Winter Care Tips for Horse Owners

Winter weather has definitely arrived and along with it come additional challenges when caring for horses.  Horses are surprisingly adaptable to cold weather but paying attention to the small details is especially important to ensure good horse health in the winter months.  Here are a few specific things horse owners should focus on when caring for horses in the winter.

  • Forage/hay– After a tough year of weather conditions for local hay growers, finding good local hay may prove to be a challenging task but providing quality forage or hay in the appropriate quantity is especially critical in the winter. The microbial digestion of hay by the horse actually creates body heat, helping to keep them warm in cold temperatures. Remember the average horse should be consuming about 2.0% of its body weight daily between hay and grain but a minimum of 1.5% of that should be in hay.  That’s a simple math problem. For example, if your horse weighs 1000 lbs:

1000 x 0.015(1.5% converted to decimal form) = minimum of 15 lbs of hay per day

Also consider adding soaked beet pulp or a hay stretcher to your horses’ diet if hay is at a premium. The use of these types of products can possibly help you slightly reduce the amount of hay you have to feed. Beet pulp is also a great way to help get more water into the horse and helps keep the hind gut functioning well.

  • Water-Water is always one of the most important nutrients for horses but it becomes especially critical in the winter when horses are consuming larger quantities of dry feed. Fresh pasture can consist of nearly 60-80% water but grain rations and hay are generally less than 15% moisture. Always make any changes to your horses’ diet gradually.  The risk of impaction colic in horses becomes greater in the winter. By providing your horse with warmed water (45-65º F), you can help to decrease this risk by increasing water consumption. Research has demonstrated that by providing horses with only warmed water, they will consume a greater quantity then if they have cold water or both warmed water and cold water offered simultaneously (they will usually chose cold and drink less). Make sure that the water is always clean and pay close attention to tank heaters and other devices used to warm water. Always check that cords are not worn or damaged and there is no stray voltage that could potentially shock the horse.


  • Teeth– During a time of the year when we typically need to increase feed to maintain body condition, make sure that your horses are able to extract as much nutrition out of what they are consuming as possible. This is especially critical in young and senior horses. Have your horses teeth checked and floated by a professional a minimum of once a year. Some seniors and those with dental issues will need more frequent attention.


  • Hoof Care – Good hoof care is always important but the conditions we experience here on Delmarva make winter hoof care even more critical and more challenging. The freeze thaw cycles and the slippery mud that come along with it, can create problems.  Combining these environmental issues with slower rates of hoof growth and hoof health issues such as thrush, white line disease and bruised soles can come along with winter weather.  Keeping horses hooves as dry as possible and picking them regularly to remove mud or even snow/ice along with good routine farrier care is very helpful in preventing these conditions that can develop and potentially nag us into the summer months. Discuss with your farrier if your horse should remain shod or barefoot in the winter. In general horses that are barefoot have better traction and will have fewer issues with the development of snowballs or snow packing in hooves. Keep up with routine farrier appointments even though you may not be riding as much.


  • Mud– Controlling mud in a horse’s winter environment is easier said than done this year especially but providing the horse with an area to escape the muddy areas that typically develop around gates, feeders and waterers is necessary. This does not need to be a stall but could be a well-drained sacrifice lot or dry run in shed. Appropriate stocking rates, good footing and good sanitation/regular manure removal is critical in maintaining these areas. Besides affecting hooves, excess mud that is not removed regularly from the horse can lead to the development of bacterial infections such as greasy heel, mud fever or scratches on the lower legs.


  • Shelter/Ventilation– Horses do not require a fancy barn to provide adequate shelter in the winter but being able to escape the wind and wet/storms is important. Be sure that you are providing enough space that all horses can shelter at once, including the lowest in the packing order of the herd. Horses that have a winter coat and are not blanketed do not begin to expend additional energy to keep warm until the temperature reaches about 18degrees, provided there is no rain or wind. If you choose to keep your horse stalled in the winter, make sure that ventilation is adequate and that the bedding material you use is not too dusty. Confinement in a dusty stall with too little ventilation can actually cause more health problems then if horses were left outside with good footing and adequate protection from the weather.


