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Winterizing Your Pasture


September 26, 2022

Did you know that the total average rainfall on the west coast is 30 inches per year?

Even though it may still feel like summer, the rainy season is fast approaching. And with rain comes mud, and with mud comes boots, hooves, and hay stuck in it. The nightmare of walking out to feed your horses and hoping that your boot doesn’t get stuck in the process is one thing that horse people dread about winter (among a huge list of others).

Your pasture may be practically perfect in every way, but there are a few things that you can do to make your life easier when the winter comes.

Check out our favorite ideas for helping your pasture be rainy-season-ready.

horses eating hay out of slow feeder in paddock

Get Your Hay Off the Ground

Do you know how much money is getting wasted by horses trampling their food into the ground? The answer is: a lot.

Unless you have cows in with your horses cleaning up after them, it’s likely that a lot of their food (and your money) is going to be going to waste. Keeping their feed and hay off of the ground is a great way to prevent waste. Utilize feeders or hay bags to ensure more food gets in your horse’s mouth than on the ground.

Here is a simple DIY project that will help your horses get as much hay as possible this winter.

YOU WILL NEED:

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Take your first pallet and place it on the ground so that the top boards are facing out and vertically.
  2. Have your friend place your second pallet, with the slat boards facing up, at an angle so that the corners meet. Screw the corners together with at least two wood screws.
  3. Take the third pallet and line it up like you did with the first one. Screw the corners together with at least two screws.
  4. Take your last pallet and line it up so that the two in the center make a “V” and that it lines up with the other corners of your pallets. Screw everything together.
  5. Take your 3’x3’ piece of chicken wire so that it lays across the two pallets in the center and use your fence staples to secure it.

Voila! Easy DIY hay feeder.

If you aren’t handy with tools, you can put your bale of hay up on a couple of pallets. That way, the food will be off the ground and will be less likely to be wasted and pushed down into the mud.

Another option is to purchase a metal or plastic feeder. If you decide on using a bucket for your feeder, make sure that it’s either put underneath some sort of shelter or it has a drain so that if it fills up with water it’s not going to make your horse’s food soaking wet.

Do you have an extra trash can sitting around? That can make an excellent hay feeder too. Make sure that you scrub it out with some Dawn dish soap before using it. It’s important to make sure that there is no mold that could get in your hay. If you decide to use a trash can for your feeder this winter cut two small holes in the back about 6 inches apart. This will allow you to put a piece of baling twine through the holes and tie it to your fence so that your horse won’t tip it over. If your horse is eating hay in the pasture without a cover cut a hole at the base of the trash can so that your horse can still get to their hay and it won’t end up soaked. Make sure to file off any sharp edges to prevent them from cutting their nose when pulling out their hay.

brown horses standing in the field with rainbow

Remove Any Diseased, Dead, or Broken Branches

Do you have branches in your pasture that look like they could potentially fall down with a stiff breeze? Maybe there’s a tree or two that you’ve been meaning to cut down.

You can call a tree service and have them take care of the dead branches for you. Or you can buy a handy-dandy pole-saw from your local Wilco Farm Store and do it yourself.

DeWalt, 20V Pole Saw (Bare Tool)

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If you do it yourself, make sure that you are wearing protective gear like safety glasses, a hard hat, and gloves. And keep an eye out for falling tree branches and debris. Always have an extra person with you in case you get hurt or need help. Before you start cutting, check with your local wildlife rehabilitators to make sure that you are not cutting in an area where there are nesting birds. When you cut the dead and dry branches off of your trees, you can use them for kindling and firewood.

Stihl, Forestry Helmet System

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horse playing in mud puddle in middle of green pasture

Prepare Your Pasture for Water Build-up

Is there a spot in your pasture that never fails to become a lake in the winter time?

If you know where water builds up in your pasture, look into setting up a draining system or digging a trench for the water to run to a different spot. If you don’t have a tractor to dig your spot for you, you can always use a shovel. However, depending on the length and width of the trench (and availability of tools) you may need to find a contractor to help you with this project. When installing drainage or building a trench, make sure to factor in where the water is coming from, the safest place to redirect it to, the slope of your land, and more. Click this link for more DIY help with the building of a solid trench.

If water is puddling up next to your barn, try cleaning out the gutters. If you don’t have gutters, we recommend installing some. This will help to prevent any amount of water from building up and possibly draining into your barn or hay area. Adding food-grade poly barrels is a great way to catch water for the summer months when water needs rise and availability decreases.

Put a spout/drain pipe on the corner of your barn with a barrel to catch water for the summertime. There are some areas of the country where this is not legal to do. Make sure you check with your local and state laws before you decide to make a rain catch off your barn. If your area is known to suffer from water shortages in the summertime, this is a great way to make sure that your animals have extra water in case anything happens. If you’re on a pump, you won’t have to stress whether you or your animals will have water if your power goes out or if there is a drought.

Whether you are boarding your horses or keeping them on your property, there are always things to do before winter hits. Come down to your local Wilco Farm Store for all your winter prep tools!


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