Develop a Pasture Management Calendar

Autumn

  1. Be mindful of rapid “flush” of growth and graze appropriately.
  2. When seeding in late summer, August allows a 4-6 weeks growth period for seedling establishment.
  3. Remove animals from pastures with 1 to 2 inches remaining growth. Cut pasture to this level if necessary.
  4. Remove horses from wet pastures.
  5. Check for trees with falling leaves that may be toxic. Common trees poisonous to horses are yew, red maple, and oak.

Winter

  1. Put horses on well-drained pastures. If there is insufficient suitable land area, consider using a sacrificial paddock and supplementing forage during this time.
  2. Maintain ditches and other fencing in winter.
  3. Avoid spreading manure in the winter, especially if there is snow cover or the ground is frozen. Plants aren’t growing so they don’t take up the nutrients in manure.

Spring

  1. Soil should be tested every three years in early spring to allow targeted fertilizer and lime applications.
  2. Apply fertilizer to encourage vigorous but not excessive herbage growth. Do not apply lime and fertilizer simultaneously, as lime can cause volatilization of fertilizer nitrogen.
  3. When the ground is dry enough, the pasture can be rolled to consolidate loose soil, even out rough areas, and break up manure piles.
  4. Reseed pasture if needed. You can plant cool-season grass seeds like Smooth bromegrass, Orchardgrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, etc.
  5. Weed control is essential at this point and throughout the growing season.
  6. Top cut seed heads and other overly long plant parts.
  7. Some of the pasture can be closed off for hay production.
  8. Keep horses off the pastures until they have recovered and grown back from winter. Growth of 5-6 inches is recommended.

Horses on pasture

Late spring/summer

  1. Control grazing through rotation or strip grazing.
  2. Prevent overgrazing.
  3. Continue weed control. Watch for weed seedlings and try to identify them for the most successful application of herbicides. Contact an ISU Extension and Outreach field agronomist for more specific weed management recommendations.
  4. Remove droppings from small paddocks or spread by harrowing.
  5. Top cut seed heads and other overly long plant parts.
  6. Late summer/early fall is a good time to reseed pastures because there are fewer weeds, and temperatures will start getting more relaxed, which benefits cool-season grasses.

Photo credit: Peggy Auwerda