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feeding horses in a permaculture system

 
Steve Furlong
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I've been looking up permaculture methods of feeding horses in winter when, in this climate, ordinary grasses stop growing and large amounts of hay and other feed need to be bought. I'm also wondering about pasture management, i.e. a wide enough variety of plants to ensure good grazing as well as keeping the ground in decent order (a running horse can rip the place up like a plough!). And I'm not having much success. So if anyone has come up with this stuff, even just little tips here and there, it'd be much appreciated. Just trying to compile a bit, that's all.
 
Tyler Ludens
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With horses you need to manage your pastures even more carefully than with ruminants., as you mention they can be really hard on the place!

I recommend learning more about Holistic Management, especially if you can find some folks in your region to help you with it: http://holisticmanagement.org/?option=com_content&view=article&id=4&Itemid=8

You may end up wanting to put more diversity of animals on your place (sheep, goats, cattle, even poultry) to help with pasture improvement.
 
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela
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With horses "intensive grazing" takes on a whole new meaning. Our current pasture management plan is the result of 8 years of thoughtful experience on this property. We have 3 horses pastured about 8 acres of 'native' field grasses/weeds (we never planted seed). Our grazing space is divided into 11 individual pastures (2 added this spring), rotated weekly. We try to never let summer grasses get grazed to a depth shorter than 6 inches. Our planned "winter" fields we stop grazing before the end of August. This allows them to develop "layers" of forage. The top layer being tall stalks and seed heads of weeds/grasses (which the horses adore), the second layer being tall weeds and grasses that have "slumped" over but still maintain a lot of green stem in-winter, the final layer is green grasses that reside under the protective cover of the first and second layer. This third layer the horses will dig through the snow to consume. Even in Michigan's bitter February and March months it is green and nutritious for the horses. We, also, are mindful not to over-graze our planned spring pastures. We've found it best to NOT let the horses graze those tight too the ground before the early winter frost (the previous year). Letting the spring pastures go long in the fall seems to help them green-up much earlier and, really, develop mass very quickly.

This past year has been our most successful (in part due to the mild winter). We purchased and fed a total of 30 bales of first cutting hay for the entire 2011/2012 winter season. This spring we've fed zero hay and I do not anticipate feeding any hay until, maybe, February 2013.

This year, we will be applying last seasons lessons and two new pastures. I'm going to try and rotate in chickens to follow the horses on the pasture rotation. That means that each pasture will have, at least, 10 weeks of rest before being put back under stress. I hope to have such a stockpile of forage that I will never have to buy hay. Maybe I won't ever get there, entirely, but I've gone from feeding 300 bales in winter to 30 bales. That is no small savings!


Edited for typo.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Steve, I hope I'm not missing the obvious - but I can't tell where you are from. I am in South Carolina and can tell you quite a bit about pastures in this area.
 
Steve Furlong
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I'm in Ireland, on the Atlantic coast. I don't know what South Carolina's climate is like, but I imagine it has quite a different selection of flora.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Yes Steve, I am guessing you have a frost line whereas I do not. Here I can plant some sort of annual grass for each season. I don't raise horses anymore but I am still interested in the whole process. I would like to here what type of solution that you come up with that works for your area.

P.S. How far are you from Swords? My husbands family is from there and it is on his bucket list to see it someday.
 
Steve Furlong
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Swords is in north Dublin, on the opposite side of the country. I was there before, but nothing about it sticks in my memory too well.
 
Joellen Anderson
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Hey all! Thought I would jump in on the topic and see if I could get some advice as well We have one mule here (a rescue with a bad front leg. It was broken while people were unloading her, and then she was just left there to die) and a tiny pasture which she only uses part-time. We have split the pasture in half and are trying to recover the grass using no-till farming. On one half we have flooded the area, added manure, put down wheat seeds, and mulched the whole thing with rice straw. The wheat is starting to sprout just now.

Does this seem like something that will work? What other kinds of seeds can we plant in pasture (we don't really have local grass here)? How do you deal with compacted soil?

Any advice for a single mule (who can't run) on a small area is welcome
 
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