In my last post we covered some of the more basic of manure management equipment. This week I’ll cover pasture equipment. Down the road I’ve got some good tips for alternatives to buying new equipment. So if you’re a newbie horse keeper/pasture manager, here’s your starter’s guide.
Harrows are used for spreading manure piles in pastures. A spring-tooth harrow can be purchased from a farm and tractor supply store. For some extra weight add on a couple of old tires.
Below are some pieces of equipment that will help you manage your pastures. Keep in mind that the equipment you need will vary according to the size of your place and number of horses.
- Harrows are used for spreading manure piles in pastures. Spreading helps break up manure so plants can utilize the nutrients. If you have an arena, harrows can also be used to smooth arena surfaces. A wide variety of harrows can be purchased from farm and tractor supply stores. A basic harrow can even be made fairly simply with a piece of chain-link fence fastened between two boards. You can get creative by using an old metal bedspring or metal gate. For any of these homemade options you may need some extra weight--a couple old tires tied down will work quite well.
A homemade harrow can even be made with a piece of chain-link fence fastened to a board with a chain attached.
- A harrow can be pulled with a tractor, a riding lawn mower, an ATV, or any type of four-wheel drive vehicles such as a small pick-up truck or SUV. (A large pick-up might work fine except that it’s very heavy and can compact the soil. Plus it might be hard to negotiate around tight corners.) If you only have a few acres you may even be able to harrow by hand; head out into your pastures with a manure fork and spread manure as evenly as possibly simply by tossing it around.
- Mowing several times a year is an important part of good pasture management and will promote the growth of the grass you want and rids pastures of the weeds you don’t want. If you only have a couple acres of pasture (about two acres or less) you may be able to get by with a regular lawn mower on foot. You’ll obviously want a mulching mower since you don’t want to collect all those grass clippings. Be sure to set your mower as high as it will go.
Utilize pasture maintenance equipment, such as harrows and law tractors, by fencing pastures into several smaller portions using temporary fencing. Step-in plastic or fiberglass posts with electric tape work well for this.
- If you have more than a couple of acres, a riding lawn mower (or garden tractor) can be a handy piece of equipment to have. They are much more maneuverable than a large tractor and if you get one that is 16 to 18 horsepower you can use it to pull other farm equipment, such as a harrow or a ground-driven manure spreader. Look for a sturdy riding mower with a mulching mower deck that can be adjusted to a six inches high.
To harrow, mow, or drag your grazing areas, start by fencing pastures into several smaller portions using temporary fencing (step-in plastic or fiberglass posts with electric tape work well for this). Then use your horses as lawn mowers to intensively graze the first section. Once horses have grazed the grass down to about three to four inches, move them on to the next section. Then mow and harrow the area the horses just grazed.
About the Author
Alayne Renée Blickle, a life-long equestrian and reining competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award winning, nationally acclaimed environmental education program. Well known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approaches, Alayne is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners for over 15 years teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Alayne and her husband raise and train their reining horses at their ranch in sunny Nampa, Idaho.