Any gardener will tell you that winter is a time of planning, repairing and feeding for the growth expected in the new season. Paddocks are no different; paddock rotation is vital to give our grazing a chance to recover, providing a healthy mat of grass across the soil surface. This is vital for a number of reasons and not only to provide our horses with something green to eat.
Benefits of good pasture management
- Reduced hay consumption
- Decreased risk of sand colic
- Reduced fly and parasite count
- Cosmetic beauty of green grass
- Horse’s healthy gastro-intestinal tract and reduced incidence of ulcers
- Healthy environment (less dust)
- Reduced carbon footprint
Paddock rotation is not just a programme to be left for winter, but should be maintained all year round. A few tools can be utilised during a paddock’s rest period to maximise the benefit seen to your grazing. Some feel that it is a good idea to keep winter paddocks that you ‘sacrifice’ a little so you can focus on restoring your summer paddocks to full health, ready for spring growth.
Letting certain paddocks lie fallow for a period allows us to do running repairs on fencing, such as creosoting or treating of wooden poles, re-tensioning electric fencing or replacing broken parts on gates, isolators and such. Stones and those awful bits of wire and string, that seem to grow overnight, can be removed as well.
Mulching and composting
In areas where rainfall drops in winter, mulching and composting help with retention of moisture in the soil as well as adding a buffer for the grass which may be hit by frost. Using organic products adds healthy beneficial nutrients and organisms back into the soil, which in turn facilitates healthy soil and good grazing.
Not many equestrians have the equipment seen on golf courses that maintains the golf greens so beautifully; a simple solution is to have your staff spike the soil with forks. Over time our horses compact the soil with constant walking over it. Aeration simply prevents compaction of the roots and allows for healthy root development which helps make your grazing healthier.
Aeration is also important for all the following reasons:
- Plant and root growth
- Microorganism population and activity
- Growth of toxins
- Water and nutrient absorption
- Disease development
Winter is a time when growth of most plants slows down. This gives us the perfect opportunity to get ahead in the war against weeds.
Top it up
Soil erosion leaves our properties damaged and unsightly with erosion channels running through paddocks. This damages fence lines and potentially can cause injuries to horses. Horses and dust seem to be synonymous but well-maintained paddocks help to eliminate this. Filling in holes and erosion channels with topsoil, or compost, prevents the problem from worsening in the new season.
Daily manure removal and a regular worming programme are imperative to prevent a property from becoming worm-infested.
While winter is the time to prepare and repair your summer paddocks, conversely summer is the time to get your winter paddocks ready and in the best state possible.
Text: Mandy Schroder
The full article appears in the May issue of HQ.