Keeping horses at pasture day 2

A group of horses owners gathered in August 2019 to learn more about pasture management and horses with Helena Warren from Cadfor Equestrian and Murray Greys.

Feed rations

The quote of the day was ‘feed to work’. Would it surprise you to learn that some pleasure horses are overfed? Helena explained how to calculate a ration for a horse based on condition score, growth stage, level of work, pasture availability and feed types.

You can create a feed budget for your horse using the links below. Having a feed budget can save you time and money and you can tailor the ration to what feeds are available. Please note that these are general guides and the condition of individual horses should be monitored to ensure animal welfare requirements are met.

Feed requirements of horses – for working out what to feed

FeedXL on line – application (fees apply) for working out feed requirements.

Parasitic worms

Worm testing and rotational grazing are critical elements in an effective worm management program. Some horses have high worm burdens, while others have developed natural resistance. The only way to find out if your horse needs a drench is by doing a faecal worm egg test. You can get testing kits from Local Land Services or many rural suppliers.

Faecal worm egg testing allows you to choose the appropriate type of drench to use. It is important to not routinely drench using the same active ingredient as this increases the likelihood of developing worms with drench resistance.
More resources:
Integrated pest management for horse farms
Primefacts – Worm Control in Horses

Soils

According to Helena the best time to take soil samples is in October when the soil is depleted during the pasture growing season. Further advice about soil sampling and fertilising pastures can be found in the Fertilisers for Pastures booklet. Some benchmarks for healthy soils can be found here.

During the field day we looked at the soil test results from the property. The test results indicated that the soil pH was probably too low and the Aluminium too high. You can read more about soils in our recent blog post From the Ground Up.

Harrowing horse paddocks and using rotational grazing can help increase organic matter in the soil and reduce fertiliser costs. Soil testing and working out a nutrient budget can help you decide if additional fertilisers are required. Fertilisers for Pastures contains a guide to working out a nutrient budget for a horse property.

Other online resources include
Farmers guide to increasing soil carbon under pasture
Helena Warren – Keeping Horses at Pasture day 1 (insert)
Healthy Horse Healthy Land Workshop Summary
Horse Property Planning Key Points

This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program

Keeping horses at pasture Day 1

Horsewoman Helena Warren from Cadfor Equestrian and Murray Greys Pty shared her expertise with a group of participants over a two-day workshop in 2019. Day 1 of the workshop included pastures for horses, stringhalt and laminitis.

Pastures for horses

  • When planning your horse property, think about ways to minmise runoff and nutrient loss. This can include locating horse infrastructure away from water courses, fencing along contours, rotational grazing, using windbreaks and installing vegetation buffers. A two-metre fenced wind break can provide adequate ground cover to prevent significant erosion and water loss.
  • According to Helena, reseeding a pasture from scratch is a three year process that takes a lot of planning including soil testing, managing weeds, planting a break crop and final seeding. Refer to the DPI Primefact on Pastures for Horses for more information. When the cost of pasture establishment is compared to the ongoing cost of supplementary feeding, fertilising and maintaining pasture becomes financially viable.
  • Being able to assess your horses condition score and weight is a useful tool for feeding management and worming. The amount of feed a horse requires depends on their weight, activity, growth stage and body condition. The NSW DPI Primefact 928 Estimating a horses condition and weight gives a step by step guide on how to do this.
  • For optimum feed production, perennial grasses should be rested (ideally at the flowering stage) to allow them to develop their basal buds and roots. This will maintain the vigour of the grasses. Allowing native pastures to seed in autumn will also encourage the spread of these grasses in a pasture.
  • Helena described the optimum resting of pastures in a rotational grazing system as the ‘three leaf rule’. The three leaf rule allows the grass roots enough time to recover to maintain good production and for the grass to have the optimum sugar level for horses. The leaf stage of optimum grazing will depend on the species of grass. The Grazing Management Tool provides advice on how to grow more pasture and influence the species mix in your pasture.

NSW Local Land Services runs Prograze courses that can help property owners develop skills in managing their pasture. Contact your local office.

Stringhalt

Stringhalt is a plant poisoning syndrome that affects horses and is caused by the ingestion of flatweed. At the workshop over one third of the participants had horses that were affected by stringhalt. Helena recommended the Investigations into the Australian Causes of Stringhalt in Horses publication for managing horses with stringhalt.

Laminitis

After colic, laminitis is the second largest killer of horses in Australia. Laminitis is caused by overconsumption of grasses or feeds high in sugar, but it is often associated with some other stress factor. The critical point to remember when feeding a horse with a high risk of foundering is to keep the structural carbohydrates low. The availability of sugars in grasses is impacted by a number of factors including the species of grass, moisture stress, time of day and amount of shade in a paddock. The production rate of sugar in grasses is linked to photosynthesis.

Perennial pastures require resting to maintain their leaf production and to be safe for horses at risk of laminitis to graze. Continually grazed grasses at the 1 leaf stage are high in sugar and can increase laminitis risk. More mature grasses in the three leaf stage of production have lower sugar levels. Native pasture grasses are lower in sugars than introduced pasture grasses. The types of grasses suitable for horses are different to those suitable for ruminants. Cattle and sheep digest sugars in grass in the rumen to feed the microbes in the stomach. In horses sugar is digested in the hindgut, from here the sugar enters the bloodstream which can cause metabolic syndromes such as laminitis.

