The Grass is Greener on the Other Side

Earlier this spring there was so much rain and so much mud that the girls were destroying all the grass in their pasture. They ate the tender shoots of grass faster than they could grow. It takes grass about 21 days for grass to be established, so we removed them before the whole pasture became a mud pit.

Zelda says heaven must look like this.

We cordoned off about half their pasture, which they quickly turned into dust. On the other side of the fence, and with all the rain, the grass has grown like gangbusters. The temptation must be intense. All that separates Zelda and Curly from that grass is a single strand of tape. It’s not even electrified.

The problem is, now we have lush, green growth and two horses that are no longer used to eating it. Horse’s don’t do well with sudden changes to their diet and spring grass has an especially high sugar content. Eating too much too soon can lead to colic or founder.

Start Slowly

To acclimatize your horse to lush grass, you need to start slowly — no more than 15 minutes per day of hand grazing for the first few days. Gradually increase the grazing time by 10 minutes per day until you’ve reached the same amount of time that you would hand graze.

Grass Snack
Zelda fully approves of the program of letting her “get used” to the grass.

Limit grazing to no more than four hours per day for two weeks. Of course, there is an advantage to limiting turnout. It also preserves your grass. Freedom is turned out on about two acres by himself; his grass stays healthy. Zelda and Curly are voracious eaters. The grass doesn’t stand a chance. In theory, you should remove a horse once the pasture grass is 4″ or less; in practice few of us have enough turnout to do that, but if you can designate a sacrifice area, it will keep your grassy part healthy.

One thought on “The Grass is Greener on the Other Side

  1. SOMEWHERE in our library…we have a LOT of books, is one titled “Greener Pastures on Your Side of the Fence.” The author espouses extreme pasture rotation. I’ve always rotated my pastures,but the author’s way works, especially for people who,like me, don’t have a lot of land. I, for instance, have about 4.5 acres suitable for pasture.

    THe author’s system is,using a LOT of hot tape, one separates ones pastures into long, narrow aisles, like uncooked spaghetti. Separate them by hot tape. Let’s say it takes a week for your pastures to recover after they’ve been grazed down to 3″

    So, create 8 aisles. (This is assuming, mind you, that it’s ALL grown up to the same height to begin with…so you must sacrifice one area for teh winter and start the rotation the day you put your horses out to graze for the summer.

    By putting all your animals into a very small pasture, you are forcing them to eat everything in it, rather than allowing them to wander at will picking and choosing what to eat.

    Put all your animals in one ‘spaghetti pasture’. Let’s say it takes them, let’s say, three days to graze it down to three inches. Move them all into the next aisle. graze for three days.
    As you note, the deciding factor is grass height. If it’s 3-4 inches high, STOP.

    By the end of the week the horses are grazing in the very last spaghetti pasture…and the first has re-grown.

    Now, a lot of folks do not get this but….one has to MOW a pasture after it’s been grazed. ANY pasture, not just one that’s been in a rotational regimen. MOW AFTER GRAZING. Because, they’ve eaten all the grass, leaving the weeds. If you don’t mow a just grazed pasture, you’re giving the uneaten weeds…that are already high…giving them a full week’s head start on the grass to grow. That’s why so often, people look at a pasture and say, oh, it’s green, it’s okay. NO IT”S NOT. Weeds are green, too.

    I used to pick up the horse manure, but one could also tow a rake and break manure up and spread it out so the sun gets to it and kills any pathogens or parasites.

    So: Separate. Graze. MOW. Repeat.

    Effective? Very. Labor intensive OH MY GOD YES. But it works.

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