Do horses more than cows

Cattle and horses on one farm: What you should definitely pay attention to

In Germany there are only a few farms that keep cattle and horses on a large scale. If you want to do this successfully, you have to consider a few things when it comes to pasture and grassland management. Friederike Wittland took a look at two farms for top agrar. Here are their six most important rules:

1. You can let cattle and horses graze your grassland alternately or together. Both work.
2. If you let horses and cattle graze in a paddock at the same time, you should get the young animals used to it beforehand, for example by keeping them on pastures next to each other.
3. Treat the animals particularly calmly when they are kept together on a pasture.
4. Do not keep stallions with bulls.
5. Feed the hay from the horse pastures to the cattle and vice versa.
6. Wait at least 3 months after the manure fertilization before the next grazing.

We show how practitioners implement these rules in everyday life using the example of two companies from the Rhineland and the Lüneburg Heath.

Cattle and horses graze together at Gut Dresenhof

Behind the high-rise buildings in Weiler, at the gates of Cologne, lies the Dresenhof by Leonie and Georg Kellerwessel. In the past, black and colored dairy cows were milked here, today everything revolves around the breeding of blond d’Aquitaine and warmblood horses in addition to traditional farming with sugar beets, wheat, barley, rape and maize. A total of 50 cattle and 50 horses share the Dresenhof's pastures.

“We wanted to stand out from the crowd,” says Georg Kellerwessel. Since 1993 the family has only been breeding Blond d’Aquitaine, 20 cows, two bulls and around 30 young animals. Simmental cattle have not proven themselves, the "blondes" are simply more vital and vigorous, according to the farm manager. They sell their offspring exclusively as breeding cattle. That is asked. In addition to Germany, Kellerwessel's animals often go to Luxembourg, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

The suckler cows, who have no calves at the moment, share the pasture with the one and two-year-old mares. The breeding bull is also in the herd. "On some days the mares and cattle are even very close together," says Leonie Kellerwessel. She mainly takes care of the horses at the Dresenhof. There are no problems with this combination. It is important that the animals get used to each other at an early age. In addition, the weaned foals first come to the riding arena next to the cattle for a few days. So they can see each other and gradually get used to each other.

Only once did the joint approach not work, recalls the operations manager. The attempt to integrate a piebald in the mixed herd has failed. The cows just couldn't have got used to the piebald horse. The young stallions run separately according to age on their own meadows. The combination with the bull is just too risky.

Intensive grassland management

Kellerwessel pays attention to a dense and balanced sward. At the end of March he sows nine different types of grass if necessary. He has had good experiences with slot seeding. The mixed grazing has a positive effect on the sward because hardly any pasture remains. For this purpose, half of the approximately 5 hectares of pastures are dragged every three weeks in order to distribute piles of dung and avoid horny spots.

Of course there are dockers anyway. At Kellerwessels, this is fought selectively before the grazing season, so that no more plant protection is necessary afterwards. So that the soil remains as fertile as possible and is optimally supplied with nutrients, the areas of the Dresenhof are limed every three years and fertilized with liquid manure in spring.

The first cut goes exclusively to the cattle due to the high fructan content of the grass. Fructans are vegetable reserve carbohydrates that can cause laminitis. The further cuts are then made depending on the thickness of the growth, with an electric fence separating the corresponding areas. So the horses and cattle can stay on the pastures all season.

Before the animals go to the meadows in spring, they are dewormed about four to five days beforehand in the barn. This also happens once during the grazing season, so that the excreted parasites are not distributed to the pastures. This lowers the disease pressure.

The Junge family separates the animal species

In contrast to the Kellerwessel family, the Junge family relies on a clear separation of cattle and horses. The family from Echem in the district of Lüneburg in Lower Saxony has 310 black and colored Holstein Friesian cattle and around 30 warmblood horses. The mares spend the summer with their foals on the pasture. The one and two year old mares run together on a pasture, the young stallions are divided according to age group. There are special pastures for them that are a bit off the hiking and walking trails so that the spirited young stallions are not disturbed.

When the horses are out in the pastures in summer, they are not fed. "That would only lead to unnecessary rank fights," says Peter Junge. The horses are supplied with minerals via salt licks. That's it. In winter they get pellets, hay and some of the TMR of the cows. Peter Junge does not eat oats at all. “It contains too much protein. In addition, we are not a location for growing oats here. "

The boy relies on alternate grazing

Unlike the Dresenhof, Peter Junge relies on alternating grazing of cattle and horses. At the beginning of May the first cut takes place, which makes up about 40% of the total harvest of the grassland. Then the areas are alternately grazed or tilled by cattle and horses. For example, cattle are first put on a pasture, then they are tilled and then grazed with horses. So you have a constant change: cattle - hay - horses. The cattle then only get hay from the horse pastures and vice versa. "That makes parasite management much easier," confirms Peter Junge.

The particular advantage of changing grazing is that there is no loss of feed and everything is used. "Of course it is more time-consuming than letting all the animals run together," says Peter Junge. Horses are more picky than cattle. They are happy to leave them standing, for example, couch grass, grass or meadow foxtail. The better use of pasture improves the net yield. “That is the main benefit of grazing together,” confirms Junge.

Author: Friederike Wittland