Solv­ing the mys­tery of the bad pad­dock

A lit­tle girl and her in­jured pony re­mind Tr­isha of another lit­tle girl and their mis­ad­ven­ture.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Down On The Farm - TR­ISHA FISK

LAST MONTH I ex­plained how one half of one of my pad­docks is less pro­duc­tive than the rest of it, de­spite get­ting the same or more RPR and lime over the last few years. I tested the bet­ter half, the poorer half, and (with per­mis­sion) a neigh­bour’s pad­dock where no fer­tiliser has been ap­plied for many years and where grass pro­duc­tion is even poorer than my poor area.

The three tests pro­vided a re­ally in­ter­est­ing com­par­i­son, and I thought I was go­ing to find some easy an­swers. Per­haps the an­swer would be as sim­ple as the over­all en­vi­ron­ment, in­di­cated by the acid­ity of the soil.

But with the soil and pas­ture tests com­bined, the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the fer­tiliser com­pany I dealt with ad­vised the ap­pli­ca­tion of RPR (my long-term pref­er­ence over su­per phos­phate) with the ad­di­tion of sul­phur, molyb­de­num and salt.

Trace el­e­ments are mea­sured via pas­ture sam­ples, be­cause the ex­trac­tion of those things from the soils de­pends upon the plants grow­ing in the sward. Sodium is miss­ing from my en­vi­ron­ment be­cause we're some dis­tance from the sea, but from the an­i­mals' per­spec­tive it's also in short sup­ply be­cause the pre­dom­i­nant grass on our farm - kikuyu - does not take it up. We know tihs so salt blocks are pro­vided dur­ing the sea­sons in which kikuyu makes up most of the pas­ture.

But if we hadn’t asked for a pas­ture sam­ple to be in­cluded in our test, nei­ther molyb­de­num nor sodium would have been rec­om­mended. I will watch with in­ter­est to see whether there's any ap­pre­cia­ble change in the pas­ture com­po­si­tion af­ter its ap­pli­ca­tion. In par­tic­u­lar, it's pos­si­ble clover growth is be­ing lim­ited by the ab­sence of suf­fi­cient molyb­de­num.

Reg­u­lar ap­pli­ca­tion of lime to the most acidic ar­eas would ‘sweeten’ the soil as el­e­ments be­come more or less avail­able depend­ing on soil acid­ity. Of par­tic­u­lar note when look­ing at our poor ar­eas and the pas­ture in the neigh­bour's area, was the avail­abil­ity of alu­minium when the ph is low (acidic). Alu­minium is toxic to plant roots, re­duc­ing their ex­ten­sion into the soil and also af­fect­ing the palata­bil­ity of the pas­ture to the an­i­mals which graze it.

Soil bac­te­ria pre­fer a less acidic en­vi­ron­ment, so lift­ing the ph would pre­sum­ably al­low them to pro­lif­er­ate and im­prove the avail­abil­ity of nu­tri­ents to the plants, and im­prove the chances that bet­ter grasses would thrive, once the im­proved soil ph can sup­port their favourite bac­te­ria.

The Vet isn’t the only one with sto­ries to tell about an­i­mals. His calls and com­ments of­ten trig­ger mem­o­ries of sim­i­lar cases.

Not long ago we at­tended a lit­tle pony that had speared her leg on an old war­ratah while gal­lop­ing around the pad­dock in slip­pery con­di­tions with its young owner on board. It was a nasty gash and Maria was dis­traught. “They don’t shoot horses, do they…?” “Not this one and not this time,” said the Vet. “It looks nasty but it will heal if we look af­ter her.”

The pony was only about 13 hands, very lively and freemov­ing, mak­ing it a bit of a hand­ful to treat.

“Re­minds me of my pony,” I told Maria. “May I tell you about her?”

“Do you ride horses?” she asked doubt­fully, look­ing at my grey curls.

“Well, not so much now, but at your age I sure did. And I loved my horse, big time!”

If noth­ing else, my tale might dis­tract her from the Vet’s min­is­tra­tions and gore, and im­por­tantly it had a happy end­ing, which Maria needed to hear right now.

“Lindy Lou was half-arab. She was a dark bay with black stock­ings and a white star. Her fa­ther was grey and her mother was black, and looked a bit like your Sheba here. Lindy was born on our farm on my sis­ter’s birth­day so she took Linda’s name, but was al­ways meant to be my horse.

“I trained her… or at least I rode her from when she was about two, and I was only 12. I was only a flea weight and so wouldn’t do her any harm, but I’m not sure ei­ther of us was ma­ture enough for the other.

“We were a mad pair. That pony only knew ‘go’ and ‘whoa’, and not much in­be­tween! And boy, did we love to race ev­ery­where. My play­mates in those days were a fam­ily of boys up the road. They had old bombs of cars and mo­tor­bikes they pulled apart and raced around the pad­docks. But none of them could catch me on my horse.

“But one day I took her for a long ride on my own ‘up the back’. That was what we all called the pa­per road that served a whole heap of run-off prop­er­ties. It was about 5km long and though it was up­hill and down, Lindy and I loved to just gal­lop the whole blink­ing lot of it. It was up on a ridge and looked all out to sea, and the wind blew in your hair and you could see for­ever and the horse moved so free and spir­ited. It was just won­der­ful.”

“Yes, I love to gal­lop on Sheba,” said Maria. “Some­times we float her out to the coast but Mum growls if we tear around too much.”

“Well, she is right you know. Bad stuff hap­pens real fast.”

“Yes,” and we both looked at Sheba’s gashed leg, which the Vet was now cov­er­ing with a mass of ban­dages. “What hap­pened to Lindy Lou?” “We were gal­lop­ing along the ridge one day, and one of the farm­ers had put some rough road me­tal on the track, so we veered to the shoul­der and the grassy verge. It was eas­ier on her feet. But in one place there was a bit of a ditch to take the wa­ter away from the track. Lindy gath­ered

They don’t shoot horses,

do they?


1. It is mod­er­ately long-lived and tol­er­ant of a wide range of con­di­tions in­clud­ing cold, drought, wind, salt and vary­ing soil types. 2. It climbs fast and high by way of coil­ing leaf stems, and is spread by birds into na­tive bush ar­eas, dis­turbed for­est and shrub­land. 3. Its seeds grow up into light gaps, smoth­er­ing small trees and saplings, and jostling for a place in that same light-rich space. It is par­tic­u­larly bad in small bush rem­nants where restora­tion at­tempts are un­der­way. 4. It starts with a tu­ber, which hi­ber­nates un­der­ground dur­ing win­ter, gath­er­ing strength so it is ready to ‘spring’ into ac­tion in the new sea­son. Once it gets away, it can be next to im­pos­si­ble to trace back the vines to where they first come out of the ground.


• If de­tected in its early stages, it can be dug out easily, bagged and dis­posed of at a refuse trans­fer sta­tion. The root sys­tem is par­tic­u­larly tricky to re­move, but it’s im­por­tant you do – you re­ally need to find the ‘source’ tu­ber. • Don’t bother pulling the vines down if you have cut off the roots – leave them in the trees to dry in the sun, clear of the ground. • No to­tally ef­fec­tive her­bi­cide con­trol has been found, but the fol­low­ing is sug­gested: paint cut stumps im­me­di­ately with 500 ml/l glyphosate or 5 g/l met­sul­furon-methyl, or spray plants in spring and sum­mer with 200 ml/10 L glyphosate + pen­e­trant. Fol­low up six monthly to check for re­sprouted root­stocks.

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