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Pasture Management

A herd of nine horses in a twenty acre pasture is possible to manage without heavy equipment if it is good pasture with few weeds. I have pulled weeds by hand and hacked tough weeds with a hoe. And I have overseeded bald spots by hand in the spring. I just sow the seeds right on the ground and let the rains drive the seeds into the soil. There is usually a thatch of dead grass on the bald spots to hold the seeds. I use timothy seed because my horses like timothy grass best.

My horses like to congregate in one favorite area so that area gets trodden to dirt. It is usually where I feed them hay in the winter or under a big tree. They tend to stay close to the hay source and rarely venture out into the grassy area so they don't really ruin the field by keeping them in the pasture. Some people don't like the looks of the dirt area but I don't like to confine my horses to a small pen in the winter. A dirt area in a small pen is the same as a dirt area in a pasture. The pasture dirt area gives the horse more freedom to run occasionally and is less claustropobic to the horse.

Knapweed

Russian Knapweed is poisonous to horses. Around here we have an invasion of the invasive plant Brown Knapweed. Supposedly this plant is not poisonous to horses and some people (hay makers) claim you can feed knapweed infected hay to horses. I have my doubts.

Someone offered me free pasture for my herd and I went to look at the ranch way up in the mountains. On the long driveway into the ranch were many pens filled with knapweed. At the ranch house there was a circle of grass around the house where they had mowed. The entire rest of the ranch was covered with knapweed.

My horses have been on knapweed infected pastures before. My horses might take a nibble of knapweed now and then. But my horses told me they don't like it.

The worse thing about knapweed is you can't get rid of it without poisoning it. The plant grows over 6 feet tall with roots 6 feet deep. If you try to plow it under you break up the roots into little pieces which each grow a new plant.

Knapweed will take over a pasture and steal all the nutrients out of the soil so the only grass that can grow is worthless and puny.

I hear the county agricultural extension service has brought in a natural predator for the knapweed. And I have examined knapweed seed pouches to find a little worm living there. So maybe that will slow down the invasion. But the best thing to do to prevent an infestation is to kill the plant before it multiplies.



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