ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

How can I get my weedy fields into shape for grazing horses without using herbicides?

Posted September 14, 2004

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Send it to Jeff at:

Dear Jeff,

I have a small miniature horse farm (about 7 acres) in Dracut, Massachusetts. The hay fields have been neglected for years, and the weeds are mixed in with a weak timothy stand.

I would like to bring the fields back to full production without using a weed killer. Could you suggest a strategy for choking the weeds and getting the field to a pure stand of timothy or a mixture good for horses?

Thank you for the help.
Philip Ferreira

Dear Philip,

Thanks for the email and the hay question.

It’s hard for me to tell from this distance what condition the fields are in and the absolute best plan of attack. More than likely if the fields are real bad, they’ll need to be tilled, prepped, and replanted. If they aren’t too terrible, you might be able to reseed them with the use of a no-till drill or pasture renovator. I know we used to be able to rent those tools from a dealer (the county Extension office used to keep a list of folks who rented them).

If they need to be replanted, you might consider doing them in a rotation rather than all at once. That way, you can use part of the fields all the time. It may be that you can do a combination of ‘replant’ and ‘renovate’. Check with your county agent for a seeding recommendation and exact use for your soil.

I know this isn’t a direct answer to your question, but hopefully it is useful.



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