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Introduction to Horse Paddock Grazing Systems by Dr. Bridgett McIntosh, MARE Center

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Forest and Horse Health Relationships: Introduction to Horse Paddock Grazing Systems by Dr. Bridgett McIntosh

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Introduction to Horse Paddock Grazing Systems by Dr. Bridgett McIntosh, MARE Center

  1. 1. INTRO TO HORSE PADDOCK GRAZING SYSTEMS: FORAGE & HORSE HEALTH RELATIONSHIPS DR. BRIDGETT MCINTOSH DEPARTMENT OF ANIMAL SCIENCE M.A.R.E. CENTER MIDDLEBURG, VA GREENING YOUR HORSE PADDOCK SYSTEM John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District Piedmont Environmental Council
  2. 2. Forage is foundation of equine diet Horses need 1.5% to 3% of their body weight in forage each day: 17 to 33 lb/day for the average horse Graze 14-18 hrs/day Move 10 miles/day WHY IS PASTURE IMPORTANT?
  3. 3. Slide Design, K.Treiber
  4. 4. PASTURE GRASS ALONE EXCEEDS MOST NUTRIENT REQUIREMENTS Light Exercise (assuming intake at 2% BW) 126% 211% 174% 272% 183% 550% 204% 71% 99% 215% 835% 68% 489% 417% 138% 0% 100% 200% 300% 400% 500% 600% 700% 800% 900%
  5. 5. BENEFITS OF PASTURE Provides optimal nutrition Reduces colic and digestive disorders Reduces gastric ulcers Reduces respiratory disease Increases bone mineral content in young growing horses Promotes normal healthy behavior Reduces development of vices
  6. 6. Overstocking Overgrazing Manure management Mud management MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS
  7. 7. PROBLEM GRAZERS Selective grazers= uneven grazing Biting top grazers = leaf removal Large & heavy = soil compaction & trampling Manure distribution = uneven grazing & parasites
  8. 8. Healthy Horses + Healthy Environment? HEALTHY PASTURE S HOW DO WE ENSURE
  9. 9. KEYS TO A HEALTHY PASTURE  What is purpose of pasture?  Exercise  Nutrition  Both?  Size of usable acreage  Stocking rate  Pasture species selection  Proper planting  Soil testing  Grazing management OR Turnout for exercise? Nutrition?
  10. 10. • Depends on characteristics of your pasture • Maintain at least 70% vegetative cover regardless of time of year • 2 acres per horse STOCKING RATES
  11. 11. HOW MUCH PASTURE? Turnout Time (d) Acres < 3 h 0.5 3-8 h 1 8-12 h 1.5 24 h 2 + Stocking rates can be increased with elevated levels of management: Mowing Rotational grazing Irrigating Fertilizing Overseeding
  12. 12.  Several species make good horse pastures  Cool Season  Tall Fescue*  Orchardgrass  Kentucky Bluegrass  Timothy  Warm Season  Bermudagrass  Crabgrass  Legumes  Clover  Alfalfa FORAGE SPECIES SELECTION * Ky 31 Tall fescue is toxic to broodmares but perfectly safe for all other classes of horses
  13. 13. COOL SEASON VS WARM SEASON GRASSES
  14. 14. PLANTING GUIDELINES Cool Season Forages Fall is best August-September Spring Frost seed January-March Drill February to April 1 Warm Season Forages Late spring/early summer (May) Do not graze too soon!
  15. 15. PLANTING RECOMMENDATIONS
  16. 16. RENOVATE OR START OVER? Continue current management if: 75% or more desirable plants Improve Management or overseed: 40-75% desirable plants left Start over if: Less than 40% desirable plants
  17. 17. Soil tests indicate soil pH and fertility Lime (to adjust pH) Nitrogen (N) phosphorous (P) Potassium (K) Other nutrients, Ca, Zn, Cu, Mg, etc. Soil tests should be performed on each pasture or field every 2 to 3 yrs. Apply N fertilizer when plant growing ie. at “green-up” SOIL TESTING FOR HEALTHY PASTURES
  18. 18. Soil samples are collected by walking in a zig-zag pattern and collecting samples to a depth of 3-6” from at least 20 locations. 3-6” HOW TO COLLECT SOIL SAMPLES
  19. 19. SUBMITTING SOIL SAMPLES  Mix samples thoroughly and submit a single composite sample (about 1 cup) for pastures 10 acres or less.  Larger pastures require a greater number of samples.  Label sample box so that the test results can be easily identified.  Fill out information sheet  Soil sample boxes and supplies can be obtained from your county extension office  What kind of soil do you have?  http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/Ho mePage.htm
  20. 20. HORSES SPOT GRAZE FAVORITE AREAS AND SELECTIVELY GRAZE FAVORITE SPECIES, AND ARE CAPABLE OF ELIMINATING PLANTS IF PASTURES ARE NOT MANAGED.
  21. 21. GRAZING MANAGEMENT  Pastures are made up of individual plants  Understanding how plants grow can help us understand how to manage the pasture  The best weed control is a healthy stand of forage
  22. 22. HOW GRASS GROWS • Main growing point at base produces leaves • Growing points throughout stem and at base of leaf blade • Vegetative vs. reproductive growth • Photosynthesis • Regularly removing first new leaves in the spring will weaken the plant root, and eventually it will die Missouri State University
  23. 23. Adapted from NRCS, Bozeman, MT TAKE HALF / LEAVE HALF SERIOUS DAMAGE TO THE ROOT SYSTEM OF THE PLANT CAN OCCUR IF AS LITTLE AS 10 PERCENT ADDITIONAL PLANT LEAF VOLUME IS REMOVED