  • Blanketing– Blanketing has been widely discussed among horse owners for years and could be an entire additional article. It comes down to a personal choice and how much work the horse will do in the winter. Age and body condition can also play a role in this decision. If you decide to blanket your horse with a winter appropriate turnout, then be sure to check under that blanket very regularly. Make sure the blanket stays dry, look for rubbing and chafing, inspect for the development of skin conditions such as rain rot and routinely monitor body condition scores on blanketed horses.

Horses don’t need to be doted on in the winter but by paying attention to some of these daily details of winter horse care and being well prepared, your horse will survive the winter months happy, healthy and ready to return to the arena, show ring or trail come spring.

Susan Garey, Extension Agent Animal Science, University of Delaware

Shropshire Assocation Offers Starter Flock Award

The National Junior Shropshire Sheep Association is pleased to announce that through the generosity and vision of several prominent Shropshire breeders, the third Shropshire Starter Flock Award will be given to a lucky youth in the spring of 2016.

The Shropshire Starter Flock Award is presented annually and helps to establish one new Shropshire flock every year.  The award in 2016 will be a credit voucher of $1,500, which can be used to purchase no less than two ewes in one of the following sales:  Shropshire Classic, Great Lakes, Shropshire Spectacular and The Midwest.

In addition, ewes can be purchased at any sale that has ewe lambs nominated for the Shropshire Futurity.

The National Junior Shropshire Sheep Association will identify a local breeder to act as a mentor to the recipient.  The sheep will range in age from lambs to yearling ewes.  The animals selected will be of sound structure and will maintain good breed type.  If you are interested in winning this award flock, you are expected to write an essay to the National Junior Shropshire Sheep Association.  Be sure to include background information about yourself.  This document6 should illustrate your goals and intentions with the animals should you win the award.  There should also be a budget included in the paperwork that is sent in.  Type your essay and email it to by April 1.  Please include your mailing address and telephone number.  All applicants should be between the ages of 8 and 20.

Winners are asked to give back to the Starter Flock Award Program in some way in the years to come.  The awarded animals are asked to be shown at a county fair, state fair and a regional national show (All American Junior Show, NAILE, The Big E or the Midwest Regional Show).

All essays will be reviewed and discussed by the board members and the winner will be chosen and contacted to make arrangements to receive their award at a spring sale.  Whichever sale you choose to make your purchase, you will have a $1,500 credit which can be used when you pay for your purchases.  You must purchase at least two ewes with this award.  Whether you are looking to add a second breed to your farm or looking to make a start in the sheep business, you are invited to take a chance and write to win.

For more information contact Alan Bruhin, or Becky Peterson,


Delaware 4-H and FFA Spring Dairy Show

DSC_0163The 2016 Delaware 4-H and FFA Spring Dairy Show is April 2, 2016 at the Delaware State Fairgrounds.  The show is open to all Delmarva Residents who are owners or lessors of Holstein, Jersey, Ayrshire, Guernsey and Brown Swiss cattle.  The show will include both a Junior Division (age 21 & under as of January 1, 2016) and an Open Division which will run concurrently.

It is strongly suggested that all animals be vaccinated for shipping fever.  Out of state exhibitors will need interstate health papers issued within 30 days of the show.  Maryland Intrastate Health Certificates will also be accepted provided it has been checked and signed at a Maryland show within 30 days.

For rules, a complete class list, and entry form, please visit:

Delaware Holstein Association Annual Meeting March 12

Delaware Holstein Association

2016 Annual Meeting March 12

Host Farm – William Vanderwende & Sons, 4003 Seashore Hwy, Bridgeville, DE – 10:00

The Vanderwende Family has invited the membership to visit their home farm.  Three generations of the family are involved in the operation that includes a 225 cow dairy, a 4,000 acre crop operation and most recently an on farm creamery. The farm is located about 6 miles west of Bridgeville on the north side on Seashore Highway.

