Good, healthy pasture creates good, healthy livestock. How you make a pasture and pastureland depends on the quality of the soil, the amount of clearing required and the types of livestock you plan to keep. Your local county agricultural extension agent can answer questions about the best types of pasture grasses to plant in your area for your livestock species.
While the overall pasture size depends on your property, take into consideration the type of livestock and their grazing needs when determining how large of a pasture to create. If you intend for horses or cows to depend entirely on pasture forage during the spring, summer and fall, plan on at least 2 acres per animal. You can keep several sheep and goats per acre. If you intend to supplement with hay feeding, you can develop a somewhat smaller pasture.
Clearing brush from a potential pasture is fairly straightforward. Deciding which trees should stay or go requires some consideration. Remove any poisonous trees from the acreage, as well as damaged trees. Eliminate young trees from the site in favor of mature growth. Take out any stumps. If the pasture contains steep slopes, leave trees there for erosion protection. Large trees might provide shade for livestock, but they also can keep sunlight out, leaving large bare areas. Protect the trees you decide to keep by fencing them off so that livestock can't reach the trunk or by wrapping trunks in chicken wire. Otherwise, it's likely your livestock will chew the bark or otherwise harm the trees.
How you seed your pasture depends on your region of the country and the type of livestock intended for the acreage. Have your soil tested to reveal its nutrient levels. You can plan a liming and fertilization program, if necessary. Common pasture grasses include timothy, bluegrass, orchard grass and perennial ryegrass. Plant your pasture at the appropriate time of year, generally early autumn. Your pasture should be established by spring. Don't turn your livestock out on it until the grasses are between 8 to 10 inches high. If you plan to raise goats, consider planting some legumes, such as alfalfa, in your fields. However, an alfalfa field is too rich to pasture horses.
Your choice of pasture fencing depends primarily on the type of livestock and your budget. Fencing suitable for cattle, such as barbed wire, should not be used for horses. Fence height also depends on species -- fencing for sheep doesn't have to be as high as that for cattle or horses. For horses, traditional board or PVC fencing looks good and contains equines, but these types of fences are expensive. One way to save on wear and tear is to electrify the fence by running wire -- attached to a battery-operated or solar charger -- along the inside. While a mild shock will keep horses away, you'll need stronger voltage to contain goats and cattle. Along with fencing, plan the best areas for gate placement.