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How Long til It's Absolutely Safe to Turnout with Mower Clippings in Pasture

I thought I had read that you have to wait 48 hours (?) until its safe for a horse to be turned out in a mowed field. My pony will walk right over to the mowage piles and start gorging if I didn’t keep him off just-mowed paddocks (he’s not metabolic according to bloodwork, but he’s a plump air-fern pony). I did a recent autumn mowing, and the clippings still look fresh-ish after 4 days. In the summer they just shrivel up to nothing immediately. As I said, the pony will walk right over to mower clipping piles and start there. When can I turn him out in the mowed field? Thanks!

My 3 - horse, pony & mini - all follow the mower from inside the fenceline, grazing on clippings.
When I used to mow pastures (now just bushhogged in late Fall) same.
My grass in pastures is never lush, but eating fresh clippings over a number of days never hurt any of them.

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Mow AFTER the field has finished being grazed. Move the horses to a different field to start grazing that field. Rotational grazing. The plan is to mow down the weeds that the horses don’t eat before they go to seed. In the long term, this will improve the quality of your pasture. The horses don’t go back onto the mowed field until the grass has had time to grow back, which is dependent on your location/weather/time of year.
If you only have one field, divide it into two with an electric wire, alternate sides.


My issue is that I have too much grass, and am trying to mow down another paddock so my pony can graze w/o the muzzle and/or stay on the grass-less drylot. thanks.

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We mow pastures weekly or every two weeks so we don’t have much in the way of clippings. Is that possible for you? We mow pretty high, as well.

I don’t think this question has a hard and fast answer. It seems to depend on season, climate, grass type, and horse personality.

Can you mow the mowed up bits to distribute them enough that they dry out and aren’t in clumps?

In the summer, I mow and the horse goes right back out. My understanding is the clippings are dangerous once they are a few days old as it takes time for them to ferment and accumulate moisture - not when they are just cut. Mine hoover up the clippings right away (within an hour).

Are the clippings dry? If they’re dry, that’s really just hay, isn’t it? :joy:


Usually horses forgo the clippings once they have dried.

Also, if you (g) are allowing grazing to the point that the grass is grazed totally down and all that’s left is weeds, then the root system of the grass is going to be stressed. The goal is to rotate before that occurs so when one mows, one should also be mowing grass as well. The mature, long grass stems are less nutritionally dense as well so best not to allow grass to grow too high.

I have never removed my horses from a pasture after it has been mowed. Never had a problem. The big pasture only gets mowed a few times a year because I have to hire the job out. Horse is never interested in what has been cut. She prefers the newer tender grass. The smaller pasture I mow with my riding mower every week or so. I mostly get the taller grass with the mower and the horses aren’t that interested in that. If you have lush tender grass the result might be different. My grass is largely fescue and bahia because they are tough grasses that grow here with little maintenance.

Unless you have easy keepers, in which case mature tall grass is much safer for them.

That may work in norther areas, but here in FL the grass grows so quickly, and the “roughs” areas get so tall, meanwhile the “meadow” areas are almost overgrazed. In the summer, mowing weekly is necessary.
Added to this, most of our weeds (that I am familiar with) are either woody perennials (Sida sp) OR they sprout from clippings (dove weed, dayflower)/put out more flowers (amaranth/pigweed) in response to mowing. In my experience, you cannot mow weeds away here.

That’s why it’s always handy to mention what general area one is posting from in the OP.


Southern Middle Tennessee here.

I have never kept my horses out of the pasture during bush hogging. They won’t eat what’s been cut.

I use the finish mower in the small front pastures and the yard and nobody will touch the mowed stuff. When my IR horse was alive, I had to mow sections on different days because he waited three days (like clockwork) after I mowed something before he would graze on it.

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