Benefits of pasture harrowing!!!

Discussion in 'Horse Management' started by EVP, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. EVP

    EVP Gold Member

    There was a thread a while ago about 'manure' and its uses and regimes in horse management. I remember someone commented that leaving manure on paddocks/pasture was not good for horse health.

    We've finally had some rain here after not having anything to rave about for nearly 4 months. Its a known high-rainfall area (or its supposed to be), so this dry period is very unusual for the area.

    We prepared 3 large paddocks in the hope of rain. We mulched and harrowed to break up manure and of course horses have been removed so that the paddocks can rest.

    After 24 hours the paddocks are greening up - almost over night. :rockon:

    The benefits of harrowing paddocks is HUGE. Its free fertilizer and its already insitu to be used. Harrows are not that expensive to buy or they can be made. But the fact is that harrowing to break up manure balls so that it is available to the soil to uptake is vital for small farm management.

    Of course the harrowing needs to be done before the 'balls' or pats can dry out to tennisball hardness, but this is easy to do. A regime of harrowing after rotating horses and slashing or mulching will have faster regrowth (which translates to less roughage needing to be fed out) and greater weed control because weeds hate competition.

    So if you don't have pasture harrows then you should invest in some or make your own using chain and metal bars and some treated logs. Because they are the key to pasture longevity, weed management, assistance for your sowed grass, and as a result of all this = lower feed costs.
  2. Troppo

    Troppo Well-known Member

    I usually just mow. And we get so much rain over a few months that nutrients in situ just don't hang around and need replenishing so we also fertilise.

    When my paddocks were established I turned them over and seeded. But now my wet season paddock management includes a hit of broad leaf weed killer a few weeks after the first lot of rains, a spread of fertiliser once the spray has taken affect and then a mow on the trusty ride on once the grass gets a bit out of hand (and usually ends up with a change of blades required). I do this about once every 1-2 months depending on the state of the paddock.

    My paddocks have never looked healthier!
  3. Faxie

    Faxie Well-known Member

    EVP can you post a pic of your harrows? And is it homemade? Cheers
  4. EVP

    EVP Gold Member

    No they're not home made.


    Now this rain has come I am also getting our regular 'worm pee treatment' done. This is amazing stuff.........better than any fertililzer.

    Its called Nutrisoil. So 3 paddocks will be done tomorrow arvo and hopefully we get a tad more rain.
  5. Faxie

    Faxie Well-known Member

    Thanks EVP looks awesome! What brand and who sells it?

    Rain? Are you in WA?
  6. SMW

    SMW New Member

    I found harrowing and slashing the paddocks after ponies have been in them for abit has reduced the amount of sour grass, which the ponies won't eat and the grass regrows alot quicker.
    I myself clean manure from my paddocks and spread it in any sandy patches which has helped with getting grass to regrow in thoughs sandy areas
  7. EVP

    EVP Gold Member

    I have a friend who put her collected manure into drums and floods them with water. She adds some cheap fish emulsion and lets it ferment a bit I suppose. The manure breaks up and its a big green smelly mess. After about 2 weeks her hubby strains it into 20L drums. They mix about 10L with a heap of water and spray that out onto her paddocks. Yes its a bit time consuming and is best done after a shower of rain (like the worm pee)....but again free and easily done.

    Can also use this on gardens and vegetables. She said she put it straight onto her veges but it burnt the leafy ones - obviously too strong. So be careful to water it down. You could probably play with the concentration too to suit any area.

    I really think we over-look the advantages of this free fertiliser. We have this hate relationship with our manure because we've all mucked out stalls...:lol: So we learn to hate our poop. Maybe its time to embrace our poop!!! :lol: Maybe someone might have other poop recipes or maybe they'd like to try making up some?

    If you didn't want to make a liquid, then even doing a composting type but adding organic fertilizers like the fish/carp or other manure varieties like poultry or sheep?

    Come on...lets embrace our poop!!
  8. celestialdancer

    celestialdancer Gold Member


    Sounds great, but you can't get anything into the sand here.
    It's hard enough to even get a shovel in. And once you harrow, up come all the cape weed plants.

    We run an old ladder around on the back of the ute before anything starts growing, but you literally cannot break the surface of the 'soil' enough. even using harrows :(

    To cut our firebreaks it takes four goes around with heavy duty disks, it's a nightmare :( Need a good pulling shire ;)
  9. EVP

    EVP Gold Member

    Surely your dept of ag has ideas on land managing such tough country?
    Or are there soil mediums that can be mixed/mulched into the ground to improve it?

