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ideas to create seasonal sacrifice areas

 
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Hi Guys,

Long time Java friend of Paul's, new member of permies.

Not sure if this is in the correct spot or not, but here goes:

I need to use a thin strip of our horse pasture as a "sacrifice area". For the sake of discussion let's say I want to use a 20' x 1000' strip of land (about a half acre). For about three months every Spring, I want the horses to be on this strip of land, and I want only very little grass for them to eat on this land for those three months. Then, once summer comes, it would be great to let the grass start growing again. I'd like to do this in a nice, permies, sustainable sort of way. It seems like tilling over and over again would be non-permies in spirit?

I've been thinking of doing a controlled burn once or twice or thrice every Spring?

Thoughts? Suggestions?  

Thanks!!
 
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I'm not sure I fully understand what you're describing, or rather what your goal is for the strip in the spring, but is there a reason you couldn't  just now it periodically to keep the grass at the level you want?
 
pollinator
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What about dividing it with an electric fence so you can restrict how much grass they have access to at a time? Seems a shame to waste the grass by burning it or similar, when it could be feeding your animals.
 
Bert Bates
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Good questions, and the idea of sacrifice areas is not intuitive. Ideally horses should be on grass that's over 3 inches tall. The young grass is very high in sugar and for some horses that can cause obesity

Plus, you want to keep horses moving. So, to oversimplify a bit, the idea is to make a long path and put hay at one end and water at the other. This way they get exercise, and they're not eating too much fresh, sugary grass. In the horse world this is often called a "track system". I'm just trying to be kind to the topsoil AND do a track system.  
 
s. lowe
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Thanks for the clarification. Could you do a track system and move thje strip over every few weeks or whatever once the horses have thoroughly trampled the grass down? This could also allow the other grass to grow a bit larger and less sugary. You could mow anything that got too tall
 
Bert Bates
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s. lowe wrote:Thanks for the clarification. Could you do a track system and move thje strip over every few weeks or whatever once the horses have thoroughly trampled the grass down? This could also allow the other grass to grow a bit larger and less sugary. You could mow anything that got too tall



The inability to trample the grass down is the problem. For a few months in the Spring, the horses cannot keep up with the new growth, so even if we do not move the track, it remains covered with short, too-sugary grass. We really need a grass free track for a few months every Spring. I'm trying to find a non-till approach.
 
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This sounds to me like a great opportunity for goats. Any chance you know anyone with goats they'd be willing to lend? They will eat everything to the ground. I've heard of goats being used to clear brush in parks, poison ivy in yards, they put up wire netting and let the beasts chow down.
 
Bert Bates
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Tereza Okava wrote:This sounds to me like a great opportunity for goats. Any chance you know anyone with goats they'd be willing to lend? They will eat everything to the ground. I've heard of goats being used to clear brush in parks, poison ivy in yards, they put up wire netting and let the beasts chow down.



I think that for next year, that could be a good idea, thanks! But it's a lot to coordinate in short order.

Any thoughts about the controlled burn idea? Or any other ideas?
 
Tereza Okava
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that's a good point. I am on the bottom half of the world and forget you all are going into spring shortly.
There are a lot of plains here and controlled burns are common. Aside from the usual concerns about protecting your fencing (and of course, everything else flammable) I think it would work fine. I'd be concerned about the grass bouncing back within a week or two, but I suppose this depends on how many horses you have on it and how well they keep it trampled down.
For future years, 20 feet is small enough that you could theoretically put down a silage tarp at the end of the season and retard growth in the spring, I think.

This is really interesting. I worked with horses for many years but they were always indoors at night and only out for exercise/training/good weather (racing, polo, show horses), never had to consider this sort of situation.  Hope you find a good solution!
 
Michael Cox
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I think I understand. You need more grazing pressure on there for a few weeks. Sheep would probably be ideal.

We have an arrangement with a local farmer. They run their sheep on our land for a few months each spring in exchange for meat for the freezer. The owner of the animals is responsible for their care. It is a good deal for all of us. I would be making enquiries locally. It seems terribly wasteful to mow or burn top quality fodder.
 
Bert Bates
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Tereza Okava wrote:that's a good point. I am on the bottom half of the world and forget you all are going into spring shortly.
There are a lot of plains here and controlled burns are common. Aside from the usual concerns about protecting your fencing (and of course, everything else flammable) I think it would work fine. I'd be concerned about the grass bouncing back within a week or two, but I suppose this depends on how many horses you have on it and how well they keep it trampled down.
For future years, 20 feet is small enough that you could theoretically put down a silage tarp at the end of the season and retard growth in the spring, I think.

This is really interesting. I worked with horses for many years but they were always indoors at night and only out for exercise/training/good weather (racing, polo, show horses), never had to consider this sort of situation.  Hope you find a good solution!



More and more, if you can get a horse Vet to talk off the record, they'll tell you that they'd be out of business if it wasn't for horses that spend a lot of time in stalls. I know a lot of people can't afford enough land to let their horses move around, but we can hope that with improved understanding, we'll see fewer stall-bound horses in the future.

But these "track systems" are growing in popularity, and they're fairly efficient in terms of how many horses you can keep moving / acre
 
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