Luncheon – Jimmy’s Grille, Bridgeville, DE – 12:30

To reach the restaurant from the farm, take Seashore Hwy east toward Bridgeville, following Business 404. At the first dead end turn left on Market Street and at the second turn right on S. Main Street. Jimmy’s Grille will be on the left at 18541 S. Main Street.  At Walgreens, you’ve gone too far!

Annual Meeting – 1:30   

Reports on 2015 Association Activities  Election of Directors  Junior and Senior Production Awards  Junior Member Awards Program – The Story of Vanderwende Farm Creamery  The Vanderwendes have diversified their dairy operation with the addition of the creamery.  Taylor Vanderwende will be on hand to tell our group about the history of the creamery and their plans for the future.

Jr. Association Annual Meeting – 2:30   All Juniors are welcome to participate in the first meeting of 2016.  Learn what’s in store for the coming year.

Lunch tickets will be $10.00 for adults.  Junior members, under age 21, will be free.  2016 dues can be paid at the meeting.  Dues are based on the number of milking registered cows.  $20.00 is the base fee with an additional charge of $0.15 per cow for each registered milking animal.

Other “Dairy Dates” to Mark on the Calendar 

March 30, 2016 – Delaware Dairy Princess Contest – Ag Museum, Dover

April 2, 2016 – Delaware 4-H & FFA Dairy Expo – Delaware State Fairgrounds, Harrington

May 1, 2016 – Final Futurity Entries and Payments Due

July 2 & 3, 2016 – Cow Camp 2016 – Delaware State Fairgrounds, Harrington

July 23, 2016 – Delaware Jr Dairy Futurity & 4th Annual Senior Showmanship Contest!!

A Special Note to Juniors In order to be eligible for the production awards, you must provide the following information on all animals you wish to have considered.  These must be milking animals registered in your name.  Please return the information below to Charmayne Busker, 1676 Drapers Corners Road, Harrington, DE 19952 by March 7th if you wish to be considered. Email is  Phone 398-4764. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Registration Name________________________________________ Number________________
305 day record completed in 2015:
_____age_________days  ____________milk  ____%  _______fat  ___%  ________protein
Dam______________________________   Sire____________________________________
DHIA Herd in which record was completed_________________________________________
Junior Member__________________________________   Age__________

November 5th Small Ruminant Health Workshop with Dr. Wendy Freeman, VMD

As part of a larger small ruminant health grant, please join us on the evening of November 5, 2015 at the Paradee Center in Dover, Delaware for our initial workshop in a series of health related workshops to focus on vital signs and health assessments and recognizing the signs and symptoms of pre-parturient diseases (diseases of pregnant ewes/does) and diseases in lambs and kids.  Our featured guest speaker for the evening will be nationally recognized expert on small ruminant veterinary care, Dr. Wendy Freeman, VMD.

Dr. Freeman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School in 1985.  After graduation, Dr. Freeman completed an internship and residency in Field Service at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center in 1988.  Following her residency, Wendy joined the faculty at New Bolton Center and became Assistant Professor of Medicine and Field Service in 1992, where she worked on developing and directing the small ruminant program.  Dr. Freeman directed the reproductive program and implemented total health care and clinical studies of the teaching flock.  Wendy is one of the most experienced small ruminant specialists in the United States and sees both large and small animal patients at Longwood Veterinary Center in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania on a full-time basis.

The Small Ruminant Health Program is a project developed by University of Delaware extension professionals Susan Garey and Dan Severson in response to a deficiency of veterinarians in the region with the desire to treat small ruminants. As a result, producers need to further develop their skills in assessing animal health and treating common diseases.  A Risk Management Grant Proposal was funded by the Northeast Extension for Risk Management Education Center to develop the project. A needs assessment was completed to determine needs for technical training and skill development. If producers can develop knowledge and skills in assessing animal health, recognizing disease symptoms, determining treatment and performing treatment skills, producers can ultimately reduce mortality rates increase productivity of their flocks and herds.

