About Greener Pastures

Greener Pastures is owned and run by Doug Harkin.

Doug was born in Australia and grew up in the state of Queensland.  Educated in Brisbane he went on and completed a Diploma in Farm Management at Marcus Oldham College in Geelong in Victoria.  He then spent 9 years farming in Queensland before moving to a Farm in western Victoria.  It was here in a 40 inch rainfall environment that Doug began to understand grazing management and the importance of a healthy pasture sward and strong root mat.  The soils were fragile and low in fertility, and poaching of the ground was a major problem. 

Having successfully completed numerous training courses on sustainable grazing management he applied for a Nuffield Scholarship in 1999.  

 

After traveling through Asia, Europe and America he gained a wealth of information on grazing management and market supply chains.

 

On returning he realised that the system he used for measuring and recording pasture performance was unique indeed. Doug returned to the UK and could see a huge opening in the market for turf consultancy and grazing management.

He started Greener Pastures in 2002 to meet the ever increasing demand for turf consultancy in small pony fields. Greener Pastures now has all the necessary equipment to spray any pony field or small acreage, be it agricultural or amenity, along with all the necessary qualifications for chemical handling.

Greener Pastures meet all the required standards as laid down by The Pesticides Act of 1986.

 

Grass Care

 
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Fertilizers

Greener pastures offer an advisory and application service for fertilizers. 

 

Conditions vary widely within the area as do the levels of fertility in the soil.  We recommend that soil testing is done yearly in the early spring to ascertain the nutrient levels of the soil.  The results of the soil test will clearly show what is needed to optimize the performance of the field.

Horse manure harbors the larvae and eggs of parasitic worms.  If it has to be spread on fields it should be applied in the autumn, allowed to wash in over the winter and grazed by cattle or sheep before turning horses out. It is not a substitute for fertilizer and will create more problems than it is worth.

 

We use compound fertilizers in most situations but also offer an organic option. Grass is the cheapest and best form of food for horses and even horses in heavy work benefit from a small amount of grass in their diet. It is equally important to maintain a clean pasture by regular weed spraying.

Grass requires the following nutrients in a balanced form along with a wide range of trace elements to perform to its potential.

 

Nitrogen

The leaf maker: it is an essential nutrient but in regulated amounts.  Clover root nodules produce nitrogen which is available for the grass to utilize.  The pasture needs to be balanced with a good mix of both grasses and clover.  Too much clover and there will be too much nitrogen produced for the grass leading to problems with laminitis and hot horses.

 

Phosphate

Animals bone are chiefly composed of calcium and phosphates and an imbalance in the ratio will effect bone formation in growing horses.  It is equally fundamental for growing grass- as the root maker.  Levels of phosphate in the soil is on of the most overlooked of all.  It is vital to the health of your animals and for grass growth especially during the winter months where a strong root mat is most important.

 

Potash

Potash tends to be deficient in lighter easily leached soils.  It is vital for clover growth which in turn will produce nitrogen at a balanced rate for grass growth.

 

Weed Spraying

Horses and ponies can have an effect on the landscape, and it is up to their owners and keepers to ensure that this effect is a positive one!

 

Horses are often given the reputation of being poor grazers. Their selective grazing habit is that of choosing only the sweeter grasses, and manuring in specific places where they then won’t graze. This overgrazing of certain areas and the bare areas left from poaching in the winter provide the ideal germination site for weeds. It’s important not to think of everything except grass as being a weed, you can read more about this in the pony fields section of the website.  Other plants should really be classified as herbs, many of which are not only extremely palatable to horses and ponies, but also beneficial.

Weeds such as ragwort are obviously poisonous and must be removed, by hand pulling or spraying. Other invasive plants that are considered weeds are those plants which horses and ponies will not eat like docks, thistles and nettles.

 

Regular cutting or mowing of these weeds will not stop them from spreading.  The most effective option is to spray in the spring and if the infestation is bad enough again in the Autumn. We can spray the field in two visits as the sprayed area will need to be left ungrazed for up to 3 weeks.

The spray equipment is small and light enough to get in and around the smallest and most odd shaped fields. It is also very light and leaves no wheel ruts even in the wet areas.  

We aim to spray the entire field including all the hard to get at areas, including under the fences and water troughs. This ensures a complete kill with the aim of eliminating any seed set.

 

Topping & Rolling

Grassland cultivations, such as rolling, harrowing or topping must not be carried out if ground nesting birds are present, and should only be done when the soil conditions are right.

 

Harrowing is carried out to pull all the dead grass, or thatch, up from the base of the healthy grass so that air, water and nutrients can more efficiently get to the soil. This should be carried out in the early spring, before strong grass growth gets underway.
Rolling repairs any damage done to the fields by hooves over the winter.


Keeping the grass height to 5-8 centimeters (2-3 inches) during the growing season, will have a huge impact on the ground conditions, especially in winter, protecting the ground from the effect of horses and ponies' feet.

 

For an obligation-free quote on your rolling and topping please please contact us.

 

Soil Testing

Soil testing focuses on optimizing soil biological activity, recycling of nutrients and grass and root mat development.

 

Analysis examines the overall health of the soil and it's chemical balance, providing an overview of soil trends, identifying any deficiencies before they become major problems.  It is essential for turf and grass managers if they are to best utilize their resources.

Soil testing should be carried out when the first signs of poor grass and root mat are seen.

Standard Soil Analysis provides immediate information on nutrient levels, and should be carried out in late winter.  It covers pH,P,K,Mg and soil texture, and is primarily concerned with ensuring that nutrient levels are adequate.

Comprehensive Soil Analysis can be undertaken at the beginning of the production season and determines clay fraction, organic matter, and availability levels of K, Mg, Ca, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, plus three availability levels of P.

Trace Element Analysis can also be carried out where soil has a history of trace element deficiency, or where a deficiency in livestock is suspected. 

It provides a detailed analysis of specified trace elements (B, Co, Cu, and Se) and includes recommendations about the use of soil or livestock treatments where major deficiencies or imbalances exist.

 

Fecal Egg Counts

Greener Pastures offers a service where we can take dung samples from your animal and send it to an independent laboratory for analysis.

You are then able to drench more efficiently at at intervals that most suit your animals.  

 

Incorrect drench and over-drenching is leading to a reduction in the efficacy of the available drenches; this is called ‘drench resistance’.

 

It may take years of continuous use of the one drench before resistance develops.

Under-dosing will also promote the more rapid development of resistance hence the reason for the use of the correct dose.

All the horses should be fecal egg counted ever 12 weeks to asses their worm burden.

 

All let out fields should be picked or harrowed at regular intervals.  We also recommend to drench all horses on an empty stomach and new horses are quarantine drenched on arrival.

 

This policy will help keep a relatively clean pasture that should have a lower worm egg burden.

 

Doug Harkin

Greener Pastures

Blackgrounds Farm
Culworth Road
Chipping Warden
Oxfordshire
OX17 1LZ

07890 294377