Was the only thing you did in the high traffic/shed/water area lay the hay down systematically as you described? Or did you figure a way to lessen the horses impact in that area over the 2 years?

The question asked by Jaime Rocha via email regarding Case Study – From WEEDs to productive pastures – in 2 years.

We did a number of things to rehabilitate the field naturally.

We have many tools that we use and teach, but what makes the dramatic difference is when we use or stop using the tools in the right way, at the right times, and in the right order!

On this farm, we had small herds of horses, between two and 8 animals, depending on the year.

This field was one that had a good shed and auto watered that would not freeze, so we use it in the worst weather. We had about 12 acres total on the farm fenced, this being one of three fields we use to rotate the horses around.

We practice holistic grazing, and at times high density grazing, or managed grazing with the horses. At different times we put them at different densities for differing amounts of time to sculpt the land and shape the underground herd of microbes into the populations beneficial for grasslands.

We move them onto areas and then off of areas and let the ground and plants have a recovery. We basically graze the plants down to about six or 8 inches and then let it reolcover to a few inches higher than it was prior to grazing with at least four leaves per plant (4th leaf stage). Ideally, we graze 30-50% of the plant, and we try to shape the internal, temporary fences in a pattern that gets the animals to stop the rest as food for microbes.

Paddock shape and size and duration we leave the animals depends on our goals. With the smaller herds, for example, we make the paddock different shapes to make them stop more like the impact of a larger herd.

Then the grass bounces back very fast because we are leaving enough leaf, plenty of solar panel left, for it to not have to compromise its root growth in order to regrow new leaf each grazing. So the roots get deeper and deeper each recovery period, and the plants and soil gets less likely to suffer in drought or flood. Plus the plants get better nutrition and immune function with more roots and better mineral cycling from the microbes and more stable temperature and water availability.

Other strategies combine with this basic program to make this work. A long time ago, we stopped using any chemical fertilizer, herbicide (including any residues in the hay and grain rations), stopped using pre-emptive chemical warmers on the horses, and we stopped using any pesticides like fly spray. These things harm the ability to heal the soil and plants because they kill microbes and shut down nutrient and energy cycling.

We did adjust our worming and fly control programs.

If you’re interested in more details, we teach workshops and training programs that go much deeper than the free videos. Learning this is not something easy to do from a book and so we have been filming and documenting how to read the small signs from the plants and animals so that you can learn to be the driver of your healthy system.

I will be teaching a course starting this February called Grazing Power (grazingpower.com). It features 8 live modules and a few bonus modules taught over four months online and over the phone. We get on the phone for an hour and a half every other week and you will have all the instructional videos and phone calls recorded and all the worksheets and everything will be yours forever to download and own forever.

This course is for you if you’re interested in more details and want a guide to help you on your way. Becoming a successful adaptive manager is too much to give and one email, but our longer term courses teach people how to get started and implement these types of systems.

The hardest time is when you are just starting. And when you are most likely to make mistakes is precisely when the system is just healing and very fragile. Any one wrong choice in the beginning could set you back a years time or more. That is why we are building support systems and community around this – so that you have guidance and support along the way. You will be learning with others and learn a lot from the group – plus meet new friends!

The main point of this short video is to show the results – that by creating the habitat and focusing on what you want to create (and not fighting the weeds but helping them heal the land faster)….. you get better results than herbicides and endless mowing and re-seeding.

We call this working with nature and farming with biological principles.

So in answer to your question:

Yes – you must find a way to get the animals off of that land and let germination happen so that they’re not stomping on it while the young plants are germinating and fragile. Once they establish good roots, then you need to bring the animals back on at certain points and graze/stomp it to keep the land progressing. The animal impact and grazing event is critical but it has to last a certain amount of time and then be rested and so there’s all sorts of strategies that we teach to get the results you need.

We are here to help when you’re coming from scratch and need help to get to the point where you have enough grass where you can get around your farm and give an adequate recovery.

We have found that 99% of the time, our animals come back with a zero parasites because we are not grazing on the ground

Sometimes to let the ground have enough rest, you have to hold the animals back. The intention of this video was to show people how not to destroy the area…but to actually use the “sacrificing” to improve it and if they do get an area that was destroyed how to rehabilitate that rehabilitate that.

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