    I know that certain places are almost inhospitable for stock, but I thnik there would be practises that remedy those conditions. Even if only a portion of property was tackled at a time?

    More rain expected tonight for us, yay I say, yay. Wash in the worm pee and grow grow grow. I'm goingto investigate getting our own small worm farmy thing. Tiger worms are the ones that do the best job so I'm told, now to work out what they go in ect.
  10. celestialdancer

    celestialdancer Gold Member

    I've just bought dad a book on small holdings pasture improvements, so hopefully we can get something orgainsed.

    We used to turn the 'soil' every year, and reseed (much like they do in England) but it broke down the 'soil' structure, and the cape weed came in their thousands. We mowed it, then sprayed it, with good success, but it seemed not to be worth disking it.

    Not really sure what the answer is :/ Most properties around here grow pasture for beef cattle, so don't worry about cape weed and all sorts of other weeds, which all have their seeds blown onto our place.

    It's a never ending battle :(
  11. Blackbat

    Blackbat Well-known Member

    Much of Perth is virtually beachsand (unless you are lucky enough to live along alluvial NE and SE foothills, or pure gravel of hills).

    Add amendments or fertilisers, and they are doomed to either 1) filter right through sand into groundwater, 2) dry out and blow away because it doesn't rain at all between November and July 3) sit on surface doing nothing because of water repellency of the grey sand until winter when it feeds weeds really well. Yay Perth, it's one long sand dune.

    Having said that, I embraced poop by using it, along with hayroll waste, to mulch the sand and smother weeds and create a base for soil amendments and pasture seed. It worked ok.
  12. Ants

    Ants Well-known Member

    CD; it sounds like you need a good application of gypsum on your soil...have a look into it :)

  13. Blackbat

    Blackbat Well-known Member

    Gypsum is good for compacted clay soils but only if a ball of soil will break apart in a bucket of water. If it sticks together then gypsum can't help much. Try the bucket test on your soil. That's what I understand from the landcare info I've had? Investigate the huge amount if info via your local shires landcare or Ag Dept website.

    Don't despair if the weeds come up repeatedly. You will have a huge seedbank of weed seed in your soil, turning or cultivating soil brings them to the surface and they recolonise quickly to out compete grasses. One years weed makes for seven years seed so they say. So you can spray, pull and slash for many years before you see a reduction.

    To convert your weed patch to pasture, you could try to sow annuals at first rains to compete with capeweed. Then graze it off in late winter, leaving very short thatch. Maybe broadleaf spray just prior to spring sowing. The dead thatch will protect the soil from erosion and smother weeds for you, and protect the seedlings of perennial grasses you sow in early spring, using seed drilling or minimal till methods. Great thing about capeweed is it gracefully bows out of the contest when you have a healthy soil and perennial grasses started.
  14. EVP

    EVP Gold Member

    BB I find it crazy that horse people don't put much effort into 'growing grass'.
    We've always believed you only get out of your ground what you put into it.

    We've always encouraged dung beetles, fertilised, herbicided (is that a word...lolol) and limed. So far the best fertiliser has been the organic worm pee as there is no withholding period, its gentle on grasses and we love that its in liquid form.

    Cattle people, dairy farmers and those who grow crops are much more into soil management and the cultivation of grasses, seeds and legumes.....and horse people don't seem quiet as interested. Or so I have found.

    I've just come in from mowing my fence lines. The purpose of getting right in close to wire and rails is to combats fence line weeds. If the grass carpet is thick under fence lines, then the weeds can't compete. Just like in open paddocks. So to mow and encourage cut grass to get thick means no thistle!

    Another trick we learnt about those dreaded thistles was to never poison have to use some shears and cut them close to the ground, poison the stump ONLY and bag up the thistle. Roundup on the stump will kill it and its not hanging around, ripening up those seeds while its dying, only to blow them everywhere.

    On the subject of poop, I think its gold. That, mixed with our straw from the foaling stables, was what started my new gardens. Stank to high Heaven, mare pee and poop, but turning/churning it into the existing soil, adding some sand, water, and a bag or 2 of cheap potting mix, and wow in less than 2+ weeks it had turned into the richest garden soil and my plants are doing well. Disposing of poop would have meant buying in garden mix and that costs big dollars now.

