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Based on an equine palatability study by the University of Minnesota, the most palatable grasses were found to be kentucky blue, timothy, and quackgrass. The second most palatable group included tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, reed canary grass, meadow fescue. They concluded that horses did not like orchard grass, garrison creeping foxtail, and meadow bromegrass. The university did not recommend timothy because it died out under grazing pressure. Blue grass was their main recommendation, saying that it “isn’t as high yielding compared to other grasses, but that’s ok. We want it to be that base, that sod-former that withstands grazing and keeps that dense ground cover." It should be noted that this trial was a northern trial and not perfectly representative of our area.
Species like reed canary grass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, when using improved varieties that either remove the negative endophyte or have a lower alkaloid content, will vastly improve the palatability. Orchard grass also includes improved grazing varieties and in our area they have been used to negate some of the adverse effects from kentucky 31 tall fescue. Kentucky bluegrass does not do well in the heat of our summers, but consider that it does do extremely well under the pressure of intense equine grazing because its roots have rhizomes and allow it to survive being well overgrazed. Nutrient content is excellent for bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. Perennial ryegrass is the easiest of those mentioned to over seed a pasture because it typically needs the least soil to seed contact, so it is usually more successful than other varieties when being broadcast on top of the ground into existing sod without a prepared seed bed. If choosing to overseed, a light disc with the plates turned straight will do well, using an aerator will not. Aeration will help the plants there because it makes it easier for thier roots to grow. The loose dirt cause by aeration will not in anyway equal the furrows of light disc. Seed will travel with water, the furrows hopefully will catch it, a hole from aeration will not be close enough to the surface for the plant. The loose dirt from aeration will be its only chance and costly. To note, horses let weeds go and they kill grass because they like it tender, and weeds shade out new grass, so the opportune time for seeding horse pastures for cool season grasses is in the fall after weeds have died out, and weeds and trash grass like broomstraw is standing dead. Its best to cut everything even good grass down before seeding to prevent shading.
Pleaase see our Forage Production section.
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