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.
MB Equine - Property & Pastures
Sometimes, permaculture is as simple as changing the way we look at things. This month we bring you a perfect example: Instead of looking at all that manure your horses produce daily and the hard work you do cleaning it up as ‘waste’, you can see it as your best opportunity to obtain a valuable resource to help you achieve the holy grail of permaculture - building healthy soil to support your horses’ and your land, helping both become more resilient.
This month, we celebrate dung beetles! For horse owners, dung beetles mean mean less cleaning paddocks and poo shovelling, and great soil development, without cost or effort - all things that align with the permaculture principles. Dung beetles also benefit your horse’s health by helping control fly and parasitic worm populations. While this is great news for all horse and cattle owners, these tiny workers need the right conditions to establish and thrive.
While many horse owners are quite aware of the importance of providing roughage to our horses - either from pasture and/or conserved forages - there are different aspects to consider when deciding on what conserved forage you should feed to your horses and how much you should provide (e.g. quality versus quantity). This series explains the latest advances and recommendations for feeding conserved forage presented in a recent review paper (Harris et al. 20161), which was initiated by the European Workshop for Equine Nutrition (EWEN) meeting held in Portugal in 2012.
While many horse owners are aware pasture and conserved forages should be the basis of horse diets (even in performance horses), there are different aspects to consider when deciding what type of conserved forage you should feed your horses and how much you should provide - quality vs. quantity. Over the next three issues of Horses and People, we will bring you the latest advances and recommendations for feeding conserved forage highlighted in a recent review of the scientific findings in equine nutrition.
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.
In the previous edition we discussed the essence of planning and why it’s important to evaluate regularly various aspects of our lives - including finances, land use, pasture, grazing, horse training, breeding etc. To create the quality of life we envision for ourselves we need to have a plan - regardless if you are just running a private property (household) or you own a (horse) business.
Land Planning is a process for planning and developing the infrastructure (fencing, water, handling facilities, etc.) on properties small or large acreage. Implementation of the plan will likely take many years. Whether you have well-developed infrastructure or not, you need to plan its ideal layout and gradually work toward it, as time and money allow. This will enable you to move toward your holistic goal more quickly, while increasing management efficiency and reducing overall costs.
Holistic Grazing Planning, is a grazing planning procedure that helps you get your animals to the right place at the right time and for the right reasons. Although it has been primarily developed for livestock operations, the principles can be adapted to the management of horses and pastures on properties. The Holistic Grazing Planning procedure uses an aide memoire (French for memory aid), a “cheat sheet” developed by military planners to help simplify complex and ever-changing situations to produce desired outcomes.
In the wild, the horse adapted to eating prairie (low-quality) grasses in semi-arid regions and travelling significant distances each day in order to obtain adequate nutrition. In addition, predators that hunt them would push them along, so generally wild horse populations would never stay at one place for a long time. In an open environment, horses will move along while grazing, which means that in general they only disturb and foul the ground for a small period of time. Grazed areas have time to recover over the season.
Overgrazing and over-resting pastures are common problems on horse properties, which result in ‘horse sick’ pastures with poor quality grasses, accumulation of weeds, compacted and eroded soils, salinity and populations of parasites. To develop an effective grazing plan that can maximise production and improve the health of your horses, you need to understand the growth rate and cycles of grasses and legumes.