The warm season annual grass Teff is native to Ethiopia and recognized for drought tolerance, low nitrogen requirement, and productivity in marginal soils. To determine the value of Teff grass as a horse pasture, a single plot was established with minimum preparation to a predominantly barren hill side within a larger, established pasture in Virginia.
The grazing trial began 54 days after the initial planting, when forage had attained the proper grazing height. Within a 23 day time frame, the Teff paddock was grazed during 4 weekly periods by two groups of horses. The groups grazed at different times within 24 hours of each other. Horses were allowed to graze for 1 hour. During the grazing of each group, forage samples were randomly harvested throughout the plot, clipping the Teff to 4". After about 30 minutes of each grazing event, the horses were approached and samples of the long forage were grabbed as the horses began to chew the forage bites. "Stolen" samples were collected from each horse as they grazed for approximately 10 minutes. All samples were analyzed for dry matter (DM), crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), and acid detergent fiber (ADF). Although Teff was a novel grass (i.e. the horses had never grazed the grass) to the horses in this study, all groups grazed the novel forage within 5 minutes of entering the paddock and tended to bite only the upper portion of the plants.
Nutritional data indicated CP did not vary significantly between grazing period, averaging 9% CP for clipped samples. The stolen forage showed higher levels of CP, averaging around 12% CP. NDF averaged 64% in the first two periods, but increased to an average of 65% in the last two periods. NDF was not different between clipped and stolen samples. To the horses in this study, the novel, tall Teff grass was readily acceptable and the upper part of the plant selected by the horses was higher in CP. Further investigation is warranted to determine the value of Teff under greater grazing pressure from horses.
Summarized by Shanna Privatsky, University of Minnesota