Providing good winter pasture benefits your horses by giving them a superior source of nutrients. It also can save you money on the winter feed bill by extending the grazing season.
Horses on pasture get exercise, are exposed to sunshine and generally are healthier than those kept in stalls.
A non-tall fescue winter pasture also eliminates a pregnant mare’s exposure to endophyte-infected fescue. You need to remove these mares from endophyte-infected fescue pastures at 300 days of pregnancy and keep them off until they are at least 40 days in-foal.
Now is the time to start making plans for your winter pastures. Depending on your situation, consider planting annual ryegrass, oats, wheat, rye and triticale for winter grazing. If these are seeded on land that traditionally is not used for pasture, you need to ensure an adequate fence to contain the horses and have a suitable water supply available that will not freeze during the cold winter days.
You will need to properly manage winter pastures. Consider keeping horses off wet pastures. Do not let horses graze pastures too early. Grasses should be 8 inches tall before grazing and should not be overgrazed below 3 inches.
For information on soil testing, seedbed preparation, seeding rate and planting date of winter forage species for your soil type, contact the Bell County Cooperative Extension Service.
Source: Bob Coleman, extension horse. Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.