Get a jump start on 2013 horse pastures – Step 3: Rest the field
Preparing your horse pasture for the winter will maximize your pasture's output for the spring.
If you want to increase your pasture’s productivity next year, you need to prepare your pasture for the winter this fall. Follow these three steps to maximize your pasture’s nutritional value for next spring:
1) Test your soil’s nutrient content
2) Apply recommended nutrients or lime based on the soil analysis report
3) Rest your pasture
Step 3. Rest the Field
Plants need a healthy stand to withstand harsh weather conditions. It is important to let a pasture go into winter with at least a 6 inch stand so that it can collect moisture and nutrients. Resting your field will allow some late growth and uptake of nutrients while the soil is 45 degrees F or above. Horse hoof damage is particularly hard on a pasture. Make sure you remove your horses when the pasture is wet.
While you are resting your field is a good time to check out your pasture productivity and see if you need to reseed. Walk your fields and check for the ratio of edible grasses to nonedible plants (weeds). Measure the plant height and thickness of your edible plants. If they are less than 4 inches tall and you see a lot of bare ground, you may want to consider reseeding your pasture in the future. Talk with your Michigan State University Extension educator about frost seeding in the very early spring to help thicken up your pasture and decrease the weed competition.
Evaluating your pasture on small livestock farms from Rutgers University:
Finally, pick up any manure in the turnout lots and fields before the pasture freezes. Horses usually have a favorite spot to make their deposits. If there is an area with longer grass in a field, nine times out of ten that will be where most of the manure is located. By removing the manure and resting the field you may be able to take back this area for grazing next spring.
Finish the "Jump start on horse pastures" series: