Ruminant animals must have access to pasture to be certified organic in the United States. These pastures must be kept within a fairly strait forward set of guidelines. If you are considering applying for organic certification, good for you. This article may be of service.
Truly organic pastures balance the living and non living portions of your land. A balance of bacteria, fungus, plants and animals co-exist to check and balance each other. By putting horses, cattle, or other animals in this mix must be done with care to not throw off the balance.
Farming practices that dump soluble fertilizers into the soil ignore the needs of each member of the complex web of organisms present in your pasture. This can kill off or greatly harm an organism who plays an important role in the farm.
Say we were to bale the pasture near the end of the season, there would be less dead plant matter to decay on the ground. This would harm the worms and other creatures that live on dead plant matter. In turn, the earth would not get the enormous benefit of the worms tillage. For a few bales of pasture hay, the farmer would have inadvertently damaged next years pasture plants.
It is hard to know exactly how to interact with your pasture, as some of the unseen portions are very important. There is are comprehensive guidelines for organic farming in the US. If a small farmer wants to just sustain a pasture or try and bump up crop production a little bit; it is not an impossible task. There is a local agency, probably attached to a local ag college near you for just this purpose.
Pasture plants have so much going on underground that we don’t really think about. A healthy root system can ‘bounce back’ from most any catastrophe like over grazing or a burn.
Grazing rotation is an often used management tool. Letting a portion of the pasture be un-grazed for months gives it time to feed the roots and prepare for a traumatic period (grazing). With feeding comes natural bi-product fertilizer. If your livestock tend to spend a lot of their time in just a few places in your pasture, consider luring them away to portions used only for grazing. This will encourage them to make waste throughout the entire pasture which equally fertilizes (naturally!) the area.
These few practices could be enough to produce a healthier pasture in the long run.