Pasture Management

Having large animals who eat mostly grass, and not having infinite amounts of the stuff, pasture management becomes a very important issue.
Last summer, we made the decision to cross fence our pasture into 2 smaller ones. Not so small that they can’t run, play and still have good grazing. No, just needed to be able to let parts rest. Herbivores can be hard on the grass, and in no time, graze it down so much that it can’t recover.
I know, it seems silly to worry about grass. When I was in the city, my only worry about grass was if I got it cut on a weekly basis.
Now? I don’t cut my yard site.
In fact, my next big purchase (in the next couple of weeks) is going to be a scythe. I have 2 acres of “yard” which we use for garden, playing, bonfires, etc. In that are some spaces where, if I cut it, dry it and bale it, I could be putting up small amounts of hay. I’m not talking enough for winter. Oh, nope, not that much! Hay for winter for my 4 horses averages around 30-35,000 lbs…depending how cold the winter gets.

What I cold be putting up though, are small bales for the beginning of hay season…when the Hay Guy is still in the field, and it’s hard to pin him down to get him to deliver a load. If I have some small stuff on hand to hold out for a week or two, that gives us some wiggle room.
Or, a few small bales for the end of hay season, when I’m not 100% sure we’re ready to stop throwing hay down, but don’t want to open a 800lb bale.
Or, bales for chickens to enjoy and play in, come the inevitable winter doldrums…or, even hay for next years piggies…though, I’ll likely save any moldy stuff we have for them. I did that this past winter, knowing we were going to get piggies, saved (instead of burning) the 2 moldy bales we had for them to enjoy. And they are!
I also have to add…our Hay Guy rules! lol
When we get a bad bale, he replaces it, free.
Now, I know that’s how a good hay supplier should work, but trust me, they don’t all work that way.
Even better though, is that we rarely get a bad bale. I mean, bad bits in a bale can, and do happen. I just pull this out and go on feeding. But, a whole bale? Very, very rare to lose a whole bale, with this fellow.
Unlike our first hay guy.
While the bales that were good were gorgeous, and the Girls did fantastic on them, the ones that were bad were full of foxtail. Like, “burn the whole freaking bale” bad. Not such a big deal if you have cows, really, really big deal when you have horses. So, yeah, we didn’t go back to him.
When we had the chance to switch to our current Hay Guy, we jumped at it, and we were very happy that he was able to add us to his client list.

Anyways…
Here’s a few pictures to show why rotational grazing and poop picking are important parts of pasture management…yes, even in the pasture, I go out every couple of days and pick poop up and move it to the compost pile. When it gets to be too much poop to pick, we hook the chain drag to the tractor and drag the pasture.
These shots are all from the front pasture last night.

Ruby in the front pasture...

Ruby, grass hiding her hooves…

Not that long ago, they got a good solid day grazing in the front, and then we got rain and heat. Now, you can’t tell they grazed there at all. Not by looking at it.

Sable under the trees...

Sable under the trees…

Astrid found a tall grass spot...

Astrid found a tall grass spot…

Cookie, in one their favorite grazing spots...

Cookie, in one their favorite grazing spots…

And they all look fabulous.
Good pasture management means that they can graze all summer long, without me having to give them hay. That’s always going to be the goal here. Hay in the winter, pasture in the summer.
The best way to do that is to give the grass time to rest when we can, fertilize it, and let the Girls trim it. 🙂
And let Mother Nature do the rest.

Lovely bum!

Lovely bum!

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Piggie Pictures

Sometimes, I catch the piggies being really, really cute. Like, waking up from a nap.

Emeril

Emeril

He had flipped over the trough, dug up the ground it was sitting on, and was laying in the hole, sleeping.
He was rather upset that I filled the hole with rotting hay and put the trough back on top of it. lol

Nigella

Nigella

Nigella is our pushy piggie. We have to watch out for her when filling the troughs. She likes to try to push the cup of food out of our hands. Now, I don’t even wait for her to try, I just give her a smack on the bum and make her wait until I’m done before letting her into the food.
It might sound cute, her being that eager for food, but right now, she’s only 50ish lbs. Soon, she’ll top out around 200-250 lbs. It’s not going to be so cute then. So, like the horses, I establish the rules early. I’m the Food Lady, and if you want to eat, be respectful.
I think, however, Nigella will be the first one to be invited to Freezer Camp.