For questions or to register for this free workshop, please contact Susan Garey, Extension Agent Animal Science, University of Delaware (302)730-4000 or Dan Severson, New Castle County Extension Agricultural Agent, (302)831-8860 or  If you have any special needs in accessing this program, please let us know two weeks in advance.

Cooperative Extension Education in Agriculture and Home Economics, University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and the United States Department of Agriculture cooperating. Distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age, or national origin.

This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2012-49200-20031




Click here for the full brochure for the Small Ruminant Health Workshop





Small Ruminant Winter Webinar Series Begins in February

A five part webinar series will be held on consecutive Wednesday evenings in February and March 2015. All webinars will start at 7:00 p.m. EST and last for one hour.  Each webinar will be followed by a question and answer period. The instructors will be Jeff Semler and Susan Schoenian.

A webinar is a seminar or short course conducted over the world wide web. Interaction is via a chat box. All webinars will be conducted via Adobe Connect. Anyone (anywhere) with an Internet connection may participate. A high speed connection is recommended. The webinars are open to the first 100 people who log in.  While pre-registration is not required, interested people are asked to subscribe to the University of Maryland’s small ruminant webinar listserv. To subscribe, send an email message to In the body of the message, type subscribe sheepgoatwebinars. The listserv is used to communicate with webinar participants and to notify subscribers of upcoming webinars. You can always unsubscribe to the webinar listserv by sending an email message to the same address; in the body of the message, type unsubscribe sheepgoatwebinars.

The webinars will be recorded, minimally edited, and made public for viewing. PowerPoint presentations will be available for viewing and downloading at SlideShare. Links to webinar recordings and PowerPoint presentations will be available at

Recordings will also be converted to YouTube videos. In fact, we are in the process of converting all previous webinar recordings into YouTube videos. Visit the Maryland Extension Small Ruminant YouTube Channel to listen to any previously recorded webinar. Previous webinar series have covered ewe and doe management, feeding and nutrition, breeding and genetics, health and diseases, ethnic marketing, foot health, internal parasites (worms), and the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP).

For more information contact Susan Schoenian at (301) 432-2767 x343 or or go to

#      Date              Time                Topic

I      February 4      7 p.m. EST      Planning a pasture system

II     February 11    7 p.m.              Pasture plants, including alternative forages

III    February 18    7 p .m.             Pasture and grazing management

IV    February 25    7 p.m.              Pasture nutrition

V    March 4           7 p.m.              Pasture health problems

Delaware Ag Week Programs for Livestock Producers

Mark your calendars for the 10th Annual Delaware Agriculture Week, January 12-16, 2015.  This is an excellent educational opportunity for Delaware agriculture stakeholders to learn best practices and new technologies, meet vendors and network with other agricultural producers.  This year’s event will once again be located at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington.  Delaware Agriculture Week provides numerous sessions that cover a wide array of topics including small fruits, fresh market & processing vegetables, small flock & commercial poultry, grain marketing, grain crops, hay & pasture, beef cattle, irrigation, direct marketing, and much more.  Nutrient management, pesticide, and certified crop adviser continuing education credits will be offered.

Delaware Ag Week is sponsored by the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Sessions of particular interest to livestock producers are January 12 and 13, 2015 and include the Beef Cattle Producers Session, the Delmarva Hay and Pasture Conference and the Small Ruminant Session.  The program schedule’s are as follows:

Delaware Ag Week Seminar for Beef Cattle Producers, Monday, January 12, 2015- 6:00-9:00 pm

Exhibit Hall Board Room

6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.– Selecting and Caring for a Herd Bull- Dr. Dee Whittier, Bovine Specialist and Extension Veterinarian Cattle, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine

Break for Light Dinner Sponsored by the Delaware Beef Advisory Board

7:20 p.m. -7:35 p.m. – Delaware Beef Advisory Board Updates

7:35 p.m. -8:35 p.m. Using Available Tools to Take Advantage of the Good Times in the Beef Industry- Dr. Dee Whittier, Bovine Specialist and Extension Veterinarian Cattle, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine

8:45 p.m. – Questions, Evaluations and Adjourn

Please RSVP to Susan Garey by January 9th or (302)730-4000 if you plan on attending so we can make the necessary arrangements for food and materials.

