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Small Acreage Management Resources

CSU Extension Small Acreage Website http://www.ext.colostate.edu/sam/

Manure Management Guide for small acreages http://www.ext.colostate.edu/sam/manure-mgt.pdf

Colorado Forage Guide – http://www.ext.colostate.edu/sam/forage-guide.pdf

Managing Pastures Before and After Droughthttp://extension.colostate.edu/…/managing-small-acreage-pa…/

Grass Growth and Response to Grazing http://extension.colostate.edu/…/grass-growth-and-response…/

Jennifer Cook
Small Acreage Management Coordinator
NRCS/CSU Extension
57 West Bromley Lane
Brighton, CO 80601
303-659-7004 ext. 116
(cell) 717-645-7817
[email protected]
Small Acreage Website: www.ext.colostate.edu/sam

Sign up for her quarterly newsletter by emailing her at [email protected]

You can lead a horse to water, but is he allowed to drink it?!

Many residents of our Foothills communities, the Denver Region, and even the entire State of Colorado give no thought to the source of water for their horses.  Whether it be a “frost free” spigot, a garden hose running from the house, or plumbed automatic waterers, owners turn on the tap and let the water flow.

However, at a recent Intermountain Horse Association meeting, Colorado Water Commissioner Tim Buckley explained that it is important for owners to understand the legal issues relating to sources of water and its availability for their horses and/or livestock.

According to Buckley, all waters in the state of Colorado are owned by the people of Colorado. The right to use the water or a “water right” is the right to divert or use the water under the prior appropriation system as long as the water is put to a beneficial use. The “State” or departments such as division of Parks and Wildlife and others own water rights but are not any different than a private water right holder. The function of the Department of Water Resources is to administer these rights.

Even rain water collected in buckets, barrels, or puddles in the pasture, is not necessarily available for a landowners use.   Matter of fact, unless a property owner has specific legal rights to use rain water, ground water, or even their well water for a specific purpose, they are compelled to leave the water where it is.

If you have ever purchased a property served by a well, hopefully your REALTOR discussed the category of that well.  Common categories are Household, Domestic, and maybe Livestock.   These categories confuse most everyone.  After all, wouldn’t Domestic mean indoors?

As a rule of thumb, with multiple noted exceptions, Household is for use only inside the house.  No exterior watering of plants, animals or even washing your car in the driveway.  If you fill up Fido’s bowl, do it from the kitchen sink.  In certain cases a Household well could be augmented (a water court process) to allow for a limited watering of a horse or two – but the parameters of use will be very well defined.

Domestic wells are more likely to allow for the watering of an outdoor pet like a horse, or a donkey or even maybe a goat.  However, “Domestic” does not indicate a blanket permission either.  It is important to read the well permit directly, looking for keywords or phrases.  Never assume that a Domestic well category gives you the freedom you are looking for without verification.  For example, most Domestic wells would not allow for you to board outside horses on your property.

Another category we run across on older, farm or ranch use properties can be “Livestock”.  This category gives broader permissions and allows a wider variety of uses.  Cows, horses, goats, etc., can be allowed to be watered from these types of wells.  That said, read the permit itself for limitations or further definition.

What about your pond or the creek that runs seasonally or even year round through the back forty?  The answer may surprise or even dismay you.  Without an adjudicated (again – water court process) water right to use the water out of that pond or creek or ditch, you must not consider it a legal source for watering your horse.  The good news is that the State of Colorado does not currently require you to keep your animal away with a fence or other barrier, but a stern admonition to your animal along the lines of “don’t drink that water” is in order.

In recent years our Foothills communities have enjoyed excellent precipitation totals through wet springs and frequent summer showers.  You have noticed both greener grass into August and September, along with uncommon rain showers ruining your picnic well into July.  Not only are we grateful for this wonderful moisture and the late grazing our animals enjoy in the pastures, but the Colorado Division of Water sometimes declares a “Free River” status for water right enforcement.  In layman’s terms, “Free River” conditions lead to a lighter enforcement of legal water use.