    Any more success poop stories or pics!!
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  15. jessg

    jessg Active Member

    how long do you keep your horses off the paddocks when you do this?
  16. EVP

    EVP Gold Member

    It depends on the season. During our spring and summer we can't keep up with the grass. So once we mulch and harrow the regrowth usually takes about 2-3 weeks and its sweet and fresh and dense. It would probably be about 150mm high I guess.

    With the worm pee it works best if its put on just before rain or during rain. Like most fertilisers you want it to get into the soil as quick as possible. Being a liquid it hits the ground and is helped with more rain and then is absorbed. Seeing as we are wanting that grass regrowth we won't put horses back in there for at least another week or 2 max. Its already like a medium height lawned backyard. The organic stuff doesn't have a withholding can put stock straight back on if you want. Or spray while horses are in there. Go to Nutrisoil website...I love the idea that the wormies are only fed organic waste so they can only pee out organic pee...:lol:

    Maybe we should do a 'show us your paddocks/yards' and really discuss pasture management that is used in certain areas and ground types. I'd love to learn about what others do and their soil types/problems.
  17. Blackbat

    Blackbat Well-known Member

    EVP, I wish I could post you a pic of my native unimproved 'soil'. My roundyard looks like I had pure white beachsand trucked in. But i didn't.

    I suppose that because it's such an uphill battle to even grow a garden in this sandy arid town, pastures are not usually able to support grazing as feed. I see irrigated kikuyu paddocks in Perth (and lawns) with precious water being chucked on it every day to barely sustain groundcover, let alone enough for a horse to pick on. Its a lot of waste for very little gain. But if you dont water, the grass is dead and churned up inside a week. The sand here is less in need of amendment than total replacement.

    I've been able to establish some perennial grass with annual addition of clay, compost, organic fertilizer, hay, poo, soil wetters, herbicides and hard work but no irrigation. It must be destocked December to June as it dies off then reestablishes, and the other 5 months it can only be grazed a few hours a day. The horses rely 100% on ad lib hay for their roughage. So, even when you put in money, time and effort, it's arguable that the result is worth it.
  18. EVP

    EVP Gold Member

    Wow you really are doing a heap for your patch of dirt aren't you. Good on you. Have you thought about recycled waste water? As in collection of grey water, shower/bath ect and reuse? The only thing that kept our lawn growing the past 3 months since we moved in and laid turf was what we affectionally call "The s*%t system". Of course it also takes our toilet water and dishwasher water ect but boy does the house lawn love it. Its treated and out it comes in sprinker that we move around. Of course all that nitrogen isn't great for stock (am reading some studies on what they are finding out from cattle and products that have grazed nitro-rich recycled sewerage water).
    But grey water and shower - heck that would do great things if used on pasture. Even drip fed or soaker hosed under gravity feed?

    Anyway, more rain for us tonight. Won't complain. I really feel for people owning horses in such an arid and uncompromising climate. Makes me appreciate my easy to keep pasture in all its green glory.
  19. Macchiato

    Macchiato Well-known Member

    I know what you mean BB about growing things in thensandy soil. I tried everything and still struggled to get groundcover. What I have discovered works best is verti mowing grass. If you call your council and ask who looks after their ovals and schools you can call them up and ask for their verti mowing cast offs. This is when they rip the grass out by it's roots to thin it out. I get about six truck loads a year delivered totally free, in fact you are doing them a favour as they have to pay to dump it. I guarantee that within two months your horse will be able to have a pick on it. As it already has a root system and once you spread it around it just takes off. They usually verti mow late in the year so with a few good rainfalls it requires minimal watering.
  20. Blackbat

    Blackbat Well-known Member

    Oooohhh vertimowed runners! What a good idea. Whatever doesn't take would add green manure to help soil structure. Public ovals are mostly kikuyu too, and any weeds brought in wouldn't stand much chance once it got going. Runners would be nice and light to cart around in wheelbarrow too ;)

    EVP, I'd love one day to have the whole straw bale recycle Eco house (keep dreamin), you could go wild with ideas. I'm satisfied with my tiny scheme water bill of $50 bimonthly, no garden, and trying to create irrigation-free browsing for the horses. Fodder trees, and self seeding Rhodes grass which I hope will be self sufficient on our 2400 ppm salt estuarine groundwater. I'm also seriously considering whether to give up the fight against climate, sand and mozzie plagues, then move to a wetter town to be able to keep horses at home year round and enjoy pasture like you do :)

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