Anthony

Anthony

Anthony is my little sloth piggie, and he’s still a cutie. He stands for back rubs and comes when I call him. Mostly, he just loves to lie in a mud wallow. 🙂

So, we’ve had the piggies now, since April 28th.
They’ve almost doubled in size. We’ve gone through 50lbs of hog grower feed, 50lbs of All Sport that we’d bought last year for the horses, but they didn’t like, and about 100lbs of assorted veggie/fruit/bread scraps.
I won’t know if piggie growing for meat is a worthwhile endeavor, financially, until butcher time. But, so far, I’m having fun with them…even if they are a little more work. 🙂

One final picture to share today…

Felix in the Pasture wmMy pal Felix…he loves coming on pasture walks with me. ❤

Dreaming Astrid

I went for a walk in the pasture yesterday, before the rains hit us again.
I like to do that to check on The Girls, to check on the grass, to make sure nothing dangerous has blown in…or been tossed over the fence.

I almost always take my camera with me. I’d be silly not to, right?
When I came around the back corner of the garage, I found Astrid flat-out, but it looked like she was running on her side. None of the other horses were concerned, so I didn’t panic. As I got closer, I realized, she was snoring…awww! Little Red was running in her sleep!

"Ima race horse...fastest one ever!" ~Astrid

“Ima race horse…fastest one ever!”
~Astrid

"Oh yeah, I like scratches there! Ima good Girl...I won the race! Scratch me!" ~Astrid

“Oh yeah, I like scratches there! Ima good Girl…I won the race! Scratch me!”

"Wait! What?!? What was that sound?"

“Wait! What?!? What was that sound?”

"Aww! I was enjoying that Dream!"

“Aww! I was enjoying that Dream!”

"Maybe I can go back to it, if I go back to sleep..."

“Maybe I can go back to it, if I go back to sleep…”

And then, out of no where, Daphne came running up behind her and barked at her. lol
Poor Astrid!

"Stupid dog...I might as well get up. >:( "

“Stupid dog…I might as well get up. 😡 “

Opening the Front Pasture

We’ve leased our big field out for another year. As much as I wanted to finish fencing, and seed for pasture, there were a few other things that needed attention first. Instead of letting the weeds take over, we let the farmer who planted last year plant this year as well.
Yesterday, he and his family were working on getting the field seeded.
That meant they needed to take the seed truck through our pasture to get out to the big field. The tractors and pick up trucks can go through the ditch off the side road, but it was too steep for the seed truck.

In order for The Girls to be safe, we put them in the front pasture.
Oh the excitement!!
They haven’t been allowed there yet this year, so the grass is long, the dandys are blooming, and there’s new alfalfa shoots all over the place.
Horsie Heaven, I tell ya!

Hubby opened the gate, and while everyone waited until he gave them to okay, you could tell, the urge to dash through was strong. They’ve been staring, longingly, at that grass for weeks. 🙂

Finally, he let them through. They got just far enough in that he could close the gate past their bums, dropped their heads and started gobbling…which is when I started taking pictures…

"I gotta eat as much as I can before Dad tries to make me leave here..." ~Ruby

“I gotta eat as much as I can before Dad tries to make me leave here…”
~Ruby

"Nom...Nom...Nom... More food, more grass, more dandelions..." ~Ruby

“Nom…Nom…Nom…
More food, more grass, more dandelions…”
~Ruby

"Ooohhhh...this is sooooo good!" ~Cookie

“Ooohhhh…this is sooooo good!”
~Cookie

"I can't get enough in my mouth!" ~Astrid

“I can’t get enough in my mouth!”
~Astrid

No words from Sable...just bliss. :)

No words from Sable…just bliss. 🙂

Astrid is looking fabulous!  No surprise, she came though winter beautifully.

Astrid is looking fabulous!
No surprise, she came though winter beautifully.

While not the greatest shot of the 4 of them, this one shows how fantastic Sable is looking!

While not the greatest shot of the 4 of them, this one shows how fantastic Sable is looking!

I’m so happy to see Sable back up to weight!
It was a worrisome time, trying to figure out why she dropped weight (it was pretty darn sudden!) and how to get it back on her.
After going over, and ruling out, the usual possible suspects for weight loss, I started her on Tribute Essential K.
In just over a month, she’s picked up the weight she lost, and she’s doing much better. Near as we can figure, it was our crazy winter weather, bouncing all over the place, that contributed heavily to her weight loss. She always been a bit harder of a keeper than the other 3, but this year, winter just took it out of her. 😦
Got it under control now, and hopefully, we can keep it that way into next winter. 🙂

Pug or Pig?

Back on Mother’s Day, Farm friend Shaila brought out Honorary Farm Dog Sabrina to meet and greet the piggies.
Here’s pictures from their visit…

Mini troughs are the perfect height for piggies...and puggies!

Mini troughs are the perfect height for piggies…and puggies!

Who wore the mud better...Anthony?

Who wore the mud better…Anthony?

Or Sabrina?

Or Sabrina?

Piggie and puggie bums!

Piggie and puggie bums!

Going for a run together...

Going for a run together…

Playing in the wallow together...

Playing in the wallow together…

Sabrina investigates Anthony's rear end...

