Typical Challenges in Maintaining Pastures and Water Quality

Our team of experts in pasture management, water quality, and concentrated nutrient and waste management identified some of the typical challenges which managers might encounter on their farm and possible solutions.

  • Pastures vary in the need for fertilizer and lime applications.
  • Overstocking and intensive grazing may cause loss of high quality forages.
  • Farm plans need to be adaptable due to changing horse numbers and group composition.
  • Overgrazing, lack of pasture management, and adverse environmental conditions can cause weeds and toxic plants to flourish.
  • More manure is generated than can be effectively utilized on most horse farms.
  • Poor drainage and existing landscape configuration can create wet and muddy pastures.
  • Stormwater runoff may transport animal waste to local waterways, which increases stream nutrients and fecal coliform bacteria.
  • Improper storage of manure may cause leaching of nitrates and bacteria which contribute to groundwater contamination.


Set up a rotational grazing system with a stress lot.  Grasses need several weeks to recover after being grazed down in order to maintain a healthy forage stand.  A healthy forage stand will outcompete weeds and provide a lot of nutrition for horses.  Set up 3-4 smaller pastures and rotate a group of horses through the pastures, one field at a time, until the forage is grazed down to 3-4”.  Then move the group to the next pasture until it is grazed down.  Do not regraze a field until the grass has grown to at least 6”.  If none of the fields have enough forage to regraze or weather conditions are not ideal for grazing (too wet, too dry, early spring, winter), then confine the horses to the stress lot and feed hay instead.

For more information check out Establishing and Managing Horse Pastures