Intensive growth forage patch

Asked January 20, 2017, 9:36 AM EST

We live in a part of west Alabama where drought for months is followed by torrential rains. It makes pasture maintenance difficult. After researching hydroponic forage systems we have chosen to fence off a 20x8 ft area to plant and treat in a manner similar to a hydroponic system. The main difference is that the grass is planted in soil in a patch small enough to re seed and water in drought. We want to provide spaces where horses can graze through the fence without trampling and killing the forage. We need suggestions as to how far apart to put fence posts and fencing boards.

Tuscaloosa County Alabama

2 Responses

This is an interesting approach and very creative. My opinion is that it is an excellent application of electric temporary fencing. You could take the tape or cord down for part of the day and put it back up part of the day. Or you could graze it for a few days and then take them off for a period of time needed for regrowth. I can't think of a scenario where I'd want to encourage grazing over the fence. Seems like a recipe for disaster. It certainly is thinking outside the box.

The drought in Alabama this year has been especially trying, and the soils in your part of the state (Tuscaloosa County) have not handled it well. The hydroponic system is creative but it may not be the best long-term solution. Allowing horses to graze through a fence is risky as the smart ones will usually find a way to charge through. It may be better to treat it as a small paddock and allow short periods of grazing followed by a rest period.

Another suggestion is to use the drought as an opportunity to reevaluate the pasture management plan for the entire property. Right now (February) is the ideal time to do this as spring planting season is right around the corner. Work with your county Alabama Cooperative Extension Service (ACES) office in Tuscaloosa or your ACES Equine Extension Specialist, Courteney Holland, to set up a farm visit and begin planning and implementing a sustainable grazing program. Our ACES Animal Sciences & Forages team members throughout the state advocate rotational grazing and the use of sacrifice areas during drought conditions to maximize pasture use, but specific recommendations will vary depending on soil type, suitable pasture grasses for the area, and number of horses on the property.