Nutrient management of horse paddocks

By: Jez Wardman

Too often nutrient management of horse paddocks is forgotten or not given sufficient attention, however like any other crop grass requires sufficient nutrients to be able to grow and without the correct balance of nutrition the quality of the grass will suffer and there may well be consequences for animal heath too.

Nutrient management of horse paddocks
Nutrient management of horse paddocks

Many horse owners are concerned about having over rich grass for fear of colic, laminitis or just grass fat ponies so high yields of grass are not required and there is a reluctance to apply any fertiliser at all.

Without the correct balance of nutrition there may well be consequences for animal health

The starting point as with any crop has to be a soil analysis.  This can be done very easily and will give a measurement of the pH (acidity) of the soil as well as the available levels of potash (K), phosphate (P) and other mineral nutrients.  The target pH for grassland should be the same as for any crop - pH 6.5 which is the optimum pH for availability of nutrients and if the soil is more acidic, lime should be added to correct this. Over time the soil pH and the levels of P and K and other minerals will tend to decline and should be routinely replaced.

Typically horse or pony paddocks only require small amounts of nitrogen to avoid excessive lush growth and the yearly total should not exceed 50-60 kg N/ha usually applied as a two way split with half applied in March/April at the start of regrowth and half at the end of summer in August/ September. Other nutrients required are modest amounts of phosphate, potassium, sulphur and magnesium are required to ensure balanced grass growth.  If hay or haylage cuts are taken from the paddock additional P and K may be required to replace the offtake.

Paddock Royale (12-11-18 + Mg + S + micronutrients) is a prilled compound fertilizer specifically designed for horse and pony paddocks, all of the nitrogen in Paddock Royale comes from ammonium nitrate which is ideal for efficient nitrogen uptake and avoids the risk of acidification associated with ammonium sulphate based products.  Paddock Royale is available in convenient 25kg bags and the typical application rate is 4 bags per acre (250 kg/ha).

Fertiliser programme for horse and pony paddocks

Grass and forage agronomy and fertiliser advice
Grass and forage agronomy and fertiliser advice

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