DE/MD NM Credits: 0 CCA Credits:  PD: 2

Delmarva Hay & Pasture Conference, Tuesday, January 13, 2015 9:00 am-3:30 pm

Commodities Building

 9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. “Welcome, Housekeeping Details and Evaluations” Dr. Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomy Specialist, University of Delaware

9:15 a.m. -10:15 a.m.Managing Forage Quality with Fluctuating Weather” Dr. Sid Bosworth, Extension Agronomist, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

10:15- a.m. – 11:00 a.m. “Improving Hay and Pasture Quality Through New Developments in AlfalfaDick Kaufman, Regional Manager, W-L Research, Columbia, PA

11:00-a.m- 11:30 am. “Weather Patterns that Influence Hay Making” Kevin Brinson, Associate State Climatologist and Director Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS), University of Delaware

DE Pesticide Certification Credits: 0 MD Pesticide Credits 1 DE NM Credits 1.25 MD NM Credits 1 CCA Credits: 2

 11:30 a.m.           LUNCH IN DOVER Building

1:00 p.m.-1:15 p.m.Greetings From the National Maryland-Delaware Forage Council” Dr. Les Vough, President, Maryland-Delaware Forage Council

1:15 p.m.-2:00 p.m. “Improving Farm Viability Through Advanced Forage Crop Selection and Management” Dr. Sid Bosworth, Extension Agronomist, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

2:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. “When and How to Fertilize Your Pastures to Maintain Stands and Increase Productivity” Dr. Les Vough, Forage Agronomist, Southern Maryland, Resource Conservation and Development, Inc.

2:45 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. “Nutrient Needs and Common Deficiencies of Forage Crops” Dr. Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomy Specialist, University of Delaware

DE/MD Pesticide Certification Credits: 0 DE NM Credits 2.25 MD NM Credits: 2 CCA Credits: NM: 1.5 CM: 0.5

Delaware Ag Week Seminar for Small Ruminant Producers, Tuesday, January 13, 2015- 6:00-9:00 pm

Exhibit Hall Board Room

6:00 p.m. – 6:50 p.m. An Annual Management Calendar for Sheep and Goats- Susan Garey, Extension Agent Animal Science and Dan Severson, New Castle County Extension Agricultural Agent, University of Delaware

Break for Light Dinner

7:05 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Using Anthelmintics Effectively in Small Ruminants- Dan Severson, New Castle County Extension Agricultural Agent, University of Delaware

7:30 p.m. -8:45 p.m. – Value Added Sheep and Goat Producer Panel– hear from producers who have had success with value added sheep and goats products such as cheese, skin care products and meat.

Jackie Jackson, Owner, Fresh ‘N Fancy Goats Milk Soap and Lotion

Dr. Thomas Schaer, Owner, Meadowset Farm and Apiary

Colleen and Michael Histon, Owners, Shepherds Manor Creamery

8:45 p.m. – Questions, Evaluations and Adjourn

Please RSVP to Susan Garey by January 9th or (302)730-4000 if you plan on attending so we can make the necessary arrangements for food and materials.