How do you find out if your current source of water legally allows you to water your horse?  There are several options available to you.  Hopefully you received a copy of your well permit when you purchased your property (or when the well was drilled if you bought vacant land).  Pull it out of the file and read it over, looking for the “type” description.  A call to the Colorado Division of Water Ground Water information desk (303) 866-3587 is possibly the simplest solution.  Leave your address and usually a return call within 24 hours gives you your well permit number and it’s prescribed use.  Many don’t know that walk in’s are welcome M-F from 9-4 at the Colorado Division of Water office at 1313 Sherman St #821 in Denver.  The folks there are super helpful and are happy to give you the information you need.

What if you learn that Trigger can’t legally drink the water from your well?  Commissioner Buckley offered more than one solution for that situation as well.  An expensive alternative would be to add a water right to your well through a Water Court process.  This involves a water attorney and a willing Seller, but is doable with patience and determination.  A quicker and more cost effective alternative would be to install a cistern at your home and to purchase potable water from a number of local vendors.  Keeping a record of your purchase history and the number of horses you are watering keeps you out of trouble.

Looking to buy a horse property and wanting to conduct the proper due diligence to ensure that a legal water source for your horse is included?  Seek out an experienced REALTOR who specializes in horse properties, farms and ranches.  They can guide you through the process.  I also recommend hiring a water attorney to conduct a title search to verify adjudicated water rights, especially in cases where more than a well permit is being transferred.  It may cost you several hundred dollars, but the peace of mind it brings can easily justify the investment.

Want to learn more?  Visit the Division’s website at http://water.state.co.us.  Call Commissioner Buckley’s office (303) 501-4298 or email him at [email protected] You want to be informed.  Legal water use is a big deal for residents of Colorado.  Heather McWilliams © 2015.

 

 

Domestic and Household-Use Well Permits

Well allows for… Horses?  As you look at land and properties in our mountain area for your horses, sometimes you will find that the zoning allows for horses other livestock on the land, but the well only allows for household-use, in other words, indoor use.  You will sometimes find household-use permits that will specify they allow for the watering of Irrigation or Livestock.  For example, the well permit will read:  “Household w/ Irrigation” or “Household w/ Livestock”.

This is not uncommon for our arid climate as we protect and be good stewards of the ground water supply in our area.
Domestic & Household-Use Wells:
Here is an excerpt from the Jefferson County, Colorado Planning & Zoning Department guide, “Water Smarts:  A Homeowner’s Guide to Mountain Groundwater”:

There are several well permit types issued by the Division of Water Resources.  Two types of permits are most important to the private homeowner who will be using ground water as a primary water source.  They are generally referred to as the domestic well permit and the household-use only permit.  

Both permits are for small capacity wells and each permit has restriction on the amount and usage of water that can be pumped.  Some wells are restricted to water use within the house only, while others allow limited livestock watering and irrigation of lawns and gardens.  You should check with the Division of Water Resources to determine the permit limitations for each type of well and the availability of permits in your area.

While there is considerable variation in residential well permits, the most common type issued today is the household-use only permit.  This permit gives a property owner the right to look for water (i.e., drill a well) and use the water inside their single-family home.  In most cases this type of permit does not allow the use of water outside your house.  

In some cases, the zoning of a property may allow the keeping of livestock, but the well permit may not allow the use of water for domestic animals.  In that case, you can keep horses or other livestock on your property, but you can not provide them with water from your well.  Most likely, your only option would be to “truck in” water for the animals.  

Domestic permits are often older residential permits, or those issued for properties larger than 35 acres.  Domestic wells can be used for up to three single-family dwellings and may give you the right to use water outside your house and for your animals.  However this does not, in turn, give the owner the right to build three houses.

Solutions:  
The most common solution to provide water for your horses when you have a household-use only permit is, as they mentioned, having water, “trucked in”.  On a regular schedule, a water service truck brings a set amount of water.  Storage tanks are installed into your barn, garage or storage shed and kept warm in the winter with a tank warmer or from room heat (i.e., heated garage, tack room, apartment).  Another option is to carry a tank in a truck bed or on a trailer and get water as you need it from a local water service company.
In addition, some properties have a pond or stream that can be managed to supply the livestock with water year round.
What does water delivery cost?  For example:  Foothills Water Delivery Service based out of Bailey, www.foothillh2O.com, delivers 1000 gallons of water to Conifer for $100 or Evergreen for $135 or up to 4000 gallons for $195 to Conifer, $245 to Evergreen.

