I think I want to split my pasture

Can those of you with similar sized turnouts please weigh in?

I have one pasture that is used from May through November that is approximately 3 1/2 acres in size. I have three horses that are turned out for 8 to 10 hours a day on grass. It got picked down pretty badly last summer, and there were a lot of areas that they would not graze despite frequent dragging and mowing.

I’m contemplating splitting it into three separate paddocks this summer. I figure that way, picking manure on a regular basis would be much easier, and it would allow me to rest one area at a time (one horse goes out alone). Pros and cons?

I have read that rectangles are better than squares?

It will certainly make water more difficult, as for now they have a central hub where their trough is located, so I will have to figure that out but I think it will be worth it if I can keep better grass growing longer in the year!

I have two horses on about two acres. I have three long rectangular paddocks. One is along the drive. The other two were once one big square. When I divided it I made two long rectangles rather than two “squarer” shapes. They have lots of room to gallop longer distances, and fewer corners and no circles… So yes, I would do rectangles again. (and I have a very small pony who doesnt count here…)

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Have you considered using temporary electric fence to subdivide your pasture? That would allow you to experiment with different configurations and adapt it to what you need as the seasons change.

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This! I divided my 3 acres into thirds using Horseguard electric tape five years ago and it works great. It made a huge difference in pasture quality and also allowed me to turn out 24/7 for most of the year without destroying all the grass. If you’d like to see, I have the layout and some before/after pics here: http://thesmallhorsefarm.blogspot.com/2016/11/rotational-grazing-schedule-with-before.html?m=0

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I’ll second the temporary fence idea. I use step in Sunguard posts with either tape or rope (moving towards rope), and can reset a 1000 ft line in less than two hours. I am still playing with the ‘right’ configuration. Right now I have three grass, one winter big sacrifice lot, and one small genuine dry lot. Rectangles are definitely better than squares. Also think about drainage. Mine is a three season pasture so I also consider: wind, sun, ice, and grass growth.
My situation (TMI here) is three horses (two drafts and a pony) out 24/7, with the expectation that from late April to early December I’m not feeding hay, but do feed supplemental calories as grain to the pony. I have eight acres of high quality field in southern New England so it does work. That is my three grass lots.
However, my field is a straight east/west rectangle on a west facing slope with some big springs in it and an elevation drop of 200 ft to the 1000. Fully mature hedgerows on all except the east side. But the highest hill for over ten miles to the west (wind!) The southern section is unusable till June, because it is too wet. The northern half fries in August, too hot and too dry. To make it more complicated, water is at the southeast corner at the top of the hill. To make it even more complicated, access to the field is down the steepest section of slope, which also contains the septic leach field, which requires extreme care!
As I said, still playing with ‘temporary’ fencing. I think if I thought of it as ‘rotational’ fencing I’d be happier!

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Oh yes, definitely planning on cross fencing with electric :grin:

@Libby2563 That is super helpful!! Wow, what a difference that made! My last property had two paddocks, one was half an acre and the other was 3/4 of an acre and I felt like I had more grazing there than I do currently. I was pretty bummed to see how quickly they picked down a much larger pasture (while largely ignoring many areas of it) so I hope dividing it makes a big difference!

I’ll need to read your blog in more detail, you probably answered this already, but how often do you rotate your herd? Or does it vary on how the grass is looking?

ETA: I read your blog and found the answers to my earlier questions. I LOVE your farm, it is beautiful!!

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Like the others, I used Horseguard electric fencing to split my pasture. Have one rectangle with the arena in the middle (it’s much bigger than the arena); another smaller one surrounding the barn, round pen, and well shed; and the third, larger one is L-shaped (along the driveway and turns to go in back of our house).

They can run in the rectangle around the arena and the L-shaped ones (and do), but they usually put their heads down to eat immediately when turned out around the barn/round pen/well shed, but will trot or canter when called in from turnout (so they have room to run, but don’t usually bother). Several years ago, I also cut the sacrifice paddock in two, as it was large enough that it didn’t get enough hoof traffic to keep down the grass/weeds, and seeded the part I’d cut off.

This gives me a smaller area where they can graze for a short time, whenever conditions aren’t right to have the horses in the other sections (too wet, or during a drought, for instance), and it’s a size that I can keep irrigated during drought conditions (a consideration here).

Has worked well for years. Whenever they’re turned out, they have access back to their gravel sacrifice paddock for water, although they don’t come back for a drink that often. I used to keep troughs in each separate section, but the horses didn’t really bother to drink from them, and it made for a lot of wasted water keeping the troughs clean with fresh water. A consideration here, being on a well on an aquifer.

I have a permanent fenceline separating my 1 acre road front pasture from my 3.5 acre back pasture. I originally fenced the bigger pasture in half, but did not see much benefit from 2 years of a 3-pasture-rotation with just 2 horses, so it’s been wide open for 3.5 years now. I do use my sacrifice paddock anytime the ground is remotely soft/wet, carefully monitor my pastures for over-grazing, and mow more frequently than most people would probably care to do - but my place looks like a pristine golf course with very few weeds for most of the year here in N Texas, lol.

If we are getting a lot of rain/mud and horses are getting overly rowdy stuck in the small sacrifice paddock, I’ll pop in some step in posts and electric rope to allow some grazing on higher spots of ground while still protecting the bulk of the pastures. I also regularly temp fence off sections of my 1.5 acre yard for grazing. There’s a lot of wind on my mostly tree-less property so electric tape tends to stretch/loosen/sag or blow off the posts, so electric rope works better for me.

Libby2563 – thanks so much for the link to your rotational grazing info. Excellent to see!

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@Libby2563 this is a great advertisement for rotating pastures. My husband and I spent the morning re-seeding my somewhat sad pastures. We were discussing fertilizing and the fact that we need to rotate pastures in the future.

When I moved here I only had two horses on my small farm, so the pastures fared pretty well even without rotation. Last year I added a pony and and my pastures looked bad by the end of the season. Your post gives me great motivation to do better this year!

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Yep, I also set up temporary electric fencing to rotate my pasture. It makes a huge difference. I also find there are areas they don’t want to graze but once I mow and harrow, they seem to be happy eating anywhere.

@Libby2563 I went back through your blog and read it all. Great reading and quite helpful. I moved to my own small farm in 2015 and have had many of the same experiences you have. I wish I had found your blog earlier, it might have prevented a few of my own missteps.

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I second at least starting with moveable electric cross fencing fence to figure out what works for your farm. My big pasture, (about 8 acres) has very different soil structure/moisture leading to different grass and other vegetation in different area. I’ve experimented with different configurations over the last 18 years. I’m glad I kept it flexible. Sometimes it depends on the weather during the growing season. Are we very wet, near drought?

I also second Horseguard electric tape. To me this tape is far superior to all other brands I’ve seen at other peoples farms. I bought it a very long time ago and still have much of the original tape up. I’ve also purchased more. It’s easy to see, the wind seems to go through to keep it from flapping etc. I’ve not used it but the new type that doesn’t require ground rods seems brilliant.