Listed below are the decisions required for improving a pasture. Does the pasture need to be renovated, reestablished or can it be left alone? If you renovate, what method will be used?
Improvement Decision - Renovate, Reestablish, or Leave It Alone?
- Conduct a soil test. Based on the results, fertilize the pasture.
- Control the weeds
- Create exercise areas and paddocks
- Manage the grazing of the pasture by horses
- Consider the need for reseeding or renovation
- Don't overstock or overgraze pastures. Use rotational grazing
|Iowa State University Mares on Pasture|
- Pasture is in poor condition, and management techniques will not improve it
- You want to grow a different forage specie or variety
- Consider including more grasses and/or legumes into the existing sod.
- Legumes (alfalfa, clovers, birdsfoot trefoil) contribute nitrogen to the pasture
- Legumes provide better distribution of forage production in the summer months
Renovating grass pasture without legumes
- Test soil every three years- You can take soil samples once the frost is out and the ground is dry.
- Control weeds – Spray annual weed plants in the spring. Mowing is a method of yearly weed control, but in areas, with large numbers of weed plants, a herbicide may need to be used.
- Fertilize if needed 1 to 2 times per year – Based on the soil tests, apply fertilizer. Many pastures only need nitrogen.
- Maintain the stand
Renovating grass pasture by adding legumes
- Test soil
- Control weeds
- Reduce grass competition
- Seed the legume
- Let the legume plant get established
|Mare and foals on pasture|
Types of pasture renovation
No-Till Drill = best way for creating new or over-seeding a current pasture
- Use no-till pasture drill to seed into existing pasture sod in early spring (March and April)
- Weeds should be under control
- Broadcasting = seed cannot contact the ground, should be turned over then packed
Sod-Seed or Interseed
- Fertility – good enough for legumes?
- Grass sod should be short
- Drill seed to a depth of ¼ to ½ in. and cover
- Graze seeding year to allow the establishment of pasture plants
- Graze later years to keep new plants!
- Most legumes work better with improved seed placement
- Grasses are more likely to be successfully established with interseeding.
- Late Summer (August!) is a possible alternate interseeding time -- if conditions are suitable
Starting a new pasture on cropland or renovating old pasture
- Time for establishment (minimal production in seeding year -- pasture doesn't get "well established" for 2-3 years)
- Keep horses off newly seeded pastures until the grasses become well established
- Consider forage needs during this time
- Important steps
- Smooth, firm seedbed and fine with small clods
- Plant: late March to April or August to early September
- For most forage grasses & legumes
- plant ¼ to ½ inch deep
- firm soil over the seed (with a roller or press wheels)
- Mow or clip 3 to 5 times during the seeding year to minimize competition and shade from weeds
- Maybe 'light' grazing later in the seeding year
Consider the Species
Use a "pasture mix" for horses, not seeds designed for lawns
- Bluegrass = cool weather, heavy grazing
- Tall Fescue = warm weather, not as palatable
- Orchardgrass = responds well to nitrogen, ideal in high grazing areas
- Reed Canarygrass = wet conditions mature quickly
- Clover = best in small quantities can cause slobbers
Plan your grazing system
- Have a sacrifice paddock (or a dry lot) and use it as needed.
- Each pasture needs rest and regrowth between grazing events.