Managing With Grass

Marshall Art and Zephyr managing well on good grass

While we do spend a lot of time helping people struggling with the most serious ‘grass’ issues, there are those who manage their horses successfully with green grass in their diet.

Some have horses who don’t seem to become ‘affected’ or if they do, any issues tend to be on the mild-moderate end of the spectrum.

Other horse owners rent grazing, (keep their horse at livery or pay for agistment) and often have little or no control of their horse’s grass intake.

Use the following as your TOOLS:

Many horses only need the addition of GrazeEzy which works by helping to maintain proper internal pH when there is green grass in the diet.

Particularly when horses show signs of ‘increased excitability’ (eg spooky, over-reactive, agitated)

AlleviateC/SOS – feed high amounts while you build up the GrazeEzy which will take 7-10 days by which time you will observe improvements.

Alleviate Gold – the ‘next level’ tool for chronic and/or serious issues. For the majority, you will only need to feed one pack – the size of the pack would be proportional to the size of the horse.

Avoid processed/extruded feeds for ‘grass-affected’ horses because they are highly digestible and quickly metabolised. They work for ‘normal’ horses who are working hard but the last thing you want to do for a horse with health and behaviour problems is add quick release energy!

Generally, plain feeds like beet/copra/crushed linseed work fine for the vast majority of ‘grass-affected’ horses. Of course there are always exceptions.

It is easy to jump to false conclusions when the introduction of a new feed happens to coincide with either a change in the grass or the fact the horse’s metabolism just reached ‘tipping point’!

OBSERVE, COMPARE, ADJUST, REVIEW

NB For issues on the serious end of the spectrum such as those prone to laminitis, head-flicking or dangerous behaviour, it IS necessary to completely remove all green grass/clovers/Lucerne from their diet

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Marshall Art and Zephyr enjoying their early morning hay on a frosty morning...

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Seasonal Changes...

For those whose horses are out on grass here are some suggestions to help mitigate the effects despite seasonal and weather related changes in the grass:

• In spring, autumn and on frosty mornings make sure your horses get as much plain grass hay as they will eat. AM & PM where possible.

• Be mindful that green vegetative grass is already too high in potassium and nitrogen so avoid adding products that add to this load such as Lucerne/alfalfa, fresh herbs, seaweeds/kelps, molassed feeds.

• Keep hard-feeds PLAIN and add broad spectrum Premium Horse Minerals (Supreme Vit & Min in Australia) or Premium MVA to compensate for the fact domestic horses are confined behind fences and cannot roam and forage a wider variety of plants.

• Add Salt to feeds at a rate of 10gms per 100kg (rather than relying on a salt lick). ALL forage, whether it be green grass or hay is LOW in sodium and nowhere near meets the horse’s daily requirement.

• All the CHH products are formulated for the purpose of mitigating the effects of pasture grass. Bear in mind every horse is an individual and the grass growing on every property is different.

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Understanding Frosted Grass and Winter Conditions

While a heavy frost can look spectacular and the accompanying fine sunny days are fabulous there are some points to understand.

In our experience this is yet another occasion where being solely focused on sugar levels in the horses forage is a big mistake.
 

Many horse owners have experienced, even in winter conditions of little to no growth, horses who still go down with laminitis, or become extra spooky/sensitive/aggressive and generally problematic.
 

Cool, wet conditions and heavy frosts on cool-season grasses (all species especially rye-grass, clover, cocksfoot), cause changes in their cellular structure and composition that can be harmful to livestock.

Sodium, calcium and magnesium all decrease while potassium and nitrate content increases.
Any conditions that stunt growth increase both potassium & nitrate accumulation in the plant.
 

Low night-time temperatures with or without freezing, or consecutive cloudy days where there is no sunshine to fuel photosynthesis, will slow down or prevent growth in all plants.
IF any sugars are manufactured during the day they will also not be used up in growth at night. Nitrates will accumulate in the base and lower parts of the plant.

This is what the horse is eating when on short, green grass especially if that is all he has to eat.
 

Excess nitrates are a major contributor to gastrointestinal problems - loud gut noises, abdominal discomfort, gaseous colics, FWS and diarrhea, all very common ‘winter ailments’.
 

If you don’t have access to a suitable grass free area here is what to do to minimise exposure:

  •  Put out more hay, extra hay-nets or put out a big round so they don’t run out.

  • Get up that extra bit early to give them their hay/feeds (the ‘dressing-gown run’!)

  • Make sure they get their minerals each morning especially salt, GrazeEzy, AlleviateC/SOS (these supply cations & anions to help maintain ‘electrical neutrality’ when potassium and nitrates are high).

  •  Add salt to feeds rather than relying on salt licks**

  • Where possible avoid horses grazing shaded areas.

  • Avoid Lucerne/alfalfa hay – Lucerne/alfalfa is naturally high in potassium and accumulates nitrates in the leaves rather than the stems.

  • Avoid clovers 

  • Pick up manure rather than harrowing
     

SHADED AREAS: while they are lower in sugars, plants that grow in the shade tend to be higher in nitrates than plants grown in full light because conversion of nitrates to amino acids and proteins is linked closely with photosynthesis (requiring light).
 

**BROODMARES: Such measures are CRITICAL for broodmares, according to Dr Swerczek DVM, to help avert laminitis, reproductive problems, early abortions and limb deformities in newborn foals.