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Extension > Horse Extension - Research Updates > July 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cool-Season Pasture Grasses

Plant mixtures of Kentucky bluegrass, orchardgrass, and tall and meadow fescue.

Authors: Beth Allen, Krishona Martinson, and Craig Sheaffer, University of Minnesota

Cool-season grasses are the foundation of productive pastures throughout most of the U.S., however, many grasses have not been evaluated under horse grazing in the Midwest U.S. The objective of this study, conducted at the University of Minnesota, was to evaluate forage yield and persistence of cool-season grasses under horse grazing.

Four adult horses grazed tall fescue, meadow fescue, quackgrass, smooth bromegrass, meadow bromegrass, reed canarygrass, perennial ryegrass, timothy, Kentucky bluegrass, creeping foxtail, and orchardgrass. Horses grazed each month from May to October in 2010 and May to September in 2011.

Orchardgrass, meadow fescue, Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue were the most persistent grasses with ≥78% ground cover, while timothy, reed canarygrass, smooth bromegrass, and creeping foxtail were less persistent, with ≤ 24% ground cover.

Orchardgrass produced the highest yields while creeping foxtail, smooth bromegrass, and timothy produced the lowest yield. The majority of yield for most grasses occurred during summer, with summer months contributing 32 to 74% of the total yield.

Kentucky bluegrass, timothy, and meadow fescue were the most preferred grasses with most post-grazing forage removals greater than 60%, while meadow bromegrass, creeping foxtail, reed canarygrass, and orchardgrass were less preferred with most post-grazing forage removals less than 50%.

To maximize forage use, grasses with similar preferences that persist well under horse grazing should be planted in horse pastures. A mixture that results in uniform grazing should maximize forage use and minimize pasture maintenance and associated expenses. To accomplish this, planting mixtures of Kentucky bluegrass, orchardgrass, and tall and meadow fescue in well-grained soils should achieve a balance of forage persistence, horse preference, and maximum yield in Midwest U.S. horse pastures.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Feed digestibility in aged horses

No difference was found in healthy horses.

Summarized by Beth Allen, University of Minnesota

The population of horses 20 years of age and older is rising, and little research exists exploring the differences in nutrient digestibility in aged horses versus adult horses. It is widely accepted that aged horses have a decreased ability to absorb nutrients from the diet. The objective of the experiment, conducted at Michigan State University, was to compare the digestibility of various feedstuffs in healthy adult horses in contrast to healthy, aged horses.

Eight adult (5 to 12 years) and 9 aged (19 to 28 years) stock-type mares were fed. Horses were rotated through three diets: hay only, hay plus a cereal-based feed, or hay plus a fat and fiber-rich feed. Horses were housed and fed one of the three diets outdoors in a group for 3 weeks, and then indoors in individual stalls for 3 weeks to record feed refusals. During week 6 of each period, a 72 hour digestibility trial was conducted in which feed intake and feces and urine were collected. The same protocol was followed for each diet.

No age by diet interaction, or differences in daily feed and hay intake were detected. No differences in fecal or urine output were noted between the horse groups. There was no effect of age on fiber, crude protein, energy and digestibility, or mineral retention.

These results indicate that under most practical feeding scenarios, it is unlikely that differences in digestive capacity are present between adult and aged horses. However, all horses utilized in this trial were healthy, and it's possible that there are differences in compromised (i.e., diseased) older horses, or those with dental disorders.
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