Monday, March 2, 2020

The Deadline

In twenty eight days participants in the Virginia Agritourism Conference will join us for a farm tour. We are heavily involved in preparing for that visit. Program participants and volunteers are doing a great job as we put in new fencing and work to put in new seating in the round pen area.

I have no doubt that visitors on March 30 will have a wonderful time and learn a lot about how our program works.

There is another deadline that plays much heavier on my mind. As much as I look forward to spring. I understand that its arrival brings a deadline with consequences. When it is time for the cold season forage to emerge I must have our pastures ready to welcome them.

That means getting hooves and mouths away from enough of the emergent plants to allow for great pasture growth. That means expanding microbes into areas of soil compaction. That means revving up our multi species grazing plans.

Yesterday, using a micro grant from the Livestock Conservancy to help fund the improvements, I went a long ways towards turning the New Land into five separate pastures to facilitate rotational grazing. Tomorrow, I will move all horses out of our must concentrated pasture to allow it to dry out and heal and will sow the last bit of ladino clover.

Then attention will be turned to the next step in our pasture development. We have worked hard over the winter turning Jacobs Woods, which has not been timbered since 1967 into functional silvopasture. I would have liked to have thinned more trees this winter from the plot but it will be a two winter conversion project instead of a one winter job. We will need to replace some gates, add many fence posts, and run hot wire around the perimeter.

We will then be able to move a large number of horses off of sprouting pastures into the woods where they can browse and eat hay for a few more weeks.

To the unknowing eye a pasture is simply a place to store horses when they are not being ridden. The only question in such analysis is whether there is "room" for the horses in a given pasture. The reality is much different.  Eventually all of our program participants will understand that what is going on below the surface is more important than the appearance of the surface.

Few people come to a riding program with any understanding of the role of the pasture in maximizing horse health. Their closest model is a homeowner's lawn. With that model in mind they are ready to graze horses on any grass that is as tall enough to be mowed, if it were a suburban lawn. Pastures need much more growth than we have been allowing before grazing them heavily.

And, in order to build our pastures to provide maximum benefit to our horses I will need to have Jacob's woods filled with livestock in a month.

That deadline plays heavy on my mind.

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