Pasture & Paddock Management starts in Winter
Grass is an essential part of your horses’ diet and it is estimated that a horse spends about 10 to 17 hours each day grazing, broken up into about 15 to 20 grazing periods.
Grass is the most natural and lowest cost feed for your horse and whilst grass alone will not keep your horse in tip top condition, it is thought that a horse should eat one to two percent of their body weight in roughage every day.
Many of us aren't lucky enough to have an abundance of winter grazing but we can however try and make the best of the grazing we do have by following a care calendar throughout the year.
Winter may seem like a silly time to start but there are plenty of ways to help protect your grazing through these months.
Jan - Feb
The worst of the winter months, but you can do much now to minimise the damage to your paddocks.
Restricting turnout either in length of time or in area will, avoid wearing out the grass and is essential. Grazing pens made with electric fencing or use of a Duracorral Turnout Pen are a very effective way to do this job: they are easily moved and easy to set up even on your own.
Dung collecting is easier to carry out in a smaller area and again is essential for grass growth, so it does not to restrict new shoots coming through.
If you are using hay/haylage bales in your paddock, the addition of a Durapoly Bale Feeder will minimise poaching and wastage.
The addition of a field lick such as Lambourn Horse Flexilik in Jan – Feb, will ensure horses have access to the spectrum of minerals which they would usually get from the paddock grazing.
March - April
It’s hugely beneficial to harrow your paddock(s). Harrowing has the benefit of removing any dead grass and moss, aerating the grass and dispersing any poo heaps and mole hills. When the temperature starts to rise, a quality fertiliser such as Suregrow Fertiliser should be applied. Fertilising replenishes the nutrients lost over winter and gives grass the nutrients it requires to stimulate good growth.
When there is no risk of frost, paddocks can be rolled. This provides little benefit to the grass, but rolling does make the paddock look better, flattening out divots and ruts. You don't want to roll if the ground is too dry.
April is the ideal time of year to reseed & repair paddocks. The Suregrow range of grass seed mixes are blended specially for horse and pony paddocks and perfect to repairing heavily trafficked areas like as gateways and feeding areas or for larger areas. If you have horses or ponies that are prone to laminitis, then investing in a system such as a Duracorral turnout pen is an ideal way to control how much access you give to lush grass. Turnout pens of this type are simple to set up and very easy to move allowing you to regulate access to limited areas.
May - June
Grass growth is at its greatest during May and June but be careful not to give your horse(s) too much fresh grass to avoid the risk of laminitis. If necessary, strip grazing or turnout pens can be used.
The benefits of Suregrow Fertiliser include that the slow-release nitrogen produces a more sustained grass growth, without the flush associated with traditional fertilisers, and as it’s organic, you can continue to use the paddock for grazing.
Weed growth will be strong at this time of year, so it is the ideal time to carry out weed control, which is usually done by spraying. Be sure to follow all the instructions on any weed killers used. Grazon Pro Paddock Weedkiller is suitable for spot treatment for docks, thistles and nettles, or use Barrier H Ragwort Treatment for specific ragwort weed treatment.
July - August
These are the true summer months for all to enjoy, in periods of drought be careful not to overgraze your paddock(s). In very hot weather, it is good practise to keep your horse inside during the hottest part of the day and turn out overnight.
Dropping picking is especially important as it reduces the grass growing area, grass scorching and will attract less flies.
Topping any excessive growth or seeded grass should be carried out, this can help.
Sept - Oct
This is the end of summer; the days get cooler and there is usually an autumn flush of grass growth.
Giving your paddock(s) a top dressing of fertiliser at this time of year will encourage growth. The benefit of grass growth at this time of year is that the thicker and denser the grass is going into winter, the better it will be protected over the winter. Reseeding and patching of bare patches can be carried out at this time.
Nov - Dec
The start of winter. It’s time to try and protect grassland as much as possible by not over grazing paddock(s) and keep any poaching to a minimum. As always keep dung collecting whatever the weather. Protecting your paddocks now will help you prepare for the spring and for a strong start to the new year.