Monday, August 31, 2009

Setting Up Water

In order to preserve and manage our grass quality in our pastures, we do rotational grazing. Our 16 acres of pastures are divided into 10 small pastures and 2 winter sacrifice pastures, which turn into dry lots by the end of the winter - we reseed them in the spring and they have good grass for a while in the fall. The barn's pastures were originally configured as 3 large board-fenced pastures and three smaller ones. We've taken the 3 large pastures and subdivided them into 3 smaller pastures each, and also use one of the small board-fenced pastures in our rotation. We save the other two board-fenced pastures, which are closest to the barn, as our winter sacrifice pastures - we use these for about 6 months of the year. Once the grass is exhausted, we use round bale hay in these two pastures until spring.

Rotational grazing has helped us greatly - no area gets over-grazed and we can move horses as need be. Usually the two horses herds - we keep mares and geldings separated - move about once a week - sometimes more often if the grass is less profuse. Our boarder who manages our pastures religiously measures the grass every week at a precise distance from the pasture gates and keeps detailed records. We do some reseeding in gate areas every year, but by and large the pastures do very well.

One aspect of moving pastures every week is that electric fences have to be turned on and off, and batteries sometimes have to be moved. And the water has to be set up in the new pastures. We have four frost-free water hydrants, one by the barn, one by the small paddocks, one that serves the two dry lots and two of the grass pastures, and one that is far out and serves the remaining 8 grass pastures. Tomorrow we're moving pastures, so I tried to get some of the work done ahead of time. This morning's set-up was particularly difficult - the mares are going into a pasture that is missing a water tank, so I had to move the nearest one from another unused pasture - luckily the tank was plastic and already empty, so that wasn't too bad. We use automatic floats which join with the hoses using a coupler - they just snap together. When I turned over the tank, the coupler part attached to the tank was plugged with mud - so I took that apart and rinsed it. The geldings are going to our very-farthest-away pasture, and somehow the hoses that usually are ready for use to that pasture had been moved, so there was much hose dragging, straightening and rearrangement. I turned on the water and partially filled the new tanks - I'll do the rest tomorrow.

I don't mind this work too much - I'm not in a hurry and it gives me time to watch the horses in turnout, which is always enjoyable. Tomorrow my (non-horsey and long-suffering) husband will be back from his trip and will help out by emptying the old troughs that are still full of water - we don't need any extra mosquitos around here!

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Now here's a lovely caterpillar I noticed this morning - by this afternoon there were two! It's a Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar, I discovered, and of course it was on a milkweed plant:

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Update: this evening when I came back from the barn, the two caterpillars had been joined by many more, some of which were much smaller - the eggs must be hatching!

And I noticed that I forgot to mention the slugs - yes, indeed, there were several slugs in each of the water tanks I had to overturn and fill this morning - removed by hand (mine).


  1. A pertinent post, my boy plus a friend's gelding are moving to pastures new soon, we have more acreage than we'll ever need so we're stocking up on hot tape and posts!

    Good luck with the move tomorrow :)

    Oh, and another gorgeous photo!

  2. As I've said before, since I don't have the land, I can't do any real rotation. This year, though, I suspect the grass will hold up for a while. The Boys haven't been grazing due to the heat and flies and with all the rain, there is grass all over the place.

    Still, I am feeding hay now. I'm not sure they go out enough to eat, but they surely do clean up the hay, so I know they are getting the roughage they need.

  3. I wish we could use electric fencing and do some rotation, Jason and I envy you! We could cut some of the time and expense of maintaining our pastures with some rotation.

    One thing Jason and I did not spare expense on was water lines. We have probably close to a mile of water lines buried underground throughout the farm. I am thankful for that every day!

  4. Rotating your horses is a load of work but leaves you with much better land in the long run. I do the same here with electric tape and standards. Trix and the pony move a little bit each day. All manure is picked up too. Its time consuming but means no weeds and good grass. I'm about to spread lime and fertilizer before summer. first day of spring here in NZ....yay!!!!!

  5. ewww slugs! can't decide if those are better/worse than earwigs! For a girl born in the country, I'm not so good with bugs! My father-in-law just sorted out a problem he had with a water pump being shorted out by hundreds of earwigs! yuck!

    Rotating pastures is a good practice - sounds like you are forutnate that the barn you are at has enough space and not too many horses to do that effectively. Having nice grass for the ponies is worth the effort, I imagine!

  6. that caterpillar looks like one that i held a few summers ago, and for a very long time suffered a horrible skin rash on my arm because of it. in fact, i was the "patient of the week" at the doctor's office, cuz they could not tell what kind of rash that was. then i looked online, and sure enough, it was the caterpillar! weird, huh?



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