Improving pasture management for horses
Vermont has more than 35,000 horses, many of which are located on small acreage, leading to problems with overgrazing and land deterioration. To provide horse owners and agricultural service providers with support and education on horse pasture management, we are conducting a series of workshops. Two workshops were held in 2007, with future workshops planned for 2008.
To demonstrate the potential benefits of renovated high traffic areas, an impacted area of a paddock at an equine operation was renovated. The renovated area is being tracked, along with a similar, un-renovated area. Observations and photographs from both sites are being shared, and will be used in workshops, presentations, and publications over the course of the study.
Soil testing was discussed at the workshops, and samples have been collected at 10 equine operations. The test results are being shared with equine operation managers, along with recommendations to improve soil quality and resulting forage production and quality. Forage sampling is planned for 2008.
By demonstrating the impacts and providing compelling evidence for proper pasture management, along with the tools for and methods to improve horse pasture management systems, this project will help more than 75 horse owners and managers make positive improvements to their horse pasture.
The objectives of this study are to reach more than 1,000 people through publications, publicity, mailings, and workshops. Of 70 horse owners and stable operators attending workshops, more than half will make changes to pasture management resulting in improved forage quality and reduced degradation. Twenty agricultural professionals will feel able to support horse owners’ pasture management needs.
Milestone 1: Renovations to a high traffic area were completed on Enniskerry Farm in Colchester.
Milestone 2: Photographic records have been taken to demonstrate changes to the renovated area as well as an adjacent, non-renovated site. We will continue to take pictures over the course of 18 months. The photographs, along with financial information on the renovation process, are being posted on the website: www.uvm.edu/pasture
Milestone 3: Publication is waiting the completion of the 18-month photographic record.
Milestone 4: Workshops were held at two of 3 planned grazing horse farms. More workshops are planned for the 2008 grazing season. A presentation is also planned for the 2008 Everything Equine, held in April.
Milestone 5: Follow-up visits. To be carried out in 2008 and 2009.
Milestone 6: Survey: To be carried out in 2008-2009.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Equine managers and horse owners are increasingly aware of the challenges of pasture management, and many are rising to meet this challenge. The first 2 workshops took place this summer, one in Plainfield, Vt, at East Hill Farm, and one in Brattleboro, Vt, at Fair Wind Farm. The sessions were very well received, with approximately 30 attendees. Educational opportunities such as the workshops are critical in reaching those interested and motivated horse owners, giving them the tools and methods necessary to implement improvements to their pasture management systems. More workshops and presentations are planned for 2008.
Soil testing was discussed and demonstrated at the workshops, and managers and farmers were encouraged to sample their pasture soil to more effectively manage and improve their grazing and pasture systems. To further education about the importance of proper soil management for improved pasture production, Co-PI Betsy Greene acquired supplemental funding for soil and forage sampling and testing. Soil samples have been collected on 10 equine operations so far, and recommendations have been sent to the farmers along with test results. Additional soil sampling and forage sampling is planned for 2008. Test results and use of recommendations will provide complementary information for publication and education.
Toward the goal of demonstrating the effects of renovated high traffic areas, a large (12′ by 120′) area of a paddock was renovated at Enniskerry Farm in Colchester. That area had previously been degraded by high use and runoff problems. After removing the top 9″ of soil, layers of geo-textile and gravel were installed. Since the renovation, the equine operation manager and owner has expressed her great satisfaction in knowing that the horses are on stable footing when they are out for exercise. She has noted that she is able to put the horses out during inclement weather without damage to the paddock, and without the risks of injury or the costs of horses losing shoes. NRCS field offices in Vermont and Extension personnel in Rhode Island have expressed interest in the renovated area. A web page at the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture Pasture Program website (www.uvm.edu/pasture) is being constructed to share information on the costs and methods of construction, as well as pictures of the renovated area and a similar, non-renovated area, through the ever-changing Vermont weather.