Sabrina investigates Anthony’s rear end…

Aghast that Nigella wanted to sniff her rear...

Aghast that Nigella wanted to sniff her rear…

Enjoying a piggie water drink...

Enjoying a piggie water drink…

Trying to grab pig chow that Emeril dropped during his drink...

Trying to grab pig chow that Emeril dropped during his drink…

Nigella is interested in Sabrina's fancy harness...

Nigella is interested in Sabrina’s fancy harness…

Now Emeril wants to know about it too...

Now Emeril wants to know about it too…

Nigella was seriously focused on that harness!

Nigella was seriously focused on that harness!

Anthony was ready for a nap...

Anthony was ready for a nap…

Finally, after running together for more than half an hour, the piggies were tired, Sabrina was muddy and tired, and it was time to head up to the house to relax on the deck. 🙂 Sabrina had one fine story to share with sister Poppy when she got home!

One last picture to share…it’s not great, composition wise, but I love the face…

"Could ya quit taking my picture?!? Sheesh!" ~Cookie

“Could ya quit taking my picture?!? Sheesh!”
~Cookie

Sharing for Wordless Wednesday with Blog Paws, Create with Joy, and Image-in-ing.

When We Last Left You…

Cookie and I were in the midst of the Spring revitalization of our relationship. This weekend, we went another step in the right direction, when trimmer Michele came out to dole out the mani/pedis.

As always, Sable was a rock star. Even with winds kicking up, and the farmer burning stubble on the field next to us, she stood very well. She’s always first, partly because she gets done the quickest, but, also because if she’s not first, she pouts. Yes, the horse pouts. It’s not becoming. lol

Astrid was pretty darn good too. She almost always is. She’s the one with the most solid and consistent foot skills.It’s only when she’s sore do we have any trouble getting her to stand still. A few stretches helped her relax enough to get finished up…and gave me a new assignment. 😉 More consistency in stretching and back rubs.
Well, okay then.
More hands on pony time? Yeah, that’s really a problem, isn’t it?

Thankfully, Hubby got home from work in time to help with Ruby. I love Ruby. She is quite the character. That character though, can sometimes be frustrating as all get out. Hubby has infinite patience with her. She’s his Girl, 100%. He can easily convince her that what’s being asked is her idea to do…and once it’s “her idea” she’s more than happy to do it.
Like I said, she’s a character.
Well, between Hubby and Michele (and a flake of hay), Ruby got the best trim she’s had since coming home. And, Hubby has some new tools in his arsenal of “This is your Idea to do this.”

And finally we came down to my chicken livered Dolly.
Who’s feet were bad again.
Hubby had been doing small maintenance trims over the winter, but he hadn’t been able to much with Cookie. Oh, he wanted to, she wanted to, but the trust between them isn’t as strong as it needs to be.
Remember, I said she’s a special Girl. She needs that little bit of extra special handling.
Now, do not take that to mean she gets away with poor manners, or bad behaviour. Oh no! Bad behaviour isn’t allowed. Semi truck load of issues, or not. Allowing bad behaviour, or making excuses for it, doesn’t do her any favors. Quick correction, so she knows exactly what behaviour isn’t allowed, does. There is a lesson I was taught, early on in my journey with Cookie…a horse person I respect highly told me:
“Be quick to discipline them when they need it, but, be twice as quick to praise them when they do as you ask”

We had a couple of moments where she needed that quick correction, but in the end, she figured it out, that the Human handling her feet was making them feel better, and so stood pretty darn good.
There’s always room for improvement, but she did good. ❤
She’ll get another round of trimming in a couple weeks…some tlc and lessons in between and I hope the cracks will be close to, if not fully, gone next trim. That would be so wonderful for her!

Sunday saw Farm friend Shaila come out for a visit with her pug, Sabrina.
There are pictures currently being edited that will become the series “Pug or Pig?”
Stay tuned, I’ll share those when I’ve finished them. 😉

While we were thinking pictures, the horses finally wore the red satin top hat…here’s those shots:

Sable

Sable

Astrid

Astrid

Once again, Astrid discovered this was not as fun as she thought it was going to be…but then, she was also distracted by Sabrina. Astrid keeps wanting to sniff Sabrina’s bum, just to figure out who (or what) she is. Sabrina, for her part, has no interest in the giant red thing lifting her bum off the ground with its nose. lol

Ruby

Ruby

I love how this looks on Ruby! Of course, it took forever to get her ears forward…and then, Hubby walked into the pasture and bam! Ears.

Cookie

Cookie

She looks so pretty!

Tophat Cookie2

“Why must you do these things to me, Mama?” ~Cookie

And she also looks pretty ashamed…but seriously, red satin top hat on a black and white horse?
Perfection!
Best $2 I’ve spent on a prop, for sure!