  24. 24. KEEP PLANTS GROWING FAST Individual pasture-plant growth Plant height (inches) 0 2 4 86 10 123 Fastest growth Slow growth zone!!!!!
  25. 25.  Key point: REST the pastures  Graze for a short time then allow forage to regrow  Need to rotate between several fields  Ideally, first field is ready to be grazed when horses are done on last field  How many fields? How long between rotation? Depends! Size of fields Stocking density Available forage ROTATIONAL GRAZING FOR OPTIMAL PASTURE PRODUCTION
  26. 26. ROTATIONAL GRAZING EXAMPLE LAYOUT
  27. 27.  Temporary electric fencing works great!  One-strand if separating paddocks only  Avoid metal t-posts INTERNAL PADDOCK FENCING
  28. 28. REST & RECOVER Remove at 3-4” Graze at 6 - 12” (cool season grasses)
  29. 29. Adapted from NRCS, Bozeman, MT CONSIDER THE SPECIES
  30. 30. Cool season Grasses Time of Year Recovery Time First rotation (late Mach/April) 14-16 days Fast Growth (May- June and Fall) 20-30 days Summer/Winter 30 to 40 days Warm Season Grasses GRAZING GUIDELINES Time of Year Recovery Time Early fast growth 14-21 days Normal growth conditions 21-28 days Slower growth 35 to 45 days • Recovery time will depend on how short the forage was grazed, growing conditions, soil fertility etc. • Separate paddocks by cool season and warm season if possible.
  31. 31. For the Plants & Environment Increased forage production Plants remain young & vegetative Uniform grazing Erosion reduced NPS pollution reduced For the Horse Improved nutrition Exercise & grazing reduce risk for colic, bad behavior Grazing increases mineral bone density in young horses Decreases mud and erosion Improve skin and hoof condition BENEFITS OF ROTATIONAL GRAZING
  32. 32.  Pastures provide optimal nutrition for most horses BUT…  Sometimes healthy pasture not healthy for all horses!  Metabolic Syndrome  Obesity  Insulin resistance  Laminitis/Founder HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS FOR GRAZING 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 FF Pasture SS Time, hr Insulin,mIU/L Staniar et al, 2004
  33. 33. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 NSC Insulin-Grazing Insulin-Control 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 0600 2400 1800 2130 Last blood sample 0930 First blood sample INSULIN DAY 1-2 NSC DAY 1-2 0600 TIME 2400 1800 First pasture sample Last pasture sample 24001200 1800 0600 1200 1200 1800 0600 1200 2400 0600 Insulin,mIU/L ForageNSC,%DM Hay PASTURE NSC (SUGAR) EFFECT ON GRAZING HORSES McIntosh et al, 2005
  34. 34. EFFECTS OF GRAZING MANAGEMENT ON PLANT CARBOHYDRATES cont rot 0 2 4 6 8 %DM sugar SH O R T TA LL 0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0 5.5 6.0 6.5 7.0 7.5 8.0 WSC%,DM 7.7 7.1 * McIntosh et al., 2013 & 2014
  35. 35. BODY CONDITION SCORING (BCS) Score of overall body fatness < 4 underweight 4 ≤ BCS < 7 moderate 7 ≤ BCS < 8 overweight BCS ≥ 8 obese Henneke et al., 1983
  36. 36. CRESTY NECK SCORE (CNS) SCALE 0 TO 5 0 1 2 3 4 5 Carter, 2009
  37. 37. GRAZING MUZZLES DRY LOTS Reduce NSC intake Allow for exercise Turnout in early am
  38. 38. RECOMMENDED CONSERVATION PRACTICES Rotational Grazing Heavy Use Areas or Dry lots Mud Management & fat horses Manure Management & Composting
  39. 39.  Mud Management  High stocking rates  Wet conditions  Drought or slow forage growth  Restrict grazing  Disease avoidance  Weight loss  300 ft2 per horse HEAVY USE AREAS OR DRY LOTS
  40. 40. MANURE MANAGEMENT  Horses produces 30-50 lbs manure per day  10 tons or 12 cubic yards per year  9.1 tons of manure per year containing  11 lb N, 2 lb P, 8 lb K  Parasites transmitted through manure  Pastures source of greatest risk of infection  Composting kills weed seeds & parasites  Dragging???  Can spread parasites
  41. 41. COMPOSTING MANURE  1 Horse produces .81 ft3 manure or 1.6-2.4 ft3 with bedding  2 Horses for 4 months:  Two 12 x 12 x 5 ft bins  12 horses for 2 months:  Three 20 x 20 x 5 ft bins  Turn every 2-3 weeks (oxygen)  Temp should reach 130-160F  Complete after 1-4 months  No odor, moist but not wet  Analyze for nutrient content  Apply to land according to soil test  READ HERBICIDE LABELS IF USED
  42. 42. MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS FOR HEALTHY HORSES & ENVIRONMENT  Three to five grazing seasons required for measurable change  Set realistic goals for acreage available  Higher level of management may be needed to meet goals  Develop management protocols to be efficient  Nutritionally & economically & environmentally
  43. 43. Conservation BMP Model Farm Turfgrasses for heavy use areas and diet paddocks Horse genetics & disease Mixed species grazing Native warm season grasses Wankopin nature trail Facebook.com/marecenter NEW AND EXCITING PROJECTS AT THE MARE CENTER
  44. 44. THANK YOU Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center (MARE Center) Dr. Bridgett McIntosh bmcintosh@vt.edu 540.687.3521 ext 22 http://www.arec.vaes.vt.edu/middleburg/

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