Free Small Flock Poultry Winter Webinar Series

EXtension logoHealth Problems With the Digestive System of Poultry: Tuesday, January 6, 2:00 pm EST

As the first in a four part webinar series on poultry health, Dr. Frame will start this webinar with an introduction to chicken health programs. The remainder of the webinar with discuss problems with the digestive system. The digestive system of poultry is exposed to a variety of pathogens on a daily basis. Dr. Frame will be discussing how some of these digestive-related diseases are manifested in poultry

Salmonella and Backyard Poultry Flocks: Tuesday, January 13, 3:00 pm EST

The summer of 2014 saw many cases of Salmonellosis traced back to backyard poultry flocks – see CDC website: Dr. Colin Basler of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention will be speaking about preventing salmonellosis while maintaining a backyard poultry flock.

Quality of Eggs from Different Production Systems: Wednesday, January 14, 11:00 am EST

When it comes to buying eggs for your family there are many different types to chose from – conventional, brown, white, green, free-range, cage-free, omega-3 enriched, pasture-raised. What are the differences between these eggs? Why do some cost more than others? Which type of eggs would you like to produce for sale. Dr. Jacquie Jacob from the University of Kentucky will be discussing this nutritious topic. Dr. Jacob is a poultry extension project manager with a heavy focus on small and backyard poultry flocks.

Health Problems with the Respiratory System of Poultry: Tuesday, February 3, 2:00 pm EST

The avian respiratory system of birds is very different from that of mammals with a rigid lung, air sacs and extends into the bones (Pneumatic bones). This is the second in a poultry-related health series looking at health problems associated with the poultry respiratory system.

Participation is free and brought to you by but requires a high speed internet connection.  To participate, simply click on the link and enter the virtual meeting room as a guest.  You will be asked to type in your name.  You may want to attempt to join 5-10 minutes in advance of the start time in case you need to download an abode connect add in or update your software.  These webinars are also recorded and made available through the website when you click on the small flock resource area.

Free Small Flock Poultry Webinar- December 10

EXtension logoFeeds and Feeding of Pullets and Layers: Wednesday December 10, 11 am EST

Feed represents over 70% of the production costs in an egg production operation. Dr. Paul Patterson from Penn State University will be discussing the feeding of replacement pullets and laying hens. Dr. Patterson is a nutritionist. The central theme of his extension and research programs is environmental poultry management. Efforts focus on discovering and promoting efficient poultry production systems that place minimum burden on the environment.

Participation is free and brought to you by but requires a high speed internet connection.  To participate, simply click on the link and enter the virtual meeting room as a guest.  You will be asked to type in your name.  You may want to attempt to join 5-10 minutes in advance of the start time in case you need to download an abode connect add in or update your software.  These webinars are also recorded and made available through the website when you click on the small flock resource area.

Planting a New Pasture of Hayfield? Part 6: Managing Pasture and Hay Fields for Long-term Health

Part 6: How Do I Manage My Stand So It Stays Healthy and Productive?

In Part IV, I discussed the advantages of planting into moist soil during the ideal planting window for the selected forage species. I then discussed the planting options such as conventional seedbed preparation and no-till seeding. Along with these options, I discussed the need for calibration of the planter or drill to ensure the use of the proper number of pure live seed (PLS) per acre. Let us assume that the new planting has emerged from the soil so it is time to think about how to properly manage the new seeding to ensure a successful establishment and long-term productivity.

Usually even before the seed germinates, grazers want to know when they can return animal to the pasture to graze it. Hay producers have an easier time deciding when to begin using a new field especially for fall planted fields since cool-season grasses will signal their successful establishment by flowering in late spring or early summer the year following seeding.

For new pastures, the key to long-term health of the pasture is to wait about 12 to 18 months before grazing a new field. This means that the new pasture will need to be hayed at least once and possibly several times in the year following fall seeding. From a practical viewpoint, few grazers will wait 12+ months since it means not grazing the field until the second spring following fall seeding. At a minimum, a new fall-seeded pasture should be hayed in late spring or early summer the year following seeding and then allowed to regrow to a height of 8 to 12 inches before grazing is begun. It is possible to plant in the fall and begin grazing first thing the following spring but you will be sacrificing stand health and longevity with this practice.

