Producing quality forage for horses on pasture takes active planning. It should include rotational grazing, fertilization, seeding, manure management, and mowing 3-4 times per year. While mowing may seem counterproductive, as you’re taking forage away, it is important in developing healthy pastures.
The benefits of mowing for your horse include:
1. Increased Nutritional Value: Grass remains in a continual growth state where it produces the constant and rich supply of nutrients. Once grass produces seed, its growth and nutritional value are significantly decreased.
2. Improve Palatability: Mowing encourages plants to produce more leaves and fewer stems. Pasture grass should remain between 4” -8” high. The longer grass grows the more fibrous it becomes, making it less digestible and less palatable.
3. Reduce Eye Injury: As the grass becomes long it products rigid stems. These rigid shafts pose a hazard to your horse’s eyes and have the potential to poke or scratch causing painful ulcers and infections.
Benefits to overall pasture health include:
1. Controls Weeds: Mow pastures 3-4 times per year to trim down weeds before they can grow seed heads. This will also keep weeds and grass at the same height, keeping fast-growing weeds from shading grass and preventing grass growth.
2. Strengthen Roots: We’ve established that grass is more nutritious and grows faster if it is not allowed to produce seed heads. This is true for the root system, too.
3. Break up Manure Piles: After mowing, add harrowing to your pasture management. Harrowing breaks up manure piles which suffocate grass and harbor parasites. It will also spread the freshly cut grass allowing it to dry and reduce the risk of mold.