Click here for the entire “Water Smarts” pdf.

While a domestic well permit is ideal for horse property owners, there are solutions to water your horses if you have a household-use permit!  MtnHomes4Horses.com (c) 2014.

Composting Horse Manure – Horsekeeping Mountain Style! #2

It just cannot be avoided – what goes in must come out.  One of our local horse folks has been successfully turning the manure from her two horses into a valuable resource.  Some work is involved, but not much more than what we already do.  At the end of the process you have nutrient rich compost while significantly cutting down on your overall landfill waste.  Composting reduces manure volume by half, stabilizes the nitrogen and phosphorus compounds to prevent water pollution; in addition to minimizing fly problems, odor, dust, parasite re-infection, spread of insect-borne diseases and fire danger.

To get started, location, pile size, and moisture content are key aspects to consider.  Find your location by establishing a small, warm, but not too windy area of your yard away from wells and water sources, but near the manure source.  The pile must be at least one cubic yard to be able to heat up enough to kill weed seeds and pathogens.  This person in our area decided to use three bins to allow each bin enough time to rest before new manure was added.  Another method is to make a windrow that is at least 3’ high and wide, shaped somewhat like a bread loaf and then the new manure is always added to the same end.  Finally, have a water source in reach in order to keep the water content around fifty percent, or about the consistency of a wrung out sponge.  Too much moisture emits an unpleasant odor and too little does not allow for proper decomposition.  Ann also had some ant issues when the pile became too dry.

In addition to manure, which is considered a “green” component rich in nitrogen, “brown” components rich in carbon are required to make compost.  “Brown” materials include dried leaves, straw, sawdust/shavings, waste hay/feed and dried grass clippings.  Other sources of “green” or nitrogen rich materials are green leaves, fresh grass clippings, green plant waste, and fruit/vegetable waste from the kitchen.  The best carbon to nitrogen ratio for compost is 25-30 parts carbon to one part nitrogen.  Layering the native soil with the green and brown components adds in the natural microorganisms needed to decompose the compost pile.

In addition to the moisture and materials, heat and air are essential.  When your pile is the proper size and moisture content, the core of the pile will reach a temperature of 140 degrees F.  Once that temperature is reached and then decreases, it is time to turn and aerate the pile in order to oxygenate and mix the materials.  Our local has been using a pitch fork to aerate and/or turn the piles or you can of course use heavier equipment if available.

The temperature will rise and fall several times in the process.  You can also add ventilation pipes through the bottom of the pile to allow passive aeration.  Once the compost pile temperature stabilizes, the composting is ready to cure.

Curing is done by the mid-temperature microorganisms and takes 1-2 months.  For curing, keep the pile moist, but not over 50% moisture.  During curing the pH returns to neutral, the soils natural microorganism’s recolonize and give disease suppressing qualities.  The result is homogenous, humus-like, dark compost with that deep, earthy aroma.

The end product can be added to your pasture, lawn, garden, tree and shrub soil to increase organic matter, fertility and water holding capacity – all qualities that we need in our rocky soil!  It can also be used as stall bedding or turn a profit by selling to landscapers – Instead of poop in the pasture, you will see dollar signs!  Start composting your horse and organic waste and learn a new way to manage your manure and care for the earth’s land and resources – make a pile and just keep in mind the general principles of composting:  moisture, materials, heat and air.

Other things to consider in our climate:  In the winter, tarps or plastic can be utilized over the pile to hold in the heat and moisture.  The smaller the pieces that are added to the compost pile, the quicker the process.

A plug for worms (red wigglers or red worms in particular) – Vermicomposting or using worms to compost has great perks including year-round composting, expedited composting process, no aeration required because the worms do the work, the compost tea they produce is a great liquid fertilizer and they make easy to care for, hardworking family pets.

For more composting information go to the Colorado State Extension Service -www.ext.colostate.edu and www.manuremanagement.com

Heather McWilliams © 2013.

 

Fencing, Pasture & Hay Storage – Horsekeeping Mountain Style! #1

If you keep your own horses at home in our mountain area, you know that we don’t fit into the average book on “horsekeeping on small acreages”.  Of course even from property to property the technicalities can vary greatly because of geography, covenants, flora and fauna.  This is the first installment in a series of what to consider while you enjoy having your horses at home.

Fencing and Pasture

Fencing is a very broad topic and varies from neighborhood to neighborhood with what the covenants dictate, what the ground will allow and of course what you can afford.  Whatever you do, consider the wildlife that we enjoy and share the mountains with along with your horses.  The Division of Wildlife has a “must read”, excellent brochure on many types of fencing and specifications that work for wildlife and livestock – go to www.wildlife.state.co.us and find “Fencing with Wildlife in Mind”.   In general, elk and deer need to be able to safely jump the fences and calves and fawns need to be able to safely crawl under.

With our arid climate and in order to protect your land from erosion and being picked down to dirt fairly quickly, it is always important to have a sacrifice area, lot or runs to keep your horses off of a larger turn-out area for periods of time.  Maybe you only have enough for a small lot, but if you have an area that is larger, it is worth some cross fencing to allow a little grass to grow for your horse to enjoy and feel like a horse.  The fencing on your lot or runs should be made of very safe, secure and sturdy materials since the horses will be in there for longer periods of time and will likely be using it for itching, leaning, and reaching.  Other things to consider are the level and space between the fence to prevent a leg, head or other body part from being stuck or rubbing their mane out.  The Colorado State Extension Service at www.ext.colostate.edu has great resources for managing local small acreages and they would welcome your call or email.

For fencing materials, there are many options that can be aesthetically pleasing and fairly inexpensive to obtain.  Look for local resources that are readily available to save money on the freight and materials.  Beetle kill wood is one example of this in Colorado, whereas in Texas it may be pipe and cable.   One application is “Zig Zag” or “Worm” Fencing that uses long straight trees, is attractive, requires no post holes, is relatively easy to install and if you or someone you know is mitigating Lodgepole Pine off of their property, it can be quite inexpensive or even free.

For the majority of the properties up here, there is just not any way to get around feeding horses some amount of hay year round.  Our grass just does not get enough moisture to recover that quickly.  There are a few properties that can and the rest of us suffer from pasture envy.  The stocking rates are around one 1,000 pound horse per 30 acres of dry pasture, but a water source can improve that number.   Using rotational grazing by cross fencing sections or cells of your pasture will increase the grass production and pasture health, but not your stocking rates.  The principle used on this land is called “take half, leave half”- Your horses eat down half of the forage and then you remove them from that portion for about 30 days to let it recover.   Many people in our area limit the pasture turn-out time of their horses to a number of hours that works for them, their land and grasses.  One disadvantage of this is that the horses may only eat one type, their favorite type of grass during that period, making the recovery for that grass difficult.  It is important to mention that when your pasture or lot has trees in it, it critical for the horses safety to trim any dead branches off from ground level to a couple feet above their eye level to keep them from poking eyes, legs and other body parts.

Hay Storage

Hay Storage and fencing can be related if you don’t have a place in your barn or a hay barn to keep it from other hungry hooved animals.  If elk and deer get into your hay, it is not only costly to you, it is not good for them.   Refer again to the above DOW brochure on “Fencing with Wildlife in Mind” for great hay storage solutions.  Some options include fencing in a storage area that must be 7-8 feet high to keep elk and deer from jumping in.  Panels, similar to large wooden pallets, are also functional and can be moved around to different locations.  While in use, the slats on the panels should be vertical to prevent them from being climbed and also secured together to create a complete barrier.   Of course, hay should be kept securely tarped (remember the wind!) and off of the ground.

Copyright 2013 Heather McWilliams, MtnHomes4Horses.com.