Fertilisation of horse pastures

Fertilisation and liming are essential for keeping your horse pasture in good condition. It’s a fable that poor pastures are suitable for horses. Horses need nutrients and trace elements from grass to be able to perform properly. In poor pastures, horses moreover ingest too much sand, which greatly increases the risk of sand colic. 

Fertilisation of horse pastures

Fertilisers provide the nutrients that plants need to grow properly. Fertilisers also yield trace elements that are taken up by horses and greatly contribute towards their health. Lime ensures a good pH value in the soil, which is necessary for good uptake of the nutrients.

 

The soil’s condition should be taken as the basis in formulating a fertilisation strategy. It is a good idea to have your soil analysed once every four to five years. This can be done by an institution such as BLGG (http://blgg.agroxpertus.nl/).

 

Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in particular are essential for the growth of grass. Without these nutrients, grass will not grow sufficiently, resulting in an open sward. The quality (feed value) and yields of grass in pastures that are not, or insufficiently fertilised will moreover decrease. Ask your fertiliser supplier to calculate your exact needs on the basis of a soil analysis. By way of illustration, the following table shows the nutrient needs of grass growing in an average pasture. NB: these are not exact fertilisation recommendations! 

 

Manuring

Spring and autumn are the best times to manure your pasture, because moist soil will more readily absorb the nutrients from the manure. Use at most twenty tonnes of manure per hectare per time. Manure may be applied to your pasture twice a year. Cattle manure is the most suitable for horse pastures.

Artificial fertilisers

For a maximum grass yield, several small doses of artificial fertiliser must be applied 4 to 6 times a year in addition to the manure. Don’t allow your horses to enter the pasture for 14 days after you have fertilised it. The fertilisers must first be probably absorbed by the soil. When that has taken place, your horses may safely enjoy the grass. A good idea is to divide your pasture into smaller plots. That will enable you to properly maintain the plots without having to confine your horses to the stable.

Trace elements

Horses need trace elements and minerals such as selenium, zinc, phosphorus, copper and manganese to perform properly. Most horses are given these trace elements and minerals via concentrates, but if you fertilise your grass with these minerals, your horses may also be given them via that grass. Horses readily take up minerals from the grass. Grass of pastures that are not fertilised, such as natural pastures, has a high fructan content and often a distorted ratio of trace elements and minerals. Nitrogen is required for the production of protein. If a grass plant receives insufficient nitrogen, it will produce fructan instead of protein. So never feed your horse hay or silage from natural pastures, but exclusively from pastures with good horse grass that has been well fertilised. Soil analysis is important for determining your fertilisation strategy and the required doses of trace elements. Ask your fertiliser supplier for the best available fertilisers and their recommended doses.

Liming

Adding calcium to a pasture (liming) will ensure a good pH value of the soil. This will promote the absorption of nutrients in the soil. Autumn is the best time for liming your pasture. How much lime you should use can be determined on the basis of the results of a soil analysis. Don’t allow your horses into the pasture for some time after you have limed it.

Where to buy

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