If your pastures are green in the fall, that’s a good sign that your pastures are healthy. If brown this time of year, it is time for action to improve the quality of the pasture.
Cool Season Species Improve Pasture Health
Cool season grasses dominate the pastures in the mountains of North Carolina. The predominate species found here in our mountains are Kentucky bluegrass, orchardgrass, tall fescue, ryegrass, and smooth bromegrass. These species thrive best in spring and fall when our day time temperatures range between 60 to 75 degrees.
For horse owners with cool-season grass pastures, fall (especially after a frost) is an excellent time to quickly evaluate pasture health and productivity. If green grasses dominate the pasture, it’s likely that your cool-season grasses are growing with ideal temperatures and rainfall and good soil fertility. Grown pastures, on the other hand, are probably either dominated by warm-season grasses, or your cool-season grasses are being starved of soil fertility and acceptable growing conditions.
If your pastures are brown in the fall they may be dominated by warm season grasses or were over grazed throughout the summer. Either way, an application of nitrogen will stimulate the growth of the cool season grasses and fall is an excellent time to apply.
For an Objective Measure There is an App
A visual assessment will tell a horse owner the state of the overall health of the pasture. For a somewhat more objective measurement, Oklahoma State University has developed Canapeo, a multipurpose green canopy cover measurement tool which allows users to photograph a pasture and analyze the phot for green and brown pixels. Ideally, pastures should be more than 60% green when being grazed in the fall.
Take Home Message
Quality pasture enhances the value of your property. Knowledgeable prospective equestrian buyers will be assessing not just the quality of the facilities but also the quality of pastures. A major facilities renovation will cost thousands. In comparison, pasture improvement is extremely economical and quality pasturage will be sure to impress the equine buyer.