As horse owners, and even on the smallest of properties, we sometimes forget we are grass and forage farmers for our horses. Whether you have grazing pastures to manage, you are growing or just buying hay and roughage, it helps to get know your grasses and legumes.
Grazing and Pasture
We all want the best for our horses and, ultimately, our horses’ long-term health is generally determined by what they eat and how active they are. In this article, Des Warnock, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Batphone Australia, a company that provides products and education about improving plant and soil health sustainably, reminds us we need to start from the ground up - literally! How healthy is your pasture?
February already! If you haven’t made some New Year’s resolutions about how you are going to manage your pasture in 2017, now’s as good a time as any. Remember, you are aiming to: Create a good place for horses and people, Provide safe, nutritious horse pasture, and Minimise environmental impacts. By: Matching pasture growth and grazing pressure, Maintaining groundcover, and Maintaining pasture species diversity. Making it easy
Summer means heat. In southern Australia, it also generally means drought or at least dry times. But in other areas, summer rains - often in the form of storms - predominate. In southern Australia in particular, pastures are often dominated by Winter active annuals species and these senesce - die - at this time of year. If your pasture doesn’t contain Summer active species, the plants that are present now are pretty much the pasture ration from now until next Autumn, when the Winter annuals germinate.
It has been a wet Spring across much of Australia - much too wet in some places! Ground that isn’t waterlogged should be growing well in the warm weather. Warm, wet Springs mean there are three things to focus on – rotational grazing to make the most of pasture, watching grass intake in fat ponies and other good doers, and maintaining good worm control, because worms also love warm and moist conditions. Do you need more fertiliser? Rapidly growing grass needs nutrients to grow. How do you know if there is still nutrient available to your pasture?
With warm, moist conditions prevailing over much of the country, pasture growth continues apace. Keep monitoring your pasture growth and your horses’ welfare. The aim is healthy pastures and healthy horses. Keep an eye on pasture height and coverage. Your aim is to keep pastures 10-15cm high and at least 70% groundcover, although for most areas it should be higher (above 90%) at this time of year.
Spring can feel a bit like a lesson in being careful what you ask for - all those months wanting to see fresh, green grass in the paddock and, suddenly, your fat little pony is knee deep in it, and you are lying awake at night worrying about laminitis and founder. Pasture management in Spring is often an exercise in managing access.
If you haven’t already started thinking about sowing Summer-active pasture species, start now! Spring will be upon us very soon and that is the time to start sowing Summer-active species, although the exact time of sowing does vary from area to area. As a guide, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) says these species should be sown when day time temperatures have consistently been above 20oC and night-time temperatures about 10oC for ten consecutive days; this generally doesn’t occur in northern inland New South Wales until November or December each year.
Series: Pastures for Horses
Part 2 of the series on pastures for horses. As horse owners, and even on the smallest of properties, we sometimes forget that we are grass and forage farmers for our horses. Whether you manage grazing pastures or agist your horses, it helps to know more about grasses and legumes.
This article focuses on grasses classed as C4, warm season or tropical grasses that were introduced to Australia and are now commonly found in pastures. Despite their tropical name, some of these grasses also grow in cooler, temperate areas. This is Part 3 of Mairette van den Berg's series Pastures For Horses.
When European settlers first arrived in Australia, grasslands and grassy woodlands covered much of the continent. Many of the explorers referred to grasses as the dominant plants in the landscape.
If we want to live and manage properties more sustainably - preserving natural systems and creating better environments for our horses and ourselves - we have to get smart with our resources.
It’s the height of Summer when I drive up to Brimham Park agistment near Hurstbridge, Victoria. I can’t help but be surprised at the amount of grass that’s still on the paddocks in this picturesque spot, when every other horse property I’ve seen is dry and bare. It’s not witchcraft - just a deep understanding of their land that makes managers Jane and Howard Ashton the competent grass farmers they are.