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Equine Pasture Management. By Martha Thomas UF/Lake County Livestock Agent. Grazing Vs Stalls. Reduces Feed Costs Digestive Upsets Boredom Weaving Cribbing. Increases Fresh Air (less respiratory diseases) Exercise Needed Joint and Muscle Activity . Body Condition Scoring.

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equine pasture management

EquinePasture Management


Martha Thomas

UF/Lake County Livestock Agent

grazing vs stalls
Grazing Vs Stalls


Feed Costs

Digestive Upsets





Fresh Air (less respiratory diseases)


Needed Joint and Muscle Activity

body condition scoring
Body Condition Scoring
  • With adequate pasture you can maintain most horses without very little hay and grain.
  • Body Condition Scoring
stocking rates
Stocking Rates
  • Two acres of well fertilized pasture is needed per mature horse.
  • Five acres will be needed if pasture is not fertilized.
healthy pastures
Healthy Pastures
  • Fertilizer
  • Lime
  • Renovation so the sod does not get root bound. (6 years)
  • Adequate moisture
  • Bahia (Tifton 9) most tolerant to drought and overgrazing
grazing management
Grazing Management
  • Avoid grazing until plants have reached an average height of 6 to 8 inches.
  • Remove horses and rest pastures when plants have been grazed down to 3 to 4 inches.
rotational grazing1
Rotational Grazing
  • Dividing pasture into cells
  • Allow access to one cell at a time.
  • When forage is grazed down to 3-4 inches, horses can be rotated into the next cell.
  • Previously grazed cells can be allowed to rest and recover.
why rotate
Why Rotate?
  • Eliminates selective grazing.
  • Rest periods allows grass to recover allowing plants to be more competitive with weeds.
  • Amount and quality of the forage growing in pasture increases.
  • A greater number of horses can be supported by the same acreage.
irrigating pasture
Irrigating Pasture
  • Florida Winter & Spring drought.
  • Irrigation will drastically increase re-growth and yield.
pasture recommendations
Pasture Recommendations
  • Low N option for grazed pastures only
  • 50lb/A to 80lbs/A of Nitrogen
  • Do soil analysis to determine if Phosphorus and Potassium are needed.
  • Best to apply in early spring February-March to get optimum spring growth.
  • Lime to a pH of 5.5 for Bahia and 6.0 for Ryegrass.
fertilizing pastures
Fertilizing Pastures
  • 20-5-10 What does this mean?
  • N- 20% nitrogen .20x 300lbs/acre= 60lbs per acre of N
  • P- 5% phosphorus .05x300lbs/acre= 15lbs per acre of P
  • K-10% potassium .10 x 300 lbs/acre= 30lbs per acre of K
  • Lime or Dolomite
raising ph of soil
Raising pH of Soil
  • You want a pH of 5.5 to 6
  • 1 ton will increase pH by 1 degree
  • If you have a pH of 4 you would want to apply 1.5 tons of dolomite per acre to get a 5.5pH
  • It may take 6 to 12 months to change soil pH.
planting new pastures
Planting New Pastures
  • Get UF soil analysis
  • Apply lime if needed
  • Disk ground and get rid of all grass and weeds let ground sit and repeat disking.
  • Broadcast seed and fertilizer and cover ½ inch.
land preparation
Land Preparation

Disk pasture to 100% disturbance to get rid of weeds and grass

Seed bed must be free of weeds and grass that will compete with new seed

new pasture
New Pasture
  • Apply 100lb of Nitrogen
  • At planting apply 30lb Nitrogen and all of Phosphorus and ½ of Potassium.
  • 30 to 50 days later apply remaining 70lbs of Nitrogen and other ½ of Potassium.
  • Do not plant seed until rainy season starts.
when can you graze
When can you graze?
  • It Depends
  • Are the roots strong enough that horses can not pull the plant up?
  • Limit grazing so that it is not overgrazed.
  • Caused by poor sod base
  • Mechanical- Mowing
  • For most pastures Banvel, 2 4-D, or a combination of the two will control most broad leaf weeds.
  • Velpar is available for use on smutgrass.
  • Remedy on brush and briars. Milestone for Tropical Soda Apple.

The two major concerns with pasture in Florida are:

  • Army Worms- insecticide
  • Mole Crickets- baits and biological control (new research)
winter over seeding
Winter Over Seeding
  • Rye (sandy well drained soils)
  • Rye Grass
  • Oats
  • Mixtures
  • The best way to lower feed bill in the winter months is to plant a winter annual and irrigate if you can.
  • Monitor Grazing
  • Distribution and break down of manure.
  • If you keep horses in stalls and have abundant manure then composting is the best way to manage manure.
  • Best if used in the garden.
  • Can apply to pasture if it is composted properly to kill parasites!!
  • Compost can also be sold as potting soil or to worm farms.
  • Manure and bedding is biologically decomposed under controlled conditions and applied to land.
  • Aerobic- pile is turned 1 to 3 X’s a week

30 to 60 days no weeds or parasites.

  • Anaerobic- one year, not exposed to air
  • Should be 40-60% moisture but not soggy.
  • Temperature in center of pile should be 130° F to 160°F.
  • If bedding is low in N you may need to add extra N such as grass clippings, or urea.
  • Important to avoid ground or surface water contamination by putting it on sandy soil, concrete slab or concrete floor is recommended.
  • There maybe some unfavorable smells and may not be favorable to public viewing.
best management practices
Best Management Practices
  • Written set of plans for farm that address

how you manage water and nutrient loading.

  • Do not have animals feeding or lounging around water bodies.
  • Plan for manure management.
toxic plants
Toxic Plants
  • Young animals will eat it because there is nothing else green.
  • Animal introduced into a new pasture are very susceptible to trying new plants.
animal will respond differently due to
Animal will respond differently due to:
  • toxicant dose
  • animal age
  • animal sex
  • concurrent disease
  • interactions between toxicants
  • genetic variation
  • nutritional status of the animal
  • mental state of the animal
Plants that accumulate nitrate and cyanide are responsible for the most morbidity or mortality in Florida,




poisonous plants
Poisonous Plants

Poke Weed


Hairy Vetch



Coffee Weed

poisonous plants1
Poisonous Plants
  • Web Address


  • Books with color pictures for sale. $10
contact information
Contact Information

Martha Thomas

Lake County Extension Agent

1951 Woodlea Road

Tavares, FL 32778

352-343-4101 (phone)

352-343-2767 (fax)