How to Maintain Your Paddock
Paddock maintenance is essential to ensure that you are providing your livestock and horses with a safe and secure environment, as well as a nutrient-rich sward which they can graze on.
If a paddock is not correctly managed or maintained throughout the year, then general wear and tear, which can easily be repaired when kept on top of, can become a larger issue which then requires more extensive treatment.
Daily use from livestock and adverse weather conditions can take their toll on your paddock, leading it to become an unsuitable environment for horses and other animals.
To allow you to keep your paddock in tip-top shape, experts MC Country Services have the following advice.
Harrowing and Rolling
Harrowing should be carried out in the spring and helps to remove dead grass, weeds and bugs – such as worm eggs – which may be present in the ground. This allows fresh growth to manifest and encourages new roots to develop – essential processes for a health paddock. This procedure allows air and sunlight to reach the roots, thus allowing the soil to breathe and improving water infiltration. With the sunlight improving overall ground health, bacteria should be greatly reduced following harrowing.
The ground should be rolled after harrowing to ensure that it is level and improve the rate at which grass becomes established once again. Rolling helps to prevent water from collecting in the hollows made from harrowing. When rolling, the ground should be firm so that compaction is avoided as this is known to limit grass growth.
Every two to four years, the soil pH and nutrient levels should be tested in your paddock. This should be conducted in late winter and will assess the quality of the graze that you have, and indicate whether your soil structure and composition is beneficial to your livestock’s wellbeing. Well-maintained soil will provide good grass quality which holds a high level of protein, energy and other nutrients which your animals require.
A sample should be taken from around six inches below the surface, and should be mixed together with samples from across the land so that an overview of the paddock health can be gauged. The ground should be free from droppings and urine when a sample is taken, as this could affect the end result.
Ideally, you should have a soil pH of between 5 and 6.5, which is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium – essential nutrients for your land and livestock.
To ensure that a nutrient-rich sward is provided for livestock, fertiliser can greatly improve the grass and ensure that a healthy paddock is maintained. However, not all fertiliser is suitable for all land, and therefore you should seek expert advice on which one you should use in order to avoid causing harm to your livestock and land.
For example, the UK is home to three types of grass, which each require unique fertilisers as they hold different characteristics which have varying needs.
Once a soil pH test has been carried out, a slow-release fertiliser should be applied, as this will disperse nutrients over a longer period, allowing your paddock to benefit long-term.
Between March and September, reseeding should be carried out to improve damaged paddocks. Carrying this process out in the months mentioned, will ensure that there is a good amount of moisture already present in the soil, allowing the seeds to have a greater impact.
Due to the different grass types found in the UK and across the world, grasses may require a range of seed types, therefore advice should be sought. Ryegrass is a seed variety which is widely used as it produces seed easily, with grass and clover seed one of the best mixes for livestock as it provides a good nutrient base.
Spraying and Topping
Weeds are one of the most dangerous threats that your land can face, as they can cause serious harm to livestock in some instances. Spraying is one of the most effective ways to manage weeds, and will ensure that they do not become uncontrollable. Herbicides should be sprayed by a qualified PA1, PA2 and PA6 professional at a time when weeds are actively growing in order for the effect to be maximised.
There is a debate surrounding whether land should be topped or sprayed first, however each has its plus points. For example, if you are unable to see weed growth, then topping is essential so that you can assess whether spraying needs to be carried out. On the other hand, if weeds are present or have turned to seed, then spraying should be carried out before topping. Take care to allow time for the herbicide to penetrate the roots, as topping soon after will remove the herbicide.
Paddock maintenance is a year-round process, and prevention is far better than cure, so ensuring that you stay on top of land management tasks should be a priority so that both your land and livestock remain health and secure.
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