Rotational Grazing System Basics for Horse Pastures

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Credit: Thinkstock Creating smaller grazing areas within your horse pasture can stretch the available grass.

Credit: Thinkstock Creating smaller grazing areas within your horse pasture can stretch the available grass.

Horse owners can get more grazing from their pastures by using rotational grazing. That means you need to have a good pasture to start with, fence it to force horses to be less selective in their grazing, and rotate horses to other parts of the field as needed. From this article from Michigan State University Extention, you can download a PDF that provides a good resource to create a successful rotational grazing system for your horses.

Horse owners often look for ways to improve the quality and quantity of forage in their horse pastures. As the weather warms up and the grass starts to green, it is tempting to turn horses out on pasture. However, depending on your goals for a pasture that provides quality and quantity of forage throughout the grazing season, it may be necessary to evaluate when horses are turned out on pasture. Michigan State University Extension recently published a new bulletin entitled “Rotational Grazing for Michigan Horses”. The purpose of a rotational grazing system is to improve the quality and quantity of forage that is available for your horses.

Following is a list of considerations that apply to rotational grazing:

  • What is your land base resource? How many “usable acres” are available for pasture?
  • Where and how big each paddock (section of the larger pasture) should be
  • How many horses your pasture may accommodate
  • Types of grasses for your pasture
  • Equipment needs for set up of a rotational grazing system
  • How long horses should be allowed to graze in each paddock
  • How long to let each paddock “rest” between grazing periods
  • What makes a “sacrifice or dry lot” such an important part of a rotational grazing system 

These considerations will help you in making an informed decision on whether a rotational grazing is a reasonable possibility based on your equine management practices and land base resources.