Paddock Establishment and Maintenance

Paddock Establishment and Maintenance

Good paddock maintenance will enable it to be a good food source for years to come. 

Initial ground preparation is different depending on whether you are starting a paddock from scratch or over seeding.


Starting a paddock from scratch

 Paddocks will deteriorate over time and can get bare patches and weeds taking over if not looked after properly.  Therefore sometimes a complete reseed in necessary.  Reseeding means taking the paddock back down to the bare soil and starting again from scratch. 

Ground Preparation

Clear existing vegetation (any grass and weeds) by digging, spraying or ploughing.  It is especially important to remove weeds, such as ragwort, thistles, dock and nettles as these will persist and take over.  Once clear, loosen any large lumps of soil and ideally remove large stones.

Harrow to produce a fine seed bed.  This enables the seedlings to set down roots easily. 

Ploughing and harrowing can sometimes bring dormant grass and weed seeds to the surface and allow them to germinate.  It is therefore advisable to leave the prepared soil bed for 2-4 weeks to allow these to germinate and then they can be dug up or sprayed off.  This gives your new paddock the best possible start.  Dealing with unwanted grasses and weeds is much better to do now, than when they are competing with the new seedlings.

It is advisable to carry out a soil test which will determine whether there are deficiencies in the soil.  These can be corrected with fertiliser before the seeds are sown.


Sowing can take place from March to September.  Spring or autumn sowings are best as summer sowings can be hit by drought and hot temperatures.   Soil temperature needs to be 7c or above and it must be moist.  Frost risk must of passed.  Sowing before light rain is forecast is ideal.

Check the sowing rate and then broadcast the seed using a seed spreader.  Roll the area so the seed has good contact with the soil.

The new pasture is usually not ready before 6-8 weeks after sowing.  Before allowing livestock back on to the pasture, perform the Pluck Test to ensure the seedlings are robust enough for grazing. 

Over seeding

Grassland deteriorates over time and over seeding helps maintain it rather than resorting to a complete reseed.  Good maintenance can give good grazing for years to come.

Ground Preparation

Mow the paddock or graze heavily so the grass is as short as it can be.  Harrow the paddock to remove any dead grass and open up the existing sward.

It is also important NOT to fertilise before over seeding as this will only help to encourage the existing grass to grow with more vigour.


Timing is the key to success when over seeding a paddock. Over seeding can be done in either early to mid spring or autumn.  It is not advisable to over seed later than mid spring as the existing grass ley will start a rapid growth stage during this time which may smother the new seedlings.  The new seedlings will not cope with this competition. 

Check the sowing rate as this will be less than if reseeding from scratch.  Broadcast the seed using a seed spreader and then harrow again.  Finally, roll the area so the seed has good contact with the soil. 

The Pluck Test

The new pasture is usually not ready before 6-8 weeks after sowing.  Before allowing livestock back on to the pasture, perform the Pluck Test to ensure the seedlings are robust enough for grazing.  You can do this by using the following method.

Hold a new seedling between your thumb and fore finger.
Pull sharply.  This is to mimic an an animal grazing.
If the seedling comes up by the root, the pasture is not ready for grazing yet.
If the seedling breaks off and leaves the roots under ground, then it is ready. 

Ideally graze this area lightly for up to a week then remove animals for 2-3 weeks.  This grazing removes the tips and encourages growth but after this initial stage, the new grass needs to rest.  After a rest period, normal grazing can resume.

Grassland Weeds

Below are some of the common weeds found in grassland

Common Ragwort
Senecio jacobaea


Ragwort is a common biennial weed that starts off growing as rosette (image 1) and produces clusters of bright yellow daisy like flowers from May to October (Image 2).  It can grow up to approximately 90cm.  It is poisonous, especially to grazing livestock, so it must be removed from pasture before it produces seeds, to prevent its spread.  This should be done wearing long sleeves and gloves and using a specially designed ragwort fork which removes it by the root.  Ragwort must be disposed of according to government guidelines.

Broad-leaved Dock
Rumex obtusifolius

Broad-leaved Dock is a perennial weed found in poor pasture.  It can grow up to 120cm tall.  The leaves are slightly red tinged and their breadth can be as much as half their length. It forms a long tap root that can grow even if damaged and can be very persistent.  Due to its ability to produce a large quantity of seeds, it is important that this plant it is controlled, usually by spraying.

Spear Thistle
 Cirsium vulgare


The Spear Thistle is a widespread robust perennial found on grassland and roadside verges .  Although it is unpalatable to livestock, it can compete with grass and its seeds spread very easily.  It can grow up to approximately 1m tall and produces spiny grey green leaves and classic thistle like flowers during the summer months.



For information on our equine paddock mixtures, please see HERE
For information on our agricultural grazing mixtures, please see HERE


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