Keys to successful land management
As a horse manager or owner, the keys to successful land management include determining the most appropriate stocking rate for your property and developing integrated weed control and manure management strategies.
As a horse owner you should develop a property plan which reflects your overall vision for the property and select an approved horse management system, such as:
- low input (extensive grazing)
- medium input (horses grazing as well as stabled at times)
- high input (horses stabled and hand fed).
You need to determine the appropriate stocking rate for your property and follow an effective pasture management program, which includes:
- graze paddocks in rotation (graze at 12cm, rest at 5cm)
- soil test to determine lime and fertiliser requirements
- manage lush spring pasture growth by slashing, hay cutting or grazing with other livestock
- maintain 70% groundcover at all times (minimum height 3cm)
- seek advice on suitable pasture mixes, management and renovation.
You also need to develop an integrated weed control strategy:
- eradicate toxic weeds (such as Paterson’s curse and cape tulip)
- eliminate problem weeds
- maintain soil fertility
- graze paddocks in rotation
- improve pastures
- use selective sprays
- control weeds entering the property (check hay for weed seeds and find out if it has been tested for annual rye grass toxicity (ARGT))
- quarantine new horses for three days to prevent weed seeds spreading — this will also reduce the risk of exposing your animals to any disease the new addition might be carrying
- avoid grazing areas bare which encourages weeds.
An integrated manure management strategy should also be developed, which may include:
- collecting and selling manure
- harrowing manure in paddocks
- encouraging dung beetles by limiting harmful sprays.
Tips to remember include:
- Hand feed hay only on compacted rubble or grassed areas — not on sand.
- Vary feeding spots to reduce overgrazing and muddy areas.
- Consider electric fencing to protect overgrazed and muddy areas from further damage.
- Continuously set-grazing small paddocks is a recipe for environmental and equine health problems.