Despite Mother Nature’s best attempts to hang onto winter, spring really is just around the corner. Some pastures around the Northwest are already seeing new grass growth. As your fields turn green, there are a few things you can do to protect your pasture, safeguard your animals, and make your life a lot easier in the process.
Whether you put horses or cattle on a pasture, carefully monitor the grass and soil. If the livestock consume the bottom three inches of the grass, there’s a chance it might not grow back. If the ground is still too wet, horses and cattle can trample the soil and hinder any summertime growth.
You’ll know if your field is too soggy for grazing when you take a walk through it. If you can see your boot tread left behind with every step, then you can bet a set of hooves will do a number on the pasture. If you have a dry, well-drained area, separate it out and utilize it at different times of the season.
Coastal tip: Because grass grows faster in the spring, try to rotate your livestock more quickly now and less quickly in the summer.
Add Seed When Needed
If you have bare spots in your pasture, apply some seed. This will encourage new growth, fill in areas, and help keep the weeds down in summer. Apply seed to unoccupied pastures to encourage faster, more even growth.
Grass requires nutrients to grow, so it makes sense that fertilizing your pasture can help boost growth well into summer. Just don’t over do it. Check your soil and determine the best fertilizer for your area. Even balancing your soil’s pH (measure of acidity) can encourage grass growth.
Rotation is Important
When you rotate grazing areas you are encouraging pasture health and grass growth. If you haven’t already established several smaller grazing paddocks throughout your pasture with permanent fencing, you can get the same result with portable electric fencing or tape (depending on the animals you trying to contain). Once yours is set up, watch your livestock carefully to ensure the grass doesn’t get too low. When it gets close, move your livestock over to a new area and let the other grass grow back to at least six inches. Rotate and repeat.
Coastal tip: Make sure your grazing paddocks are big enough so that your horse has room to run.
Too Much of a Good Thing
When horses get too much sweet grass to quickly, it can develop into Laminitis (foundering). It’s a serious condition that requires a vet’s immediate attention. Foundering is when the soft tissue in the hoof swells, weakens and separates. It’s painful, and too many horses, donkeys, ponies, and mini horses have been euthanized because of it.
Thankfully, Andrea Brown, Coastal Farm & Ranch Animal Health Expert has some good news. “It’s possible to reverse some of the effects,” she said about foundering in horses. “But once a horse or donkey develop Laminitis, they are more susceptible to it in the future. The best advice I can give it to keep your horse from eating too much sweet grass in the spring.”
Older and overweight horses are more likely to develop foundering. Horses can also develop Laminitis with excessive hay, pellet, or grain feed. If your horse is prone to foundering or you’re concerned about it, Coastal carries easy breath poly/nylon grazing muzzles. They’re comfortable and keep horses from getting too much sweet grass.
Cattle can also suffer from too much springtime grass. It’s called tetany, which occurs when there isn’t enough magnesium in the cow’s blood to eliminate the high levels of nitrate in the grass. This one’s easy to fix. Just give your cattle a magnesium supplement before and during their move to a new pasture.
Coastal Has Fencing and Friendly Advice
Need to divide your pasture? Stop by your nearby Coastal Farm & Ranch and pick up some portable electric fencing. Want to build something more permanent? We have everything you need to build a sturdy fence, including panels, gates, wires and more. Plus, we carry supplements and feed to keep your grazers happy and healthy.