ExtraHannah

Johnson Grass In Hay?

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I made a mistake last year and trusted a past hay supplier to provide the same level of hay he had previously. I wasn't home and ended up with a load of hay with johnson grass mixed in. He traded me the bales that were over run with the stuff for better bales. However, almost all of his hay has some johnson grass in it. I've still got a fair amount left. I'd like to feed it now, since the horses are only in for 10 hours during the day and really only need hay for filler. They are getting more than enough grass when they are out and are all getting fat already. However, they are in too long for me to be comfortable not giving them something to munch on and keep their guts moving. I hate to buy better hay when it's not really needed nutrition wise and I have all of these bales just sitting there. They are not moldy or otherwise nasty. Just full of straw-like stuff I was told is johnson grass.

Rommie and Gulliver just eat around the johnson grass. They leave the icky stuff and only eat the fescue and orchard hay. However, Tigo - my vacuum cleaner, eats it all! I can't believe he eats that straw looking stuff, but that horse has never been known to turn down anything. So, I'm wondering if there are any worries about him consuming the johnson grass. I've never even seen it in hay before, much less dealt with it. Oh and that supplier is no longer on my list. Picking through for good bales is not fun.

Edited by ExtraHannah

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Johnson grass can be toxic to horse but only when in bloom if it's been baled after it's bloomed or before it's not an issue so nothing to worry about. What i mean by blooming as there is a time in the summer when it has a purple top to it that's when it is toxic but only if the horse has it free choice etc... after it's baled it's no biggie and won't hurt him at all.

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I have never known of Johnson grass hay being toxic. Just what kind of toxicity is it supposed to have?

It can be deadly to cattle and other ruminants when it has prussic acid in it -- usually when it is stressed from a light frost or when it has curled in a drought and a little shower brings up light green new growth. One bite can kill a cow. But, prussic acid does not hurt horses and it dissipates in hay before it is baled. It is also prone to have high nitrate levels when it is fertilized and then there is not enough rain to utilize all of the fertilizer properly. It, Sudan grass and haygrazer are better left to feed cattle.

I try to stay away from it in horse hay because it cures much slower than Bermuda or Fescue or Bluestem grasses. Since it cures slower, it is hard to get it put up with no mold or dust.

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Both johnsongrass and Sudan grass are coarse-stemmed grasses with broad, veined leaves that can grow to six feet in height. Both produce large, multibranched seed heads.

Range: Johnsongrass is a wild grass native to the southern climates, where it grows along roadways and other uncultivated open areas. A close relative, Sudan grass, and its hybrids are cultivated throughout the United States as a forage crop.

The danger: The leaves and stems of johnsongrass and Sudan grass contain a cyanide compound, which when metabolized inhibits the body's ability to absorb oxygen, in effect suffocating the animal; young shoots of johnsongrass contain the highest concentration of the toxin. Because horses do not metabolize the cyanide compound as efficiently as ruminant animals do, grazing healthy adult plants is unlikely to harm them, but circumstances that injure the plant--wilting, trampling, frost--can chemically liberate the cyanide within the leaves, rendering them dangerous to all species. Cultivated hybrids of Sudan grass typically contain less cyanide, if any. Both species can also accumulate toxic levels of nitrates if overfertilized. Cyanide concentration drops to safe levels when the grasses are cured for hay, but nitrates, if present, do not.

Signs: Signs are consistent with cyanide poisoning. The first indication is rapid breathing, which progresses to tremors, frequent urination and defecation, gasping and convulsions.

More info:

Signs of poisoning: Horses may suffer from acute and chronic cyanide poisoning when eating sorghums. Symptoms of acute poisoning include excitement, rapid respiration, weakened pulse, tachycardia, salivation, voiding of urine and feces, staggering, collapse, bright-red mucous membranes, convulsions, and death.

Horses consuming sorghum hay for long periods may develop chronic cyanide poisoning that causes nerve degeneration in the hind legs, urinary tract, bladder, and rectum. Affected horses show weakness and any unsteady gait of the hind legs. They also develop urinary incontinence and an atonic rectum that becomes impacted with feces. Recovery from chronic cyanide poisoning is unlikely, as nerve degeneration is permanent. Pregnant mares may abort or give birth to deformed foals.

Moral of the story i would not take a chance on this at all so therefore i will not feed or allow my horses to graze on JG.

Edited by Halo's Mom

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Thank you everyone. Sigh. I really hoped I could feed that stuff. I don't know anything about where it was in the growing process when it was baled.

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Sam's Icelandic Fonn is allergic to Johnson Grass. From what I understand it's not prevalent in our area but I am very careful about the mix we feed because of her allergies.

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I just can't believe many horses would actually voluntarily eat the stuff. Unless what I have is a poor representation. It looks like straw, but it's even harder/coarser than straw. Straw is fairly soft and I have had brood mares nibble on that, but this stuff is almost like twigs it's so hard and pokey!

I guess I'm lucky I've never even seen it before. Or not in hay. I'm sure I've seen it growing here or there.

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There is almost always a little Johnson in my hay. The stuff is almost impossible to get rid of around here. And frankly, when cut and baled young, about 2 feet tall, it makes a nutritious hay. Most horses will eat the leaves if it's more mature, but leave the stems. I have one hog of a pony who eats the stems too. They won't eat it green, though as the edges will slice a tongue. It's fine once cured. And no, you sure don't want the blooms!

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Don't mean to hyjack, but does anyone know how to get rid of johnson grass in a pasture?

Dig it out and never EVER let it go to seed.

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There is almost always a little Johnson in my hay. The stuff is almost impossible to get rid of around here. And frankly, when cut and baled young, about 2 feet tall, it makes a nutritious hay. Most horses will eat the leaves if it's more mature, but leave the stems. I have one hog of a pony who eats the stems too. They won't eat it green, though as the edges will slice a tongue. It's fine once cured. And no, you sