- July 2, 2015 at 7:39 am #85761Lizzy KoltaiParticipant
I am currently leasing farm land, and just starting a search for a place of my own.
How do I start calculating reasonable acreage needs of pasture and hay for draft horses? Obviously soil types, climate (I’m in Maine), pasture management and horse routines all come into play, but I need someplace to start.
I’d like to have enough pasture land to not do high intensity rotational grazing. I’d rather move the horses only once every 2 weeks or so. Most importantly, I want to have options open in the future including to bring on more horses and other animals and make my own hay.
LizzyJuly 2, 2015 at 9:02 pm #85764j.l.holtParticipant
if you work your horses a lot, you will need to feed the same as bale of hay aday. or 365 x 2.
now if you buy it baled,,bale it your self..or let them bale some of it them self’s, you will need to devide up the produceing land for what you decide to do.
then if you have other animals, figure their needs in to the mix.July 6, 2015 at 12:11 pm #85787Rick AlgerParticipant
Yeah, there are a lot of variables.
Back when we were actively managing our 16 acres of open land ( adding lime, fertilizer, manure and frost seeding) we could figure on enough hay and pasture for seven horses.
Now with no management for years other than clipping, the 16 acres yield no hay and barely enough pasture for two drafts.July 9, 2015 at 10:49 pm #85812Peacework FarmParticipant
I was trying to do a lot of that research too last year. I often came across this rule of thumb:
1000 pounds of animal per acre per year.
For sheep, cow, horse, etc.
Its of course vague as to pasture/cut hay.
But its something that I keep in mind.
I also wonder what is the space in cubic feet that a seasons supply of hay for a team take? Or cubic feet of hay storage per 1000 pounds of animal.
Somewhere David Fisher published an article on his new barn and I think it contains the cubic footage of loose hay per horse per year. I think it was in a dapnet newsletter?
I also ended up not having the time to make any of our own hay and found that a neighbor could make it cheaper than I could, and it was not the end of the world to buy it. Though not what i had envisioned, it ended up working well enough. Last year I learned that moving into a ‘good neighborhood’ should be weighed as heavily as how closely a land parcel meets your desires.
good luck in your land search.
-eliJuly 10, 2015 at 4:39 pm #85815Crabapple FarmParticipant
As one place to start when looking at a property, the NRCS Soil Survey can be helpful. In the book for this area, there is a chart of Land Capability and Yields per Acre of Crops and Pasture. For Grass-Clover, the range they give for different soils in this neck of the woods is 2.5-7.8 AUM, which is a pretty significant variation.
AUM stands for Animal Unit Months, with an Animal Unit being one cow, horse, mule, or five sheep or goats. Elsewhere often defined as 1000lbs live weight. Not a very scientific or accurate unit of measurement, but there are too many variables to get too accurate.
So, 7.5 AUM/Acre (which is what most of my fields are) would mean that you would need 1.6 acres per 1000 lbs of horse. If your soils will only produce 2.5 AUM/Acre, you would need 4.8 acres.
The NRCS AUM estimate is based on a “high level of management” – I think the best intensive grazing could yield quite a bit more than that, but even the best soil will become unproductive if not managed well.
You should be able to get a copy of the NRCS Soil Survey for your area from your local field office, though it might be available online now.
I would second that neighbors are important. Self-sufficiency is well and good, but good neighbors are even better. In hay making weather neighbors who also make hay are invaluable during the inevitable equipment failure with rain coming. And when starting out, it is great to have neighbors who will hay your fields for you and/or sell you hay.
-TevisJuly 19, 2015 at 7:38 pm #85837Lizzy KoltaiParticipant
Thanks!July 20, 2015 at 8:33 am #85840j.l.holtParticipant
I would gladly hay on shares with a responsible farmer. would not want my hay/ground put on back burner till they got ‘around’ to it. Made a list of all expenses one time involved with making my own, and buying won out hands down every time. My biggest down fall was help when weather was right. Seemed the haying help was working somewhere else when mine was ready. Is a shame to spend all the time and money just to bale poor hay. Figured when buying, only had to buy the good hay. But when baling your own, you got to take it as it is, good or bad, and make use of it.September 17, 2015 at 2:40 pm #86134dlskidmoreParticipant
It’s not just a matter of when they get around to it, if baling on shares they may have different goals than you on quantity vs quality decisions. Buying depends on your local market. My options for buying would open up if I was free on a weekday to go to the hay auctions.
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