Warmer weather Requires diligent grassland supervision

Central Kentucky horse ranch managers with broodstock should carefully consider how recent weather conditions might affect pasture high fescue, potentially contributing to infection. Fescue toxicity is high in early mares.

Above-average temperatures and rainfall over the past few weeks have resulted in good pasture development on horse farms in the area. While the historical average monthly temperature for the region is 44°F, the average temperature forecast for next weekend is 65°. According to Ray Smith, a researcher and forage extension specialist at the Agricultural University of Kentucky, USA, they should also monitor pasture conditions to raise broodstock sooner. and the Environmental Department of Plants and Soil Science.

“Normally we don’t worry about mares dying prematurely because cold weather will affect ergovaline levels. But the cold snaps we’ve had so far have been very brief and recovered quickly. up to above-average temperatures, keeping the plants green and thriving during the winter months,” Smith said.

In general, ergovaline, which is an endophyte-produced toxin commonly found in tall grass, declines rapidly when temperatures hit the teens and grass growth is halted during the year. But since the grass in the grasslands is growing deeper into winter than usual, this also means that ergovaline production can continue. At the same time, other common pasture grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass and orchardgrass are now dormant so horses are less likely to graze on them. According to the university’s pasture experts, pasture horses are likely to consume more fescue than usual in the spring and fall.

“Predicting when ergovaline levels will rise and fall is very difficult, so regular testing remains the best method we have. Managers should consider testing tall grass in grasslands where they are located. early mares are grazing,” said Krista Lea, UK coordinator. Horse Pasture Assessment Program. “Grass with less than 200 parts per billion of ergovaline is probably safe for those mares.”

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According to Smith and Lea, hens are most affected by ergovaline during the last 60-90 days of gestation, so mares expected to lay before the first day of March may be affected by weather patterns. this anomaly and the subsequent growth of grasslands. Pastures are known to have higher levels of ergovaline in the spring and summer are also likely to be higher now.

Mothers who are negatively affected by ergovaline may experience prolonged pregnancy, thickened placenta, red sacs, poor milk production, dysplasia. Ergovaline may also contribute to equine and foal mortality.

To reduce the risk to broodstock, horse owners and farm managers should feed hay and cereals to reduce ergovaline concentrations in the total diet or remove horses entirely from pasture containing more fescue during the last 90 days of pregnancy.

Local county extension agents can help test pastures and send samples to the UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for ergovaline quantification. Pastures below 200 parts per billion are unlikely to cause serious problems in broodstock and are likely to remain low until spring return. The levels observed in early December are not likely to affect other types of horses or livestock.

Since the way the sample is handled is key, experts recommend reading the following guide on correct sampling.

Guide to Collecting Fescue High Samples for Ergovaline Analysis

https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/255611/warmer-weather-requires-diligent-monitoring-of-pastures Warmer weather Requires diligent grassland supervision

John Verrall

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