Pasture Degradation

Poorly managed pastures can create mud and dust, which can cause respiratory disease, colic and thrush in horses.

Eventually, poor pasture management will begin to affect the growth of the grasses within your pastures, which will leave you with less forage for your livestock and has the potential to create additional problems. Lack of proper grass density and growth can create suitable environments for erosion and pollution run-off and allow for the establishment of weed species. Also, degraded pastures are far from aesthetically pleasing. There are many factors that may contribute to pasture degradation and the best way to combat it is to be proactive and prevent it before it occurs to avoid having to renovate your pasture.

How does pasture degradation occur?

The degradation of pastures may occur due to different factors or a combination of some.

  • Poor soil structure
  • Poor soil drainage
  • Overgrazing (often as a result of too many animals per unit of space)
  • Improper or lack of pasture rotation
  • Soil compaction from trampling hooves or heavy machinery which destroys the aggregate structure of the soil

How can I prevent pasture degradation?

As previously stated, the best way to deal with pasture degradation is to prevent it in the first place. It is generally always better to be proactive until waiting until the only option is to be reactive. There are some practices that will help to avoid pasture degradation including:

  • Allowing for at least 2-3 acres of pasture per horse
  • Avoid over-grazing by rotating pastures & allowing pastures rest from grazing exposure
  • Having sacrifice areas
  • Avoid over 50% biomass consumption (or do not allow grasses to become shorter than 4 inches)
  • Consider timing of grass growth: allow grasses opportunity to grow and regenerate
  • Avoid extra compaction by staying off pastures during wet months

Unfortunately, most often landowners are unaware of the impact their practices will have on the longevity of their pastures until it is too late. In some cases, it may be necessary to consider pasture renovation. Visit the pasture renovation page to explore your options.