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Pasture grass and sugar content....

Anyone know where I can find a good article on sugar content in pastures?? I have been to (excellent by the way), but I would like to know when the sugars start to decline in grass that has been allowed to go to seed. We were going to harvest it, but with all the mud, getting any equipment in there is going to be hard. We are toying with the idea of just letting the horses start to graze on it, BUT, I think I read somewhere, that the sugar content is the highest when it's going to seed as all the energy is being used by the top of the plants. Our other pasture (only about 4 acres) is chewed down to nubs, so I am sure it's stressed, again, making it higher in sugar due to them now grazing the lower inch of growth (1/2 inch if they are lucky and it's sparse). We really need to have them on both fields, but I don't want to put them on it until I know better. It's frustrating. A beautiful pasture, all grown and just looking at us while I stand here and scratch my head. LOL This is our first year with our own pasture, so we are learning as we go. The people before I got there, seeded it last year. It's a mix of perennial rye grass, fescue, orchard grass, timothy, white clover, alfalfa (although I don't see any in there yet), I personally would have seeded with Timothy, and maybe some Kentucky Blue grass, but anyways, that's what's there and what we have to work with. The clover and alfalfa have me a little worried, but maybe I am worrying a little too much.

Any thoughts???? and what would you do?

I did stumble across this article though. Here I am worried about high sugar content, and these places are purposefully creating grass high in sugar. Yep, still scratching my head.

Perhaps you could section the new pasture off w/ temporary fencing, (step-in posts are excellent for this).  And only allow them a certain amount of time to graze, returing them to a sacrifice area after their time is up.  I enjoy the interaction time this gives me w/ mine-!  And they get excited when they see me coming, wondering where we're going next!

I've also read that grazing at night is better b/c the sugar content in grass is less.  In this recent heat, my horses have no problems napping in the woods during the day!

One thing I've definitely learned is that taking care of pasture is just as much work as taking care of horses... LOL!

Not sure if this is accurate but I read somewhere that once the temp is consistently over 6 degrees C at night, the sugar content goes down and it is safe to eat.  I'm pretty sure there is more people on here with knowledge to share other than that.

I don't know of any better website than the safergrass one but if it were me I would mow it, not down to the ground but shorter than it is now (unless it's so muddy that your going to ruin your ground by making ruts in it.) Wait about a week then I would only let them out there after the sun has gone down and or it has cooled off considerably. Bring them back in first thing in the morning.

I started grazing mine at night only (9 p.m. to about 8 a.m. give or take a couple hours   ) and this is the best my fat mare has looked in years! She is still plump but I have had to take her completely off grass every other year. She got the fattest she has ever been when I was grazing her 2 hours in the a.m. and 2 hours in the p.m. ...?

Also then they are in during the day and I don't feel guilty for making them play like I'm taking their eating time. They can focus on what we are doing instead of on their belly this way too.

But that's just what I would do ...

I don't know how or why, but mowing can really change a pasture.  Last year we mowed our sheep pasture and lost seven ewes to bloat.  Something about the way it comes back.  Of course horses don't bloat, but I would like to know why the pasture was more potent after mowing.  I have as many questions as you in all this.

someone told me that stressed grass had more sugar in it, due to mowing.  I was told by my neighbor, who does our mowing that the brom hay seed was pretty mature, and horses have been known to founder on it because the mature seed was richer.  We had to wait a bit to harvest, as well.

The things I have read said that if you wait until the grass is 6 in. tall after mowing it would be good to graze but I'm not sure if they were talking about the grass being stressed or the sugars being not so high.

When I rotate pasture I take them off, mow it, harrow it, move them to the other one and wait until the grass is at least 6 in. tall to rotate again. They (not sure who "they" are   ) say to take them off when they have grazed it down to about 3 in. any lower and it will stress.

That's me though.... in our weird weathered neck of the woods  I'm not sure about sugar content in different growing stages there are SO many things that affect the sugars in the grass it's so confusing. I'll have to go reading on again...

bit wrote:
someone told me that stressed grass had more sugar in it, due to mowing.  I was told by my neighbor, who does our mowing that the brom hay seed was pretty mature, and horses have been known to founder on it because the mature seed was richer.  We had to wait a bit to harvest, as well.

I finally found an article detailed by Pet Ramey ( ) and veterinarian Joyce Harman.  I found the information I was questioning about "when sugars levels start to decline in grass allowed to go to seed"

Quote from the article..." Find hay that's low in sugar's called fructans. In general, late cut hay that's starting to go to seed, may have lower sugar content"

Soooo, I guess letting this field go to seed was a good thing. Now if we can get someone in to harvest it now, and time it either in the super early morning, or on a cloudy day, it will be great. Until then, I am doing the strip grazing on cloudy days/ early mornings at the one end, and the kids a VERY happy!! No need to mow it and as mentioned, it might even make matters worse, as the sugars are moving back down to the bottom/roots of the plants. Also, as we all know, you can never be completely sure until you have your hay tested, but we can help to minimize the sugars in what we have if we work closely with mother nature.  

I will be better prepared for next year.LOL

Feeling much more confidant and scratching my head is now finally in check. I don't think I ever did THIS much homework in school! LOL

I tell you one thing. Since developing this foot fetish of mine, I sure do look at horse keeping entirely different now, but it's all good!!

Thanks for all the feed back.
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