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New pasture covered in pampas grass!

 
barry loehr
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We're buying a little land and plan to permie the hell out of it. A few acres that will be pasture for my wife's horses is covered in pampas grass and has been bush hogged.
I want to put some cover crop stuff in there that the horses can eat, and need to somehow choke out the pampas grass, all at the same time! I'm sure the soil needs work too. Plan to get some browsing stuff going for him, but the first step is just so he'll have something to eat. We live in the western nc mountains where there's a fairly mild winter and plenty of rainfall all year- sometimes too wet. Any ideas? Choking the pampas is the challenge. Please help Permies!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Can you include chickens and goats in the plan? I think a combination of chickens and goats on the pasture, in rotated small paddocks, could get rid of the pampas. For instance put the goats in to eat as much of the pampas as possible, then run pastured chickens over it to condition the soil, then plant your new grasses and forb seeds.

 
barry loehr
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Planning on chickens but don't think we have enough pasture to keep goats rotating permanently. Renting some goats might work tho. Sure sounds like an option.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Can I ask how many acres are in pasture and how many horses you plan to graze? Often if you graze different species in rotation, you can put more total animal units on the land. One horse is about 1.25 animal units, 5-6 goats make an animal unit.

Here's a document I found which suggests a stocking rate of 20 - 70 animal units per acre, rotated rapidly: http://www.forages.ncsu.edu/assets/tb305.pdf
 
barry loehr
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Two horses and plan to get chickens. Total acreage is 3 1/2, but of course have to fit house, barn, garden and everything. Probably two pasture. I've been reading that pampas is really hard to get rid of and its thick. Thanks for your input!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Both horses and chickens can be pretty aggressive to plants if they're in a small enough paddock, so you might consider making very small paddocks and letting the horses eat and trample the heck out of the pampas, then move them to the next paddock, and put the chickens in the paddock to condition the soil, then replant with native grasses and forbs. You might have to dig out some of the pampas "stumps" by hand.

It's possible you might need to feed some hay to keep the horses in the paddock long enough to really suppress the pampas. You probably don't want to have to do this, which is why I thought goats might be helpful, because they're more likely to eat something not very palatable like pampas. But then you'd have the trouble and expense of keeping goats.

It's easy for me to theorize like this; though I have a pasture that needs restoration, I haven't done it because of the trouble of installing all that fencing. (I have sheep.) Horses can be contained within a perimeter fence with just an electric tape, but goats and chickens will need electric mesh.
 
barry loehr
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Yeah the goats would need good fencing. But I'm sure they'd do more damage to that pampas than our picky horses! It's almost 2 acres of thick pampas, wonder if pigs would root it out?
 
Ryan Sharon
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Location: San Francisco/Gualala, Ca (zone 8)
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I'm a bit late on this thread, but for future reference: Our mustang mare considers pampas to be quite the delicacy. Granted, she was originally a slaughter-bound rescue from a roundup, so she may have been used to much slimmer pickings than your common domestic.

Regardless, she still annihilates pampas and we've had her for years now. Translation: she has access to the good stuff, but still enjoys a meal of pampas when she finds it.

When given the option, I've found most horses like diversity just for the sake of it; I've seen our much pickier gelding take huge bites of fern, tan oak, even pine needles!

EDIT: Just wanted to echo Tyler's suggestion: I completely agree with the paddock shift method that Paul advocates. Granted, like Tyler, I'm limited by my fencing budget and the location of our water sources, but the compaction you get from horses that are not moved is a very real issue. At the same time I believe they should have free range and never be kept in a stall. As a result I've resigned myself to having 1 of our 40 acres be the sacrificial plot until there is time and budget for the cross fencing and plumbing (or ponds!) for a paddock shift system.
 
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