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To Sow or Not to Sow



IF you are thinking about resowing your pastures, thoroughly consider the following information because it is not as simple as it seems and will not be the solution to all your problems because even ‘Horse Friendly’ grasses need to be at a mature stage of growth before grazing.

Hence most people, due to the small size of their property, need a dry lot/track option as somewhere to keep the horses while this is happening and in order to be able to properly manage access.

Critical Points to Understand

  • Assess what you have there now – as you may not need to resow – most people can avoid this expense by simply going over the paddocks with a broad leaf spray to knock clovers, plantain and cat'sear. This can be done in Autumn but the best time is early spring when the clover is starting to emerge and get growing. If you’re worried about the ‘environmental affects of doing this, please read the following link Nitrogen & Clover

We are all 'between a rock and hard place' with this and while a bit of clover here and there will not be a problem – if you actually sow it, it easily takes over and will compromise the health of your horse. It has many adverse effects whether you are a rider or a breeder.

  • Brand new grass is extremely potent and dangerous for horses to graze too soon! It is a lengthy process BEFORE you can allow access (12 – 18 months)

  • Older type grasses like Brown-top do not establish in the soils where the pH is above about 6.2 - they prefer the slightly more unfertile, acidic soils.

  • If you are going to resow, DON’T fertilise as this can cause unforeseen problems! The seeds need WATER to germinate not fert – so timing of sowing is critical.

  • Sowing grass for horses is not about yield!

  • When purchasing seed mixes from seed merchants, even if they say it is a ‘Horse Mix’ check there is absolutely NO rye of any type – even endophyte-free, NO clover, plantain, chicory or any other broad leaf. You may need to stamp your foot about this. We know of many people who ordered a specific list but when it came through in the paddock, it contained mostly rye grass and clover!

  • We used to include grasses like Yorkshire Fog, especially for slightly wetter soils, but this has thick hairy leaves which horses don’t particularly like and if you are making hay Fog grass takes a lot more drying.

  • A word about Orchard Grass/Cocksfoot. This grass used to be the farmer’s main production grass before rye grass came along. Just be aware that it tends to make coarse, stalky hay. If you are intending to use it for grazing we would not include it in a mix for horses prone to weight gain.

The information in this post is a classic example of how ‘theory’ turns out to be completely different to experience in the field - for example, we were told that Yorkshire Fog is a great grass for wetter areas so many people sowed it but then found it was somewhat unpalatable for horses and stuffed up the hay making. Believe us when we say, we’ve made all the mistakes for you

NOTE the picture illustrates one of the reasons horses have such long heads - they can still look out for predators while grazing long grass - if they were meant to eat short grass imagine where their eyes might be.......

In New Zealand, if you would like help with resowing for horses contact willi@pastoralimprovements.co.nz

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