to sell their children. Once the grazing pressure is reduced (hopefully), there will be work to do to reduce the weeds and restore the grass. This is a classic case of it costing a lot less to maintain a pasture than to restore one. Best of luck!
     
  10. floot

    floot Junior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2010
    Messages:
    99
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I do not see how you can keep 10 horses on that little land and not have already destroyed the pasture and a lot of the topsoil. I believe it would take many months to rehabilitate the pastures including ripping, ploughing and reseeding, even then if the horses were hand fed for most of the year. Horses are extremely selective eaters and will many plants till they are 'starving'. I would start by creating 5 x 1 acre paddocks as sacrifice areas and renovate the rest at least until spring, electric fencing should be fine for this. I would purchase those 500kg 'car' bales and put one in each yard. Do not cut the binder twine, let the horses work away at them. Get them delivered and placed, cover the other 4 with a tarps [just the top] and rotate them. Get 5 delivered at a time, more if you can handle them. They are easy enough to drag behind a vehicle. I buy odd ones, put them on my ute and to offload I tie them to a tree and drag them off.

    Get some guinea fowl they are masters of tearing dung heaps apart and they loves ticks and grasshoppers too. A few damara sheep would work too, they seem to eat all the things that horses do not like and vice versa. I have horses and damaras. Thirty Damaras and two horses on 15 acres of managed pasture/grass/weeds. I do feed the sheep a bit to keep them quiet and grow them. The horses are fed but no need [they are my wife's spoilt pets.]

    I do not believe there is a short term fix that will work in the interests of your mum and all 10 horses. Ideally it would be better to reduce horse numbers and renovate. I have seen flogged out ex-horse paddocks take years to recover to any extent.

    Cheers,
     

Share This Page

-->