turbodog13

Fescue Hay Questions

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I need to know the differance between coastel & fescue hay. Can I feed it to my horses? how much nutrition does it have? A friend of mine wants to give me a load of it.I used to go to PA to get alfalfa hay 2-3 times a year and bring back 150 bales, I can't do it anymore due to fuel prices (if I can get a paying load there I can go)

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Coastal is bermuda grass. (see chart in link for nutrition information)

http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id146/id146.htm

If you google coastal/bermuda grass hay and fescue hay you'll find lots of info.

I would choose coastal over fescue any day of the week.

This quote sums up why:

"Can I feed tall fescue hay to my horses?"

Tall fescue is a common and useful pasture plant. It can also be harvested for hay. Unfortunately, most tall fescue hay is harvested at a late stage of maturity when palatability and nutrient value are low. Horses can be expected to waste about twice as much tall fescue hay as alfalfa hay. Much of the tall fescue grown in the southeastern U.S. is infected with an endophytic fungus. The fungus increases the hardiness of the plant but has detrimental effects on some animals. Broodmares consuming endophyte-infected tall fescue often have abnormally long gestations and foaling problems. Foals may be born weak, and some mares will fail to produce milk. Because of the potential for problems, mares should not be fed tall fescue hay or pasture during the last 90 days of gestation.

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Free hay? I'd take it!

Fescue will not hurt horses at all, given that it's not fed to pregnant mares in the last 30 days of gestation. A lot of Kentucky pasture is NOT bluegrass, it's a fescue mix. If you are worried about the endophytes, horses seem to be able to deal with it better than cattle. Also, diluting will work... meaning if you feed a mix of the fescue with other hay the endophyte would be even less of a concern anyways.

I wonder why that link says it's usually harvested late? I don't understand that.

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The pasture my horse were in last year was mostly fescue with a bit of brohm grass. They did fine and got fat. Definetly don't feed it to a pregnant mare in the last tri-mester. I have no idea about the harvesting of it tho. You may have to suppliment if your horse loose condition. You could have it tested to see what the content is.

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I did find this info from Ohio State...

Fescue hay has a reputation as being low-quality hay. Most of the reason is the haymaker and not the grass. Most hay is made at or after seed maturity. Anytime a cool-season plant matures, quality drops rapidly (Kilgore et al., 1980). Crude protein will drop 0.5% per day from boot stage to mature seed stage. Research in southern Ohio (Sulc et al., 1997) indicated that endophyte-free and endophyte-infected fescue mixed with orchardgrass had crude protein levels between 11 and 12% on May 31. The secret to fescue hay production is adequate fertility and early cutting. Early grazing of hayfields prior to plants maturing to boot stage can delay maturity and still maintain acceptable yields. Since hay quite often is not harvested until June, the first cutting of hay can be considered a "second cutting." Make hay when fescue starts to show a few seed heads.

All the farms I worked at in KY fed it... just not to the broodies.

Now for cattle... be VERY careful! A big ranch out here lost nearly 600 head one year because they didn't have their hay tested and were feeding it straight. If they had only mixed it with some non-infected hay, they would have been fine. The toxin constricts the peripheral blood vessels, and these cattle were standing in snow... so they essentially got major frost bite and started sloughing off hooves. It was the worst thing I've even seen. In the south, its usually just "summer slump" in cattle... the constricting of the blood vessels causes them to run HIGH body temperature, which can affect bulls fertility and cause decreased gains. Occasionally they will lose ear tips, but never anything like what I saw here in the northwest.

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My friends grow it & feed it to their horses. I am now feeding coastel only, I used to mix my Pa. alfalfa w/the coastel(caostel for extra "grazing" time). As I said I can't get to Pa. unless I can get a delivery to pay for the fuel to make the trip worth it.

Back to the fescue-- is it at least equel to coastel-I mean it is free...but I don't want to make them sick.

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As long as they are not broodmares, it will not make them sick. As far as how "good" it is... that is hard to say without testing it, or at the very least seeing at what stage of maturity is was cut.

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Fescue hay does not make horses or broodmares sick. It is the endophyte (fungus) that sometimes grows on it. These days all fescue seed that is sold is endophyte free. The last 2 years I have had a mare in foal. The first year the grass hay she ate the whole pregnancy was endophyte free fescue. This last year my hay had fescue in it too. Fescue is a perfectly good grass.

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Can you mix the coastal with the fescue like you did with the alfalfa? Alfalfa is a richer hay, so may have to feed a bit more of the fescue/coastal mix. If it were me, I would go ahead and try it. Watch the weight of your horses and go from there.

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BuddyRoo was telling you right. I lost a fine colt on fescue, mare could not give no milk. I had vet come out and see what was the matter. He said samething that BuddyRoo said. Fescue had fungus. If it has that type of affect on mares I would think twice about feeding fescue hay to any horse. I know also that it sometimes gives cattle footrot between the toes them just walking though it, and can get so bad that it can leave them permanently lame.

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yes I can mix it. That was my plan. I figure at the price I'm getting it for (lol) I can feed it like I fed the alfalfa, but reverse, make like the coastel is the alfalfa. My friends breed their horses and had never had a problem, but I have heard of these problems w/horses befor, thats why I'm here. I do plan on breeding my mare but it will be after this hay is long gone. I know what I know & I know what I don't know. I don't give advice on what I don't know, all this help is great .

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Well in my area I would say 90% of the horses are fed on fescue. Fescue and orchard grass are your two options in the area. Finding orchard with no fescue is quite challenging and expensive as the fescue is everywhere and wants to infiltrate the orchard fields.

