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Pasture renovation and Paddock Paradise in one foul swoop

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We just completed the Equine Environmental Stewardship program with Penn State Extension’s  Equine Program.  In this course we learned about best management practices of pasture management.

Right now the horse are being kept in an Animal Concentration Area (ACA ). This area is also known as a sacrifice lot or a dry lot.  This is the area right behind the barn that the horses are out in when I am trying to preserve the pastures form over use, over eating and hoof damage. Now, after the winter snows and spring rains it has no grass and is all dirt and mud. See before pictures below.WP_20140420_11_06_02_Pro WP_20140420_11_09_19_Pro WP_20140420_11_11_03_Pro

As shown in the picture below the ACA consisted of the whole area within the blue lines.  This was a large area for the horses and donkeys and would never grow any decent grass due to over grazing. ACA

Last year we had members of the Equine Program (Donna and Sarah) out to evaluate our pastures and determine if the farm could be part of their pasture rejuvenation project.  See the post from August 2013.  We were invited to participate but it fell through due to the fact that we didn’t have the right kind of tractor.  Their recommendation was to fence off part of the ACA and plant grass seeds so that it may grow to a lush pasture by next year. Their only requirement was that we had to keep the horses off of it an only allow them limited access to prevent over grazing.

The good news is that Donna and Sarah were running the course we just took.  Donna told us we are still considered to be part of the pasture rejuvenation program and we are eligible for a  bag of grass seed.  We could use our on methods to seed the pasture and did not have to use their no till drill.  We received the grass seed mix on the last day of class.

Originally we were going to just fence off part of the pasture (like cut it in half) then I came across the paddock paradise concept.

“Paddock Paradise is an exciting new natural boarding concept based on Jaime Jackson’s research into how horses live in the wild. It is a ground-breaking idea which has many benefits including:

  • provides a more stimulating environment for the horse which discourages vices
  • encourages more movement which benefits overall health of the horse
  • enables easier grazing management”

So I decided to start my paddock paradise in the ACA area and create the pasture in the middle.  See yellow box in the above picture.

This weekend we completed phase I putting up the fence.  See below the pictures of the work in progress.

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After it was completed the horse got to try it out.  They actually enjoyed running around the parameter.

The next day we leveled out the field.  Now all we have to do is drag it to loosen up the dirt and plant the seeds.  Then hope our timing is right for rain and sun.  Be on the look out for more posts as we continue our progress.

They had a good run around

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Some times they get a wild hair have to run around for a bit to let it out.  It makes for some great pictures.

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Weekend Warm Up – What a Tease!

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Last weekend was great.  It was in the 40’s (which now feels like a heat wave) and there was lots of activity on the farm.  Starting with a trail ride with Cuervo and Nash at 10 am Saturday.  Nash decided to be a freak and was bouncing around like a rabbit.  Everything was scary when I was on him, but when I walked him things were fine. Cuervo enjoyed the ride and even had a spring to his step.

WP_20140201_10_52_12_ProThen we had a lesson. My girls are troopers and have stuck with me the whole winter.  It is fun riding in the snow bareback because the horse keeps you warmer.

Then the ferrier  came to give everyone mani/pedi’s.  While he was there the girl scouts came over to lend a hand for their volunteer hours.  They cleaned all the cob webs out of the whole barn and goat house.  Thanks Girl Scouts!

WP_20140201_13_48_45_ProFinally the day ended with one more lesson with one of the Girl Scouts.  Her mom even posed for a picture while I was photographing from a top of Nash.  Yes Bareback to keep me warm.

On Sunday GSF’s favorite photographer Judy Reinford brought out her client for a photo shoot with Nash.  Now my horse has been in more photo shoots than me!  Again it was a great afternoon for it the weather was warm, but there was still snow on the ground for the picturesque winter couple photos.

While we were waiting on the wardrobe change we had role reversal and I snapped a shot of Nash and Judy.

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Lessons outside of the box

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I still can’t believe and am very grateful for how strong the lesson program is going even though the temperatures are dropping my students are still hanging in there and I am starting new ones almost every week.  With it getting dark at 5 pm I am even contemplating having lights installed around the riding arena.  BUT lets find out how much it costs first. 

I have started doing Gymkhana exercises with some of my lesson girls.  They love it!  I get on Apple and do it with them.  Then I discovered how much Apple loves to do it too.  It is a lot of fun and teaches them balance, quick reactions and confidence.

Sometimes at the end of lessons we go on “trail rides”.  It is just a walk around the front pasture but the kids love it.  They can relax.  Not have to go in constant circles and enjoy a bit of nature from the back of a horse.  The parents and dogs enjoy the walk as well.

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Never give up….

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On-farm pasture renovation and equipment evaluation project

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I have been given the opportunity to participate in grant provided by the Penn State Extension.  They are going to help me improve the quality of my pastures.

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A Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) is currently funding on–farm pasture improvement projects for equine and livestock operations.   A variety of reseeding methods and pasture mixes will be utilized and evaluated. All recommendations will be based on horse and livestock nutritional needs, current pasture conditions, animal density and management, and environmental concerns.   Selected farms will receive assistance in selecting and implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs) that will ensure sustainable and productive pastures.  Penn State team members will work closely with participating farmers to collect soil samples, interpret soil test results and address any nutrient needs. Pastures will be evaluated to determine the total percent of canopy cover (vegetation) and the per cent of the canopy that is desirable for horses.  Final comprehensive plans will be developed to improve pasture quality. Plans may include: weed control recommendations, developing a rotational grazing system and adding heavy use areas that can be used during periods of poor pasture growth.  Participants will receive assistance in renovating and reseeding pastures that do not have sufficient vegetation.

 

Email after the evaluation

Good afternoon Jennifer,

 Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to come visit Golden Spike Farm and to evaluate your pastures.  It was a pleasure being able to discuss your goals for your pastures and how those preferences can be easily attained with our Pasture Renovation program.  I just wanted to follow up with you what we discussed during our visit. 

The four pastures we walked through were different each in their own way.  The first pasture we evaluated (the pasture farthest to the right when facing away from the barn that contained two horses) was mostly crabgrass with variations of white clover, some tall fescue, and a heavy population of alsike clover.  Two disease syndromes in horses have been associated with grazing alsike clover: photo-sensitization, and liver disease, which is less common.

 Symptoms – Liver disease is rare and may occur if the horses are feeding on large amounts of alsike clover. Symptoms include weight loss, jaundice, depression, and neurological abnormalities. Symptoms of photosensitization include destruction of skin cells in non-pigmented parts of the horse’s body when the skin is exposed to light. Affected skin will blister and eventually slough off.

A good way to eliminate alsike clover is to apply nitrogen fertilizer to pastures to enhance grass forage production. Broad-leaf herbicides can also be used to reduce clover concentrations in pastures.

 he second pasture evaluated was the pasture directly adjacent to the first pasture, which contained most of the horses and had a connecting pathway to the front pasture next to the barn.  This pasture had great canopy cover of mostly clover variations and weeds such as curly dock and crabgrass.  It also had a fenced off “ACA” and run-in shed (containing two boarding horses), which you expressed that you would like to have rejoin the rest of the pasture eventually.

 The front and final pasture evaluated was in most need of help.  This pasture had very little canopy cover (calculations only showed about 16%) and consisted mostly of crabgrass and other undesirable vegetation. This pasture would probably be the best candidate for our re-seeding renovations.

We are aware that your tractor does not have rear hydraulics, which are required to run the no-till drill.  However, if you are able to borrow or rent a tractor that has both the required horsepower and hydraulic features needed for the drill, we could move forward with the re-seeding renovations.   Additionally, we could also come up with other re-seeding methods using the equipment you already own, considering the size of the pasture to renovate isn’t very big.  Even so, we could always divide the pasture in half and renovate one side at a time. 

 It is important to realize that if we do conduct the pasture renovation that the horses will need to be kept off the recovering pasture and in an Animal Concentration Area (ACA) which you seemed to already have designated outside the barn.  This withdrawal period from the pasture will allow optimum regrowth and establishment so that you will have a thick stand of desirable pasture vegetation for your horses come next year. 

The no-till drill is scheduled to come in the last week of August.  If the weather permits, we should be able to re-seed well into September, especially your pastures due to your southeastern location.  We will keep in contact with you about scheduling again should you choose to renovate.

 Thank you so much again for your time.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Donna or me.

Sincerely,

Equine Program Associate

Penn State Extension

Northampton/Bucks County Office

Around the Farm

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Usually she rides Casey but during this lesson we decided to try something new: Cuervo.  He is one of my rescues and best described as an ornery old man.  He is great, loves trails but not a big fan of the ring.  In fact he isn’t really a big fan of being told to turn.  BUT he looks good! 2013-07-23_17-27-53_5432013-07-23_17-28-21_325We finally got the roof of the barn painted.

2013-07-23_17-39-03_727Nice pic of Chex’s beautiful colors

2013-07-23_17-30-50_381The Donkeys… I haven’t posted about them in a while.  They spent some time up in the front pasture with the goats because Izzy kicked them out of their stall.  This week with the weather so nice I brought them back to hang out with the horses.  They seem much happier here, even though they don’ have their stall any more.

2013-07-27_16-27-36_321 2013-07-27_16-27-14_826The walk to the front pasture.  The 8 barn horses (my 4 plus 4 boarders) are hand walked up the front pasture for grazing.  This time when I was following 2 Chestnut butts (Izzy and Sunbun) they decided the would spook at the new tarp.  But Rachael had it under control!

2013-07-29_17-07-29_82 2013-07-29_17-07-34_761I got a new tractor last week.  Yup after having my first Ford for less than 2 years it decides to die on me the Mechanic said that the repairs would cost more than it is worth.  So sorry credit card but farm comes first.  I didn’t take any pics of it because it looks the same only bigger than my last sexy beast.  but you can see it in the background here.

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Frolicing in the Field

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Last weekend the horses got to go out in the back pasture.  They were so excited that they had to run around like nuts for a few minutes.  I don’t know what it is about new fresh grass but you would think they would want to start munching right away.  Instead they have a good romp then get down to the business of eating.

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I have 2 fields in the pasture management rotation.  They do not go out on these till the grass has grown to 6 inches for a second time. I cut it down to 3 at the beginning of May and then it grew back to six lusher and fuller.  The sand lot behind the barn is known as an Animal Concentration Area (ACA). We don’t expect this area to grow much and they are fed hay while out there.

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Photo Shoot at the farm

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Photo Shoot at the farm

Yesterday evening was perfect. The sun was thinking about setting, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the air was crisp & cool. The back pasture was the perfect setting for Judy Reinford, photographer, to do her photo shoot of Nash and some of me.

You see after hearing his story (click on the picture) she offered to help raise money for Nash’s hernia surgery. The first being volunteering her time and talents to have professional photos in the website and flyers.

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