Weeds in hay

Helena recommends that you monitor your feed sources, especially hay, for weed contamination. Some pasture grass hay can be contaminated with undesirable pasture species and weeds.  If hay you are buying is cheap this is usually for a reason. If you are unsure of a grass species advertised you can look up the NSW DPI Weed Wise website and NSW Plant Net website.

More informaton:
Pasture Management and Laminitis Risk
Horse Property Planning Key Points
Healthy Horse Healthy Land Workshop Summary
Diagnosing and treating gastric ulcers in horses
How to discourage your horse from eating sand
Poisonous plants of horses field guide
Strategic planning for horse properties

This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program

Revegetation for small farms

Owen Whitaker is a fifth generation farmer with 25 years experience revegetating farms and managing large scale revegetation projects.  At this workshop he shared his revegetation wisdom and practical knowledge.

“Planting trees is an investment, well designed windbreaks can mitigate production losses from cold winds, improve pasture productivity, provide fodder and enhance biodiversity” Owen Whitaker 2019

Read more in The Econimic Benefits of Native Shelter Belts

The 3 P’s of successful revegetation according to Owen are planning, preparation and persistence.

Tips for revegetation projects:

  • Before deep ripping contact Dial Before You Dig and/or get professional advice to locate services, this can save you thousands of dollars. (Note that some services on rural properties may not be on record with DBYD.)
  • Tree and shrub tube stock can be planted in rows using existing fences or in strategic clumps around the paddock to provide stock with access to shade and shelter from all directions. This can be achieved by using circular ‘ring style’ fencing around star pickets without strainer posts with either electric or hingejoint wire, depending on livestock.
  • Trees can be incorporated into lane ways so that paddocks can be split up for rotational or holistic grazing.
  • A typical shrub and tree planting layout would be 2 metres away from fences, 3 metres between rows and 4 metres between plants. Plant shrubs in the outside rows and trees in the middle rows creating a tapered profile effect to deflect winds. Offset the plants between the rows. The minimum tree row width for a good shelter belt effect is 3 rows x 10 metres however for a better return on outlay 5 rows x 20 metres would deliver the best micro-climate and ecological outcome.
  • Controlling biomass and ripping 6-12 months ahead of planting will help water to penetrate into the ground and build moisture profile to aid seedling establishment. Removing pasture by using a knockdown herbicide will reduce the allelopathic effects of pasture and competition for water when the tube stock is planted. Do not use a residual herbicide when preparing the planting site as the active ingredients will inhibit tree establishment.
  • Have a tree guard making party and have all guards assembled ready to go before planting day.
  • Mulching around the base of plants (but not against the stems) can help the seedlings to establish. A woody mulch is preferred over pasture hay.
  • A Pottiputki planting tool can be used with seedlings grown in a HIKO tray. The seedlings are inserted into the top of the planter so you don’t have to bend down to plant seedlings.

Owen’s tips for direct seeding:

  • A four-wheel drive direct seeder is a good option for lighter soil types on slopes that are not suited to ripping. Plants sown using direct seeding can take three to five years to germinate. Seeds will germinate at the ideal time and when moisture is available, usually during summer rains.
  • Native grass seed is often expensive. You can reintroduce native grasses cost effectively by sowing or blowing small amounts of seed into degraded pastures. The seed can also be hand sown. Smaller seeds should be mixed with sawdust or vermiculite so they can be spread more effectively.
  • The composition of pasture can be manipulated to include native grasses by allowing the grass time to seed and using rotational grazing. Animals will move the seed around your farm on their coats and in their dung. Wind and rain will increase native grass density over time and seasonal events.
  • The benefit of direct seeding is that the store of seed remains in the soil and will germinate over a number of years,. This helps mitigate the risk of plant failure due to drought. You may need to thin some of the seedlings that emerge over time.
  • Some seeds require treatment before planting. For example, some Acacia seeds require scarification (i.e. soaking in hot water) before planting.

More information:
A Guide to Native Pasture Management
Greening Australia Revegetation Guides for Victoria
Guide for planting temperate grasslands
Plant Net Online – Comprehensive listing of plants in NSW
Braidwood Local Planting Guide for Upper Shoalhaven Landcare
A Guide to Managing Grassy Box Woodlands

This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program

Sheep Husbandry Field Day 2016

The Small Farms Network – Capital Region hosted a hands-on Sheep Husbandry Field Day on the 23rd July 2016. The field day was hosted by the Silver Wattle Quaker Centre, Bungendore and was packed with information about the management and care of sheep. Continue reading “Sheep Husbandry Field Day 2016”

Fodder on farms – so much more than grass

Dr Dean Revell from Revell Science in Western Australia was the keynote speaker at the Fodder Trees and Shrubs for Grazing Systems field day hosted by the Small Farms Network – Capital Region in Bywong on 17 April. Over 35 farmers attended to learn about how native fodder trees and shrubs can be incorporated into livestock systems. Continue reading “Fodder on farms – so much more than grass”