Creating a Healthy Pasture for Livestock

Now that we are getting unpacked and finding time to walk the property, we’re seeing the weed growth that has taken hold in the two pastures here on the new homestead. Weeds have taken over where nice grasses once lived and I find myself seeing the need to lay the groundwork now for a healthy pasture this fall and into next spring.

The horse is still on the skinny side from the move across the country and then moving from the boarding place to the forever homestead. We find the need to feed him hay from our newly purchased winter hay stash and it’s only September. While we know we’ll be needed to call the hay guy for another hundred bales or so… we are also looking ahead to see what will need to be done for next spring to get the pastures healthy enough to support livestock next year. So many questions arise! Do we rent a tractor and till up the land and plant fresh for next year or do we seed right on top of what’s there and see what takes root?

Much of the arena is sand based and is in need of top soil if it will host alf alfa or clover. The horse loves to stay in the soft sandy areas because of his dropped fetlocks and the cushion it seems to provide his hooves. The larger area is very wooded and has a lot of fallen branches to clean up, as well as some trees that need to come down so sunlight can reach the seeds and encourage growth. I know that all of this will take time and much planning, yet being a typical modern day American… I want it all done NOW!!! hahaha…

I am resisting the urge to just go in there and til it all under… my concern is that the soil that is there will run off with a good rain due to the sloping nature of our parcel. I’m leaning toward taking our time and pulling the large weeds that have grown into the fence line as well as the weeds that have crowded out the grass in certain areas. Perhaps with that done, we’ll be able to germinate some seeds this coming spring and begin the process of creating a healthy pasture for Cookie cow and Do the horse.

Any thoughts and ideas are welcome!!!! Happy Homesteading!!

2 thoughts on “Creating a Healthy Pasture for Livestock

  1. LeaningDuckFarm

    Hi there, I found your site once from mention on Jenna Wogenrich’s blog which I’ve been reading for a couple of years and I like the variety of things you offer…I hope to get one of those wooden cheese presses one day as soon as I can acquire some milk goats.
    I can certainly identify with wanting to do it all now and not being able to. I too have a pasture that has been woefully neglected, mine for ten years before I moved in this spring. Here are some thoughts for your pasture that might help.

    – Tilling disrupts the natural balance of nitrogen fixing micro-organisms, invertebrates (worms) and small vertebrate animals that live in the soil. These critters burrow and ariate the soil and make it more porous so water can infiltrate before running off. The pores created by these animals also help to hold water and let it absorb into the soil more slowly, thereby helping the plants. This is the reason for the USDA No-Till programs that have more or less been an experiment but have proved to show some good data.
    -If you have to till, do it only once every 8-10 years to give the soil a rest. Tilling not only disrupts the wildlife but it also turns vegetative waste into the soil which as a higher carbon to nitrogen ration that if the same vegetative waste were to be first passed through an animal (any ruminant will do) thereby raising the acid potential for the soil which can stunt root growth if done for many years. This is how farm land gets “over worked” and has to be let go fallow for a while.
    -From the picture you posted it looks like there is a decent mix of weeds with herbaceous, semi-woody and probably some woody saplings starting to peak into the edges. If you brush cut the whole thing before any more of the weeds can flower and seed you can cut off the weed lifecycle. Since it’s too late to accomplish this for many weed species this year you might be able to help cutoff some of the last days of these plants’ ability to make food in the upper green parts and subsequently store food into the roots for winter/next spring. Less food for spring bloom bequals less aggressive growth.
    – I would start with a brush cut and follow up at least every two weeks with the same cutter or a finish mower until the first frost then over seed with a good mix of pasture grasses (T & A, Clover, Bermuda, P-mix, etc.) and let those seeds get the cold exposure they will need to jump up come spring. You might want to wait until the seeds have just number of cold days needed before broadcasting since if you seed between now and October, you might just welcome squirels, field mice and birds to come have a feast. You will lose some seed no matter what but no need to lose more than you have to.
    I hope that helps a little. It might not be what you choose but it’s how I plan to approach some areas I plan to fence for goats that currently look worse that your pics do.

    Happy Pasturing!

    Mick Dean
    Leaning Duck Farm

  2. The Folks at Homesteader's Supply!

    Hello Mike and thank you so much for your response! I found all of it to be valuable information and appreciate the time you took to share it with me!!

    I like your idea of keeping it cut well and seeding for the spring. I’ll get it mowed and post up the pictures to see what you think!

    Thanks again… sincerely!!!

    Homesteader’s Supply


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