Often, I am on farms and get asked the million dollar question “Why don’t I have any grass?” or “How can I grow grass?” As much as I wish I held the secret to rapid, prolific grass; I do not. I do, however, have some tips to help you grow grass on your farm.
Tip #1: Adhere to a proper stocking rate.
This tip is one of the most important, and without attention to stocking rate your hopes of a productive pasture becomes a pipe dream. Horses, specifically, need 2-5 acres per animal depending on circumstances (soil type, land features, location, etc.). Over stocking will lead to over grazing, and the removal of the grass’s energy reserves as it is grazed down below recommended levels (below 2 inches for Bahia grass) depleting the roots and ultimately the crop.
Tip #2: Rotational Grazing will help alleviate grazing pressures.
Grazing animals in a rotational system will create a rest period for part of the pasture. It is important to note that rotational grazing should be done in a way that allows at least 2-3 weeks of rest/regrowth for the pastures not being grazed. Alternating pastures every other day is not adequate means of rest, and will likely not accomplish the regrowth you expect.
Tip #3: Monitor your soil.
Per University of Florida recommendation, a soil analysis should be taken every 2-3 years. This test is one of the most economical “insurance” policies you can provide your pasture. The results will confirm levels of nutrients in your soil as well as a recommendation for fertilizer and lime if necessary. Your local county Extension Agent can be of assistance in this process.
Tip #4: Grass likes sunlight!
As much as we enjoy the aesthetics of dense trees in our pastures, warm-season perennial grasses do not like shady conditions. In order for photosynthesis to be maximized sunlight needs to be most abundant. Tree removal or thinning is often a must to grow grass. This becomes increasingly important when trying to calculate stocking rate per tip# 1. If you have 10 acres of dense canopy, the stocking rate is no longer one horse per two acres.
Tip #5: Sacrifice an area before you sacrifice your entire pasture.
A sacrifice area is an area you recognize will become sand and not an area for grazing. This will give you a spot to allow your horses to be turned out and not confined to a stall while not over-grazing your pasture. Although this area will not be as eye catching as you might like, it sure beats the alternative of your entire pasture turning into sand due to over-grazing. This tip will help you in employing a rotational system with limited space.
Tip #6: Seek help if you wish to make changes!
Your local IFAS Extension Agent can be of major assistance in implementing these tips. Each situation is slightly different, and they can help you create a plan specific for your operation. Reach out for help, we are passionate about educating and promoting best agricultural practices.