A Kentucky Thoroughbred horse farm is reaping the benefits of healthier mares and foals due to pasture renovations they made over the past year with guidance from UK Pasture Evaluation Program. In 2017, Mill Ridge Farm in Lexington experienced significant foaling problems. To Marc Richardson, the farm manager, they appeared to be classic symptoms of fescue toxicity. These issues including multiple foalings that required veterinarians to come out and mares that did not have any milk production.”
Under the advisement of the farm’s veterinarian Dr. Stuart Brown, Richardson contacted UK forage extension specialist Dr. Jimmy Henning and Krista Lea, program coordinator for UK’s Horse Pasture Evaluation Program. They took forage samples from pastures frequented by pregnant mares. The samples were analyzed, and the results confirmed that the tall fescue in some of the farm’s pastures had high ergovaline levels. Ergovaline is a toxin produced by endophyte-infected tall fescue that affects pregnant broodmares.
The recommendations included completely killing off two fields with the highest ergovaline levels and reseeding them with bluegrass, orchardgrass and a little perennial ryegrass. This meant taking those two fields out of production for almost a year. They removed fescue from other fields using the herbicide Plateau.
The improvements this year were immediate according to Richardson. “This year, we lost no mares or foals. The pasture renovations are what turned our foaling season around.” Richardson said the farm plans to renovate one field each year until they remove fescue from all the fields through which pregnant mares rotate.
Horse farm owners and managers who are interested in learning more about pasture evaluation should start with their county extension agent for basic recommendations and help in taking soil samples. They can get more detailed recommendations and samplings through UK’s Horse Pasture Evaluation Program.
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