Horse Pasture on Beaver Island
We have a new property on Beaver Island and would like to pasture a few horses and grow our own hay for them. There seems to be a problem growing quality hay on the island, most people import it from the mainland. Is there a general problem with the soil here? Would big bluestem make a good hay? Thanks, Sally Stebbins
Charlevoix County Michigan
The first step before trying to establish any type of forage would be to conduct a soil test. This will give you an indication of what the nutrient levels are in the soil and provide you with fertilizer recommendations for growing that respective forage.
Big Bluestem is a warm season grass that will grow best in mid-summer at temperatures of 80-90 degrees F. It works well for wildlife plots. Attempting to grow Big Bluestem for hay production as far north as Beaver Island may result in low yields because of the short growing season. In addition, for hay production of big bluestem, it should be cut at boot stage (immediately before seed heads emerge), leaving a six-inch stubble. Haying at heading may result in greater yields but forage quality will be lower.
Below is a link to a bulletin that may be of interest entitled: Growing Hay and Pasture for Michigan Horses. http://msue.anr.msu.edu/resources/hay_and_pasture_for_michigan_horses