Nutrient management plans call for a new soil test once every three years but a yearly sample will help the grazer manage the pasture better. This is very important if nitrogen (N) fertilizer inputs are used to stimulate the productivity of a pasture. Even without N fertilizer applications, the natural deposition of urine and feces in a pasture creates small areas where the process of nitrification produces acidity that can significantly lower soil pH in the small area. Higher stocking rates and intensive pasture rotations will result in more uniform spreading of the urine and feces (especially for ruminant animals); and therefore, a greater proportion of the pasture will be impacted by lower pH (more acid soil conditions). Since it can take a year for lime to move an inch down through the soil, yearly soil testing will allow the grazer to begin neutralizing soil acidity as it is produced by the soil N-cycle.

Another aspect of soil fertility to consider is the use of fall applied N to improve the rooting of pasture plants as well as help stimulate growth the following spring for early grazing. Although the practice has long been used in the turfgrass industry, those of us in forage management are just realizing the potential benefits to pastures of fall N applications. Small amounts of fall N (about 30 lbs N/acre) should be applied in mid-October and mid-November since at these times topgrowth has ceased but the deep soil layers are still relatively warm. The N stimulates further root growth creating pasture plants with deeper and larger root systems as they enter the winter period. Some of the N is stored in the plant and available to stimulate topgrowth the following spring as the hours of daylight increase and air temperatures warm. This type of fertilization makes for a stronger plant going into the summer months (greater rooting depth and therefore greater available soil water to draw on) and can improve the competitiveness of the pasture grasses against weeds.

Probably the number one key to maintaining the health and competitiveness of a pasture is to use rotational grazing where plants are allowed to fully recover from the prior grazing period (grow to a height of 8 to 12 inches or more) and the grazing interval is kept short enough that the same plants are not grazed over and over again during a rotation cycle. Generally, this means rotating livestock out of a paddock or grazing cell within three days of moving the animals into the paddock. This time can be stretched to as much as a week but the more rapidly the animals are moved among paddocks in the rotational grazing scheme the healthier the pasture. Another aspect to using rotational grazing is to not put animals on pasture when soil conditions are too wet when the presence of animals can lead to compaction issues. Not grazing when plants are under drought stress is also a key consideration. Use the extra forage produced during the spring and fall to make hay that can support animals on a heavy use pad during periods of wet weather, drought, or other conditions leading to poor pasture growth.

Another method used to maintain healthy and vigorous pastures is to periodically overseed pastures in the fall with grasses and/or legumes. Some producers do this every year while others do it every couple of years. In most cases, the new seedlings must compete against the established plants in the pasture so that there is often limited ‘take’ from the germinating seed. However in the weaker areas of the pasture stand, there will be more light, water, nutrients, and space for the seedlings so establishment will be better in these areas. The weak areas would be where weeds could become established but by overseeding the pastures weed encroachment is limited or prevented.

The species to use for overseeding should be those species that can grow rapidly especially in the cool conditions of late summer and early fall. This would include such species as the ryegrasses, festulolium, ladino white clover, and red clover. Although just broadcasting the seed over the surface and then using a chain harrow or other implement to slightly cover the seed has been used, the best seeding method is to use a no-till drill and drill the seed into the soil. Seeding rates typically used are about one-quarter that of a normal new pasture seeding rate since most of the seed will be planted where established plant competition will not allow the new seedlings to establish successfully.

Finally, the producer can manage the balance of legumes and grasses in the pasture by his/her fertilization practices. Potassium and phosphorus applications along with 1 to 2 lbs of boron per acre per year and maintaining a near neutral soil pH (6.5-7.0) will encourage legume growth. If the percentage of legume is too high and the risk of bloat is too great, N application to encourage grass growth can be used to lower the percentage of legume in a pasture. Grasses with their fibrous root system are much more competitive for applied N than are the tap-rooted legumes. The available N will stimulate the grass and help it shade the legumes as well as change the proportion of legume to grass biomass.

This article was submitted by Dr. Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomist, University of Delaware.  Dr. Taylor can be reached at