Pasture Management & Rotational Grazing
Giving pastures a break from grazing improves the production and quality of forage.
By Briana Malmquist
With just over 20 head, we have a decent-sized herd of horses on our ranch. It is a large, mixed herd, ranging from foals with mamas to older and retired horses, and everything in between.
With such a large herd, we place high importance on herd and pasture management. We are blessed to raise our horses on irrigated pastureland, which saves us from having to feed hay for part of the year, but only if we manage our resources well.
We run horses in different groups: mares and foals, mares without foals (including retired broodmares and young fillies), riding and retired geldings, and, separately, our stallion.
For pasture management, we plan to cross-fence our property in multiple smaller pastures, including a corral area designated as a “sacrifice pen,” a space to separate the horses from pastures where grass needs to rest and grow. Because this is our first year on our new property, we opted to use temporary fencing while we learn how to best use our property.
The price of materials and amount of labor involved in building fence can make any fencing project feel daunting, especially when you have as much fencing as we needed. For the temporary fencing, we opted to use T-posts and 1.5-inch electric poly tape. These materials are cost-effective, and, importantly, the poly tape is highly visible to horses, and our horses respect it.
We chose 8-foot T-posts. They stand tall when planted, which helps to deter horses from attempting a jump and getting injured. In addition, we topped each T-post with a vinyl safety cap as an extra safety measure. You can never be too careful with horses because they likely aren’t going to be careful at all. Last but not least, your fence is only as good as the charger you have powering it. We chose Gallagher's M360 Fence Energizer, which will power up to 55 miles of clean fence and has a 3-year warranty.
Rotational grazing is moving livestock from one grazing space to another, providing ample time for each space to rest and regrow. A key factor in rotational grazing is to avoid letting a space become overgrazed before giving it time to rest.
We use 48-inch step-in poly posts and the same 1.5-inch electric poly tape for the temporary fences used in rotating grazing locations. These materials provide easy fence removal and/or quick installation when moving horses to a new grazing space.
An important aspect of rotational grazing on our property is irrigation. We are lucky to have a gravity-fed irrigation system that keeps our pastures watered. Without irrigation, our pastures would not support grazing opportunities as long as they do.
All the work is worth it to see our horses grazing happily on pasture all summer long.
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