Weaners from Summerhill’s champion Angus herd hard at work preparing the small paddocks for commencement of foaling season in August
(Photo : Leigh Wilson)
Twenty years ago, the man that stands at the helm of Maine Chance Farm today, John Slade, was the boss at Summerhill. One of the first things we did when John came on board, was to look at acquiring a herd of cattle to compliment the grazing habits of the horses. There are any number of reasons behind the compatibility of different species of stock in the natural environment, and you need only to look to the game reserves to see how well the wildebeest and zebra get on with each other. You see, cattle like the grass relatively long, so they can get their tongues around the lengthy swathes, and the horses, who graze with their teeth, like it comparatively short.
Secondly, the rumen of the beast is hostile to the parasite of the horse, and vice versa, and therefore, from a parasite control perspective, they look after one another’s systems. Finally, though not least, at Summerhill we use the cattle to regenerate our pastures. As most of our readers know, we have a large composting operation at Summerhill, and because we’re in the horse business and use oodles of bedding, we have a wonderful natural resource at our disposal. That said, in the winter, we take a lot of our hay out of the stables, full of the urea deposited through the urine, and spread this across the frosted-off kikuyu pastures. The cattle just love it, they pick it up and pass it through their systems, and then spread it across the pasture like a top dressing. When the first September rains come we say halleluiah! as the first shoots of spring burst forth from their winter slumber. What a sight.