Solving the mystery of the bad paddock
A little girl and her injured pony remind Trisha of another little girl and their misadventure.
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,
REASONS WHY THIS IS A NASTY WEED
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.
3TIPS FOR GETTING RID OF IT
• 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.