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First Posted: Sept 25, 2008
Mar 28, 2011

Bunch Grass for Horse Pastures

I received an inquiry concerning "bunch grass." The following links and information will provide excellent information regarding bunch grass and the horse.

Bunch Grass

Ohio State University Extension
Horse Nutrition
Bulletin 762-00

Forage Species for Pastures and Hay

Grass Selection

Kentucky bluegrass is a shallow-rooted cool-season perennial grass that has commonly been used for pasture for horses. Bluegrass is primarily productive during late spring-early summer and during the fall. It is less productive than other cool-season grasses, but is easy to establish and manage.

Tall fescue is a vigorous-growing, sod-forming cool-season grass that can withstand much trampling. It is suggested for paddocks and areas of surface abuse. This species will retain its leaves into cold weather and will extend the pasture season in Ohio into early spring and early winter. When this species is used, plant only endophyte-free seed to prevent the problems of decreased milk production, decreased growth, and possibly placenta abnormalities found with endophyte-infected fescue.

Orchardgrass is an early, tall-growing, high-yielding perennial bunchgrass that makes more summer growth than the other grasses grown in Ohio. Orchardgrass must be heavily grazed or harvested as hay in May. It requires close management for maintenance, as it cannot stand trampling or continual close grazing.

Timothy is a late-maturing and tall-growing bunchgrass that is not recommended for pastures because it cannot take continual close grazing and produces only in late spring. It is more commonly used as a hay crop, usually in conjunction with red clover or alfalfa.

Perennial ryegrass is included in a lot of pasture mixes because of its quick growth and ease of establishment. However, it can have a mold that grows near the base of the plant and produces toxins that may cause blind staggers in horses if the pasture is over grazed. Horses will usually recover if removed from the pasture.


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