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Regional, Monthly All-Breed Horse Magazine • Since 1993
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Regional, Monthly All-Breed Horse Magazine
Distributed throughout the Greater Rockies Since 1993

 

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Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Do Fertilized Pasture Grasses Have a 

Higher Sugar Content?

By Dr. Stephen Duren, PhD – Performance Horse Nutrition

 

November 2010 Issue  

Q

     Is there any evidence that grasses in fields fertilized with commercial fertilizer have higher sugar content? I know the laminitis danger is greater in irrigated fields rather than dryland pastures.

 

A

     Actually, fertilized grass tends to have lower sugar content than grass which is nutrient stressed. Fertilizer allows the plant to grow and utilize the plant sugar. A plant that is stressed accumulates sugar in an effort to survive.

     The laminitis danger would be higher in irrigated pastures due to the sheer volume of grass not because the grass is high in sugar. The horse would take in an abundance of sugar from irrigated pasture because the horse is able to eat a large volume of grass in a short period of time.

     On the other hand, a horse on dryland pasture must walk (exercise) and move around the paddock in order to find enough grass. Further, many of the dryland pasture do not utilize genetically improved grasses which tend have higher sugar content.

     The genetic improvement allows grasses to accumulate sugar such that the plant survives grazing pressure and plant stress. So fertilizer does not increase the sugar content of grass, other factors are more important.

 

Q 

     My horseshoer also said: “What is the world coming to when you can’t even turn a horse out on pasture for three hours per day, without them getting laminitis?”

 

A

     The laminitis and grazing issue is very complicated and many research groups are looking at the situation. But allow me to interject some of my practical logic.

     Horses can eat many different diets and be perfectly healthy as long as you know the positives and negatives of each ingredient. So a horse can graze an irrigated pasture, but the owner must control the calorie (sugar) content of the diet so the horse does not become fat and predispose itself to laminitis.

     Simply turning a horse out on a trophy pasture without the knowledge that horses, like humans, will over consume is the owner’s fault. Not the fault of grass, not the fault of fertilizer.

     The other factor that is important here is exercise. Horses, like humans, can utilize more sugar in their diet if they are actively exercised not allowed to become pasture ornaments.

 

 

Dr. Duren, PhD, will present LMF Feeds Nutrition Seminars:

Nov. 1 in Ponderay , ID.

Nov. 2 in Kalispell , MT.

Nov. 3 in Missoula , MT.

Nov. 4 in Bozeman , MT.

 

Please see RMR’s Calendar of Events for locations and contact phone numbers.

 

Dr. Duren may be reached at Performance Horse Nutrition, 967 Haas Road, Weiser, ID 83672; 208-549-2323. www.performancehorsenutrition.com.

 

Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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