"Gypsy gold does not chink and glitter. It gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark."

~ Saying of the Gladdagh Gypsies of Galway

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pasture Maintenance & Spring Grass

It's no secret that we've had a record amount of rainfall here the past two months. *Ugh*

Everything has been a complete swamp. And it smells. You know - the smell of dirty water and mud - UCK. Now though, over the past couple days, we've had minimal, if any, rain and the temps have hit 90* so things have been drying out as best they can. Since it has been so wet, we haven't been able to get all the grass cut. The tractor is too heavy and literally sinks into the grass and in some areas, the grass is too high for the riding lawnmowers to tackle it.

So, finally, Tuesday evening hubby was able to get the pasture grass mowed down so we can start putting the horses out on it.

Right now they have just been utilizing one side of the pasture. I call it the 'sacrifice side'! This is the side they tear around on in the spring, which in turn, doesn't produce nice grazing grass. AKA, 1200# animals tromping all over fresh, spring grass budding through the soil makes for dirt pasture. You can kind of see how it is almost all dirt on the left side of the fence...and nice and GREEN on the right :)

The grass in the right side was way over due for cutting. This picture doesn't even begin to depict how tall it was. I wish I could have got a 'true' before picture, but hubby got back their with the mower before I could with the camera.

In an ideal world our plan, in fencing two pastures, was so that we could rotate what side the horses graze on. When one side gets mowed down low from them, we'd let it rest and regrow, thus moving them to the other side to graze.

However, there are a few problems with this plan. Since the mini's don't have their pasture fenced in yet (hey! I am working on it. Add it to the to-do list!!) they are usually utilizing one of the two sides. And, in the Spring, I probably let the horses tromp around more than they should on one side if I wanted to have grass growing well there. But c'mon, how can you refuse the horse running out free when the weather breaks :)

So, now that hubby has it all nicely mowed, we'll give it a couple days to dry out and then start rationing the horses on to it.

When I say 'rationing', I mean slowly introducing the horses to the fresh, Spring grass. For those unfamiliar with horses, you cannot just throw the horse out to freely munch away on the Spring grass for hours. They can colic...and colic can be serious. Fatal. They can also Founder. And Founder is painful. And can eventually be fatal. To make this as easy to understand as possible, Spring grass is high in sugars and for a horse whose fed a hay/grain diet over the winter, their digestive systems have to be slowly introduced back to the Spring grass every year until their tummies adjust.

So, we'll start with about 15 minutes on this grass for a few days and gradually increase their grazing time until, after over the course of a month or so, they are up to about an hour grazing time. Once they are one it for an hour, then they can go freely out on the grass w/o issue most of the time. Because this is the 3rd summer for my horses out here in this pasture, they are a tad more used to it and this is why we start at 15 minute intervals. Initially, their first summer, we were [no joke] starting at 5 minute a day intervals. And I still had some mild colic in them sometimes as we worked our way through.

For a horse who has access to grass year round, these precautions do not need to be taken. Or at least to this extent. You also get to know your horses. My mare is much more sensitive to the Spring grass than my gelding. He is also about 10 years younger than her. I know he can handle a tad more than she can. And, the mini's do not even go out on this grass for awhile. I let the big horses mow it all down first. Mid-Summer I start to allow the mini's on this side. Since they are smaller and require even less intake of 'fuel' to keep them going, their chances for founder are even higher.

Ok, this post could continue on for days with me explaning the in's and out's of horses, their care, and getting them out on grass. So, I should stop now! And, for the record, when the horses are out on this grass, their grain is cut back at am and pm feeding to the point where, in probably a month, they will not even need or get their grain. Then, when the grass dies back as winter approaches, we slowly start to introduce the grain again. Horses are such complex animals. Ok, again, I need to stop before I starting going off on 20 more topics with this!

So, in closing, look at this lovely clover. Paired next to a Dandelion! So Pretty I say! And my Apollo LOVES him so clover ;) Well....they all do. But as Catnip is to a Cat, Clover is to Apollo :)

Ok, I am really done this time..........

1 comment:

The Starved Idiot said...

great post - had no idea - just assumed if it was green, it was good. just bumble upon your blog - thanks for the rolling education!