الإثنين 27 مايو 2024

How to Make Rotational Grazing Work on Your Horse Farm

موقع أيام نيوز

Most farm managers have heard the term “rotational grazing” but may not fully understand the concept. When used correctly, rotational grazing is a management practice that results in healthy, thick stands of forage to provide horses with a significant source of nutrition. High-quality pasture can meet or exceed the protein and energy requirements of horses with low calorie needs. Rotational grazing requires a bit more oversight than continuous grazing, but the payoff is increased feed value for horses and productive pastures that need less frequent renovation. It is also a good way to manage moderately stocked farms for maximum productivity.

In general, you need two to four acres per horse if you want the horses to be out all the time and not overgraze the pasture. Most farm owners don’t have this much space, but with more intensive grazing management, horses can be maintained on fewer acres and still have great pastures. Of course, even using rotational grazing, there is a limit to the number of horses the land can sustain.



What are the Drawbacks of Continuous Grazing?

Most horse farms practice continuous grazing, in which pastures are occupied by horses daily. There might be one group of horses outside all day, or multiple groups of horses going out in shifts. The important factor is that the pastures are not “rested” or left empty for more than a portion of the day or night. While this is usually the easiest way to manage turnout, it can be very hard on the forage plants and often results in overgrazed pastures on farms with less than two to four acres per horse.

Horses have a tendency to graze their favourite grass species close to the ground, then return to graze the regrowth as soon as it appears. This is overgrazing, which is very damaging to grass plants. First, it removes so much of the leaf area that the plant can’t capture sunlight to make energy for regrowth. The plant must then use stored energy to regrow, and with repeated close grazing, the energy stores run out and the plant dies. This is how pastures lose desirable forage species like orchard grass, smooth brome, and timothy. Horses overgraze these palatable forages until the plants die, leaving less preferred species. As they die, the bare ground left behind allows opportunistic weeds to germinate and take over. You can overseed again and again, but the grazing management won’t allow desired forages to survive except in the ungrazed roughs (areas of taller grass where manure is deposited).



Rotational Grazing

Farm managers can avoid overgrazing pastures by managing their horses’ grazing using a rotational system. In a nutshell, rotational grazing involves moving a group of horses between several paddocks on a regular basis. The forage is grazed once and then rested to regrow. The most important part of this system is the grass’s recovery period while horses are on other paddocks. This means that paddocks must be left empty for a few weeks at a time.