Horses are ever popular throughout the region – but it is important to know that they do graze differently than other livestock. As a result, there are some special management considerations for horse pastures, according to Bruce Anderson, Extension forage specialist for the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
Horses heavily graze specific spots, and they are more picky about what they will eat. So it is important to keep these characteristics in mind when planting new pastures for horses.
Anderson says two grasses that are popular for horses are timothy and bluegrass. Unfortunately, these cool-season grasses produce low yields and lack persistence.
He suggests a better choice for areas like eastern Nebraska and the Dakota’s may be a mixture of orchardgrass and smooth bromegrass. Add a little red clover, some white clover, and alfalfa to this mixture and you’ll have an excellent feed resource.
In western Nebraska and the western Dakota’s, intermediate or crested or western wheatgrass might be a better choice of grass since they are more adapted to dry climates.
Native warm-season grasses also can provide good summer pastures for horses. Warm-season grasses that horses graze well include blue grama, big bluestem and sand bluestem, sideoats grama, sand lovegrass, and indiangrass. Plant a mixture of three to five of these grasses for good summer grazing.Anderson advises avoiding switchgrass and little bluestem for horse pastures. He says horses do not graze these grasses very well. But, both switchgrass and little bluestem are consumed well as hay if they are planted in mixtures with other grasses and harvested before seedheads emerge. So they can be used for horse hay even if they make poor horse pasture.