I don’t know how many times someone has made the comment to me lately about how are expenses must be so low most of the year because the grass is free. When someone makes a comment this stupid (sorry to be harsh but it is true) I usually just don’t respond. I guess I’ve heard it one time too many lately because the last person that said it received the response of hysterical laughter, the kind where your sides hurt from laughing so hard. I couldn’t help myself.
In case you haven’t picked up on where this is headed grass is not free. In fact grass is expensive in both money and time. First of all you have to pay for the land. Even when purchasing cheap land at $3,000-$5,000 an acre per land that means we would have $6,000 – $10,000 per horse tied up in land costs as we allow two acres per horse. After we’ve purchased our free grass, I mean land, then you have to fence it. Four board wood fencing in our area costs between $6-$7 per foot, with gates costing double the amount per foot. The variation in cost depends on if each post is set in concrete or if the posts are just all pounded in and some other factors. So to fence off one pasture you are looking at another $10,000 minimum for a smaller pasture in fencing costs.
Then your free grass needs some run-in shelters at about $6,000 per shelter. And keep in mind if you want your fences and shelters painted that is an additional cost. And wouldn’t it be lovely if the fence maintained itself and the horses didn’t scratch their butts on it, crib on it, and do other lovely things that break boards. So after you’ve paid for the fence you get to keep paying for it as you replace boards. And those replacement fence boards (free of course, hee hee) are all cut with a $600 chain saw. Why do you need an expensive chain saw? So it will run when you need it to. Anyone who has used chain saws on a regular basis will know what I mean by that.
Then we have this free grass that has to be maintained. I took a picture of part of the equipment shed the other day. On the far left is the Kubota tractor hooked up to the small bush hog, then there is the Ford tractor hooked up to the 15′ bush hog. You can’t really see the 500 gallon sprayer used for weed control or the chain harrows used for dragging the pastures. The other stuff pictured doesn’t count towards our free grass as it is various pieces of hay equipment and the manure spreader. So just in tractors and bush hogs there is easily $70,000 of equipment parked in the shed for maintaining that free grass. This is all definitely sounding very free to me!!
And just like any other piece of equipment this stuff all has to be maintained, belts and chains have to be replaced, tractor tires have to be replaced, the oil needs to be changed, they run on that free diesel fuel, etc. And of course you need a place to park this free equipment. The best part is that the free equipment runs itself and it takes no time at all to hook things up and get out there and mow over 100 acres. I’m sure Jason is having a good laugh over that right now.
The next expense in your free grass is keeping it looking nice and keeping it at optimum nutritional levels. This means we take multiple soil samples from all over the farm and have it analyzed on a regular basis. From these results we determine when to lime and when to fertilize. We fertilize at least once a year, sometimes twice. Lime is not applied yearly but every couple of years depending on soil tests. Each round of lime and fertilizer costs a few thousand dollars. It isn’t necessary to do either of these and grass will still grow, but if you want the grass to have optimum nutritional value then you need to help out. We also re-seed various areas depending on need each year. Grass seed has been very pricey the last couple of years.
Allowing horses to continuously graze pastures is absolutely hard as heck on grass. Horses are pasture destroyers by nature. They do not graze evenly and tend to want to graze the same areas over and over and wreck them, so we do our best to mitigate their damage by re-seeding, liming, fertilizing, mowing and controlling weeds. Not to mention when it is really wet and they decide to gallop through the pastures, seriously damaging the free grass with every step. Throwing in the sliding stop, especially when wet, is just the icing on the cake for pasture damage.
To top it all off you have to have a barn to accompany your free pastures, equipment, fencing, and run-ins. We all know the joke that horses are born looking for a way to hurt themselves. Thus, from time to time they need access to a stall for injuries or illness. This means we have to have a barn standing there ready for use even if most of the stalls are empty at any given time. Nothing is better for a business than investing in a large asset that is not continually fully utilized and generating revenue. Obviously that was typed with sarcasm!
To summarize it would be a lot cheaper to have much smaller pastures and allow the horses to over-graze them and feed hay year round. MUCH cheaper. So the next time any of you are talking to me and decide to mention something about the free grass, please take a moment to reflect on the sheer stupidity of that comment and don’t say it!
Grass can be done much more inexpensively. It does not have to be fertilized, limed, have weed control, be mowed, re-seeded, or anything else. However, if you want to have pastures that look decent, and ours look at least decent most of the time, and have horses living on them year round, grass is expensive in money and time. The hardest part to take with all of this free grass is when the weather thwarts all of your efforts anyway. We had a record breaking drought a couple of summers ago that our pastures are still recovering from. Mother Nature was not smiling on us that year!
Now on to some pictures of the horses enjoying all of that free grass (I typed that with a laugh, I do still have my sense of humor).
Then they hung out together and enjoyed each other’s company