Thursday, April 8, 2010

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Grazing . . .

We've been started our pasture grazing, and have been gradually increasing our time out in 1/2 hour increments - we reached 2 1/2 hours yesterday. But spring is throwing us a curve - we had temperatures in the low 30sF last night (with a nasty, windy, rain-spitting high of only 40 today), and we're supposed to be getting 30s again tonight and Friday night. On Friday, temperatures are supposed to make it into the 50s, with sun, and into the 60s with more sun on Saturday. So the horses are back in dry lot - no grazing for them except for the nibbles that are left of the grass shoots they've been lipping for weeks.

It's interesting to think that grass is a living organism, sensitive to the weather, and with its own daily cycle of changes. Conditions like those we have now, with low temperatures at night, and warmer, sunny days, are ideal for grass to produce lots of NSCs - non-structural carbohydrates - including fructan. These are the culprit in grass laminitis, which is a risk for any horse, but especially those that are insulin-resistant. The NSC levels are highest in the afternoon, and especially high on those sunny days after cold nights.

We're very careful to introduce grazing slowly every year, but even brief grazing in conditions like this can be dangerous, so back in dry lot we go. It looks like our first grazing day will now be Sunday, and we'll probably reduce the time from the 2 1/2 hours we had reached. It'll take longer now to get out to the pastures full-day, but that's OK. For more information on these topics, visit safergrass.org.

10 comments:

  1. Laminitis is such a scary thing. I was amazed when I read about how dynamic grass can be. I just can't understand, with the information that's out there, how nonchalant people can be about throwing their horses into a lush pasture. I guess it's one of those "it can't happen to me" things. Unfortunately, it can. :(

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  2. Strange weather patterns continue.

    You are smart about the grass. Too much, too soon, with too much fructan can be a real problem.

    Hope things settle down.

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  3. I'm like you, I do it slow, but I always see people throw them out there and am amazed, too.

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  4. Darn that Mother Nature again! She is so self-centered, never thinking about us! We have had very warm temps here too--too warm really for April. But I bet it will cold again before it is officially tee shirt weather. I think the weather you have eventually shows up in our own pastures!

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  5. Lush pasture is evil for my Bonnie this time of year too, but for other reasons. "Dew Poisoning" other words "scratches" but she will not only get her legs (only the white stockings) but her muzzle and lips.

    Very very painful for her. Legs I can treat easily but her face is a different story.

    ~Jeni

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  6. I really appreciate your post today. So many people don't really understand when it is and it is not safe to turn their horses out on grass. I know mine were in today too. This weather sucks. I rode and my hand almost froze off!

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  7. We should study the horses of those who just throw them out and haven't had problems (yet?) to see if they have differences in their digestive flora or something. Could lead to breakthroughs in laminitis prevention!

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  8. Sounds like you guys have a really good system set up!

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  9. RuckusButt - I think it may have a lot to do with whether a horse is insulin resistant, or prone to become insulin resistant.

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  10. Weather is such an uncooperative thing at times! After a wet winter not that the grass is really growing we could use rain and of course we aren't getting much rain right now. I am pretty sure that Mother Nature has me on her bad list. Oh well, at least it is supposed to in the 70's and sunny!

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