Sanctuary now starting to harvest its own hay!
Because the Sanctuary was previously a cattle and sheep ranch for nearly 100 years, some areas are in need of rehabilitation due to weeds and long use. When we moved here we estimated that this process would mean keeping the horses off the pastures for a few more years. But thanks to our weed control program and lots of rain this year, we are moving ahead more quickly than anticipated.
Overall, mowing the weeds is making a big difference. Without the use of ANY herbicides we are starting to make a major dent in the weed issue by cutting them down just before they produce viable seeds. This approach removes the strength from the plant again and again while the grasses have a chance to grown in and take over because mowing stimulates grasses to grow.An area which just last year was entirely whitetop now is approximately 30% grasses and looks better after every mowing. Whitetop is a persistent and difficult weed.
Lower (north) pasture:
The weeds are under control in this area and the grass is tall. Our neighbor who is a retired rancher will cut and bale hay there next week for us. He estimates this pasture will yield about 8 tons this cutting with hopefully even more on the next cutting. As soon as he is done cutting we will have it fertilized with a liquid fertilizer and then will turn on the irrigation water.
Middle corral pasture (near the corrals):
In the middle pasture near the corrals the horses are able to graze fulltime. We are moving them every few days once they graze the grass down to about an 8-inch height and then we mow the weeds and rest the area until the grass rebounds. The horses are thriving on the grasses and look fabulous! Grazing certainly has a calming effect on their minds.
Upper pasture (below the big irrigation canal)
We are seeing the welcome grasses crowd out the cheatgrass quite rapidly. The new grasses are crested wheatgrass and a mixture of native grasses. These are growing in naturally, as we haven't done any seeding here yet. We hope to further encourage the native grasses.
Last weekend, Sanctuary staff and volunteers started pulling out old fence and we hope to have the upper pasture into horse-safe fence by the end of August so it can be used for some late-season grazing this year.
More About the Ranch
In July 2009 the Sanctuary relocated to its new ranch 25 miles west of Great Falls between Simms and Fort Shaw, 1,200 acres with a 200-acre state land grazing lease. The ranch was used for the past 100 years as a cattle and sheep facility and is in need of many improvements to make it horse friendly and safe. Over the coming years we will install safer fences, shelters, barns, an office, hay and equipment sheds and an indoor arena. A small portion of the ranch is useable right now and the horses love their new home! Once the ranch is fully functional and the budget will allow, capacity for the Sanctuary will be up to 50 horses. Other projects underway are control of weeds and rehabilitation of a few pastures which previously received the heaviest use by livestock. The Sanctuary will also work to enhance wildlife habitat.
But the first priority is to pay off the mortgage which totals $700,000. The Sanctuary makes $4,000/month payments.
You can help us pay for The Ranch:
- Adopt-a-Pasture: Adopt an entire pasture (10 acres or more) and we will name it after you! A 10-acre tract would be $5830; 20 acres, $11,660, etc.
- Adopt-An-Acre Program: A donation of $583 will pay for one acre of the Sanctuary. Your name will appear on the Adopt-An-Acre board at the Sanctuary.
- Adopt-A-Foot: You can help us pay for the ranch one square foot at a time. Each square foot of the ranch costs $10.
Also, if you'd like, your donation can be made in memory, in honor of, or as a gift to a friend or loved one. We will send the person you designate a card letting them know you have made a generous donation to the Sanctuary in their name. We won’t say how much the donation if for. Minimum donation for this category: $25.
Click here for more information the Adopt A Pasture program
So what do you do with all that
Each horse produces a wheelbarrow load of manure each and every day. At the sanctuary, we pick up the manure and compost it to break down the constituents and kill the weed seeds. Once it's composted, we spread it on our pastures. In the photo above, Vic Andersen is spreading manure on a sanctuary pasture.
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Montana Horse Sanctuary
P.O. Box 10, Simms, MT 59477 • (406) 264-5300