Okay, I've got the temporary electric tape fence up! It rained a couple days this last week, so it wasn't until Friday after work that I was able to finish the fence and turn Mira into her new pasture.
You can vaguely see the brown electric tape right behind her - sorry for the shadows!
Building Pasture Quality-
Fertilizing a Pasture: How to figure it out.
I'm just going to do a simple, very basic intro to pasture fertilization here. You want productive soil in your pasture. Productive soil will have certain characteristics - it will have plenty of organic matter (humus), good soil structure, a proper balance of minerals and trace elements, active soil bacteria, and plenty of earthworms and good bugs.
Good, productive dirt will look "rich" and often dark; it will smell nice; and if you hold a handful of soil and wet it, it will not turn into slush - it will still maintain a certain structure.
First Principle: Your most important tool to improve and build soil quality is how you manage the grazing on it! This cannot be overemphasized. The synergy of properly managed grazing animals and rest time can do incredible things for a pasture with no other input. In other words, the most important way to improve your land only requires time - not money! And, conversely, no matter how much fertilizer you do put on, you won't get the best results if the management is poor.
Second Principle: To figure out your fertilizer needs, it is necessary to actually do a soil test. Yes, I know, it's a bother. But, it's very important - you wouldn't prescribe supplements for a horse without actually seeing the horse and knowing it's state of health, work, and living conditions, would you? Make sure that whatever lab you use is a good one. I've never used the lab below before, but they sound like an excellent lab with very detailed reccomendations. According to their reply to my email, the basic soil test is $50.00. Kinsey Ag also has a LOT of articles that are very, very thorough - might be hard to just plow through a whole article, but they do have it arranged so you can quickly find answers to specific questions.
Third Principle: Thorvin!!! Thorvin Kelp is highly recommended by the leading pioneers in MiG and grass-fed livestock producers. If you think about it, rain has been slowly leaching minerals and trace nutrients out of land everywhere and washing it out to sea for thousands of years now... It just makes total sense to grab some of those nutrients back and reapply them to the land! You can feed this kelp to the animals or apply it directly to the land - either way you are doing a serious favor to your land and everything that eats off that land. I prefer feeding it to the animals, as that is easiest and they get the benefit fastest that way. Thorvin kelp contains a lot of iodine (good for horse thyroids, and especially I would imagine, horses with Cushing's disease), a wide array of minerals which are in plant form and thus easy to absorb, and also lots of vitamins. The vitamins are still in the kelp because it is freeze-dried at harvest, which preserves the maximum amount of nutrition.
One of the grass-fed "pioneers" Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms swears by Thorvin as a supplements which prevents his (dozens to hundreds) of cattle from getting pinkeye. People have also started doing research on the interesting observation that kelp seems to protect cattle from the effects of toxic endophyte-infected fescue. If I sound like an ad, well, that's because I have been feeding it to Mira for 5 months now and I am very impressed with how shiny her coat is at 27 years of age, how quickly she shed her winter coat this spring (which indicates good hormonal balance) and just her general improvement in looks and health since I got her 8 months ago. Like, she stopped being allergic to bug bites...
Nobody who sees her believes she's in her 20s, and this is a horse who was rescued from starvation, about a year before I got her, by the vet I bought her from! The vet did a good job rehabbing her, and then sold her to me.
She is quite an ordinary horse in terms of conformation as you can see, but the difference between the first picture, shortly after I got her, and the last two pics, is just amazing to me! And no, she does not get much grooming, and the only place I ever use shampoo or conditioner is her mane/tail.
Most horses would eat about 1/2 to 1 ounce of kelp per day - you can feed free choice or add to grain/pellets. 5 pounds lasted me about 4.5 months...
Fourth Principle: To actively build soil quality does take a certain amount of observation. Again, if you are conditioning a show horse's coat, it takes regular observation to figure out what's working and what's not. Just a few minutes a day is plenty for your pastures.
Fifth Principle: Don't worry about plant varieties right now! That can probably come last - just know that you are dramatically improving the quality of nutrition your horses get from whatever is in their pasture already (that is not poisonous, anyway), and remember that many "weeds" are actually beneficial - not only high in nutrition but also often having various trace elements missing in grass, because of their different root lengths, or acting as a tonic. Google "pasture forbs" and you'll be fascinated. In other words, don't obsess if your pasture is full of crabgrass or other harmless weeds!
Click here for Part 1.
Tomorrow, Part 3 in this series: Mira's Big Adventure in the Pasture (it was, unfortunately), and more about how to organize fences for management-intensive grazing.