1. Test your soil’s nutrient content
2. Apply recommended nutrients or lime based on the soil analysis report
3. Rest your pastures

Step 2: Apply recommended nutrients
Pastures, whether you are feeding livestock or harvesting hay, will need nutrients over time. Even if you have spread manure or compost on your field, the nutrients in a commercial fertilizer are more available.

A field with more legume type forages (like clover or alfalfa) have a lower need for nitrogen. Legumes fix nitrogen back into the soil. That is one of the reasons you will often see clover in a pasture mix. However, a lot of horse owners don’t like clover in their fields.

Krishona Martison on clover in horse pastures:

N, P and K
While being the most expensive nutrient, Nitrogen (N) will help drought stressed plants take-up more nutrients through their roots to prepare for winter. You should notice that your grass stands thicken up after fertilizing with the recommended nitrogen.


Additional phosphorus (P) and/or potassium (K) may also be needed to help prepare the plants for winter and ensure the nitrogen is being utilized successfully.

Talk to your county extension agent about the best way to apply your fertilizer. Often, splitting the recommended fertilizer into two or even three applications will benefit your pasture more in the long run.

Soil pH
Fall is a great time to add lime to the soil. The soil’s pH should range from 6.0 to 6.5. If the soil is too acidic (below a pH of 5.5), plant productivity will be negatively affected.

Farm grade lime is relatively inexpensive when compared to nitrogen fertilizer so it makes sense to apply it if you need it. Lime is non-toxic to horses, so even if you are spreading lime on a pasture that is being grazed, you won’t need to remove your livestock.  FG

For part one of this series, click here.

For part three, click here.

—From Michigan State University Field Crop Production Digest, October 2012