So I've been feeding my horses fescue for nearly 30 years. It's even fed at the high end boarding barns I've used. It's also what the majority of the pastures, including mine, are planted in. This is not the endophyte free type. Again, because it is everywhere even if you plant it endophyte free the native grasses will infiltrate.

Yes, the endophyte can be a problem for mares in the last trimester. It can cause abortion, tough "sacks", or prevent them from bagging up properly. So, my mares get orchard for at least the last three months of their pregnancies. Longer if I can find the orchard. For other horses, I have certainly never seen a problem with it at all.

My horses are all pretty darn healthy if I do say so myself. Fescue is a bit lower in nutritional value than some hays, but I honestly prefer that. It allows me to feed a bit more hay without anyone getting overly fat. When they aren't on grass my horses get from 15-20 lbs a day depending on the horse. All but one stays a good weight with only a vitamin and mineral supplement. One needs a bit of concentrate in the winter to hold his weight.

Humorously enough, no one I know will feed coastal when it occasionally shows up in this area. They are all afraid of impactions and choke because of the fine stems on the coastal "wadding up". But then none of the horses in this area are acclimated to it.

ETA: If you would like to see pictures of horses fed for years on fescue I would be happy to share.

Edited by ExtraHannah

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I would perfer to not feed coastel (thats why I used to go to Pa to get alfalfa) I can't afford to pay $15-$18 a bale for alfalfa down here (yes I did save money going to Pa for it).I come from up north, only been Fl for 4yrs. I am used to good quality hay all of the time, I have to feed 3x's the coastel hay to keep my horses in good weight(fat) I use good quality round bales kept under cover but have always been able to feed alfalfa.

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Fescue seed in Oregon may be endophyte free because Fescue is not native to Oregon. All of the Endophyte free seed I have planted was grown in Oregon. The rest of the country from Oklahoma east will be Kentucky 31 variety and it will be infected. You cannot even plant the endophyte free varieties and have them stay 'clean'. They will revert back if native fescue ever grew on the property.

As everyone else has said, it is great hay for all but broodmares and they only need to be off of it for the last 60 days. Pasture and hay grown during wet, cool years will be much more infected than fescue grown during a prrticularly dry year.

The reason it is usually cut too mature for maximum protein is that it is a cool season grass. When it needs to be cut (early April in Oklahoma), it is too cool and wet to cure, so it is usually cut later when other grasses like rye grass, orchard and brome are in it. The orchard and brome or rye grass is cut at the ideal time for it, but the fescue is very mature - uaually 1 to 2 months later than ideal.

Even mature fescue (identified by seed heads that are turning brown and losing seed) is good roughage. It needs a high protein supplement for young stock and needs grain supplemented for poor keepers and horses working hard. But it is an excellent roughage and source of fiber. You can feed it free choice without worry to most horses.

Free fescue? Grab it up as long as it is not moldy from being baled too green and uncured.

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Some of the "straw" (baled after seed harvested) sold out here is from "turf" varieties... need to stay away from that for pregnant mares and cattle. The endophyte makes the grass much "tougher" and more drought/heat resistant... so its a good thing for golf courses, landscaping, etc.

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Just wanted to add...I fed coastal when I lived in TX...it was great hay. Irrigated and fertilized...couldn't grow hay in our area without that.

I would be more than happy to feed good coastal again.

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ALL my horses are from up-north except for my wild burro (nevada). They don't seem to do as good on the coastel as they do on alfalfa, I do feed grain as well (my 25+yr horse is on senior feed), he is my only hard keeper. He has all his teeth and is in good health, I like to keep him a little overweight (he went into liver failure last year and lost alot of weight).The wild burro will eat anything(lol). I also have 5 goats & 1 sheep-can they eat the fescue or should I not take the chance w/them & just feed them the coastel?

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There is some thought that mature coastal grass can cause problems with impaction, especially with horses not adapted to it. We are wanting to do a study here sometime in the future comparing digestions of warm vs. cool season grasses in cattle... because we've seen some differences. Maybe the same is true for horses?

If you are worried, just feed coastal to the sheep and goats. But if you were to feed a 50:50 mix it should be ok.

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Thanks again everyone-if anyone has anymore input please keep it coming. I'm going to pickup the hay on monday-100 bales.

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I had rather have fescue instead of the coastal bermuda.

The coastal bermuda that's been brought in here is finer cut and I know too many horses first hand that have compaction colicked off of it and some of them have died. I have fed a good quality fescue or fescue/orchard mix for decades without any problems at all. That's all we feed --unless we're in a drought and we can't get any.... which was the case this last winter.

Of course, I'm not feeding broodmares which the fungus is the problem on that and as others said most fescue is endophyte free nowadays.

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If coastal is Bermuda that is what we feed all winter and my horses love it! It's actually like the best you can feed here in Oklahoma streight bremuda green and fresh of course. Here they tell us no fescue for brood mares in the last trimester as it causes the sac to get thick which can cause complications during delivery and lack of milk production in the mare but it is due to that fungus not the grass itself so instead we feed bermuda.

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Sorry but I've been in the heart of Fay and my computer has been down-still raining hard(3 days) I don't flood like everyone else & I have 4-6 inches of H2O standing on my prop. my goats & chickens are under H2O too-poor babies.

I have been to my friends w/some of my horses and they like the fescue hay, I'm going to go monday to deliver the horses and pickup the hay,I'll be back thursday p.m.

I'm so sick of this weather--my pond-3/4 acre is so overflowing that I was fishing guppies out of the goat pen yesterday.My goat pen is not near the pond!!! We did need the rain here in Fl. but I've had enough.I'm near Daytona, so we have gotten alot of rain. I guess I should be glad it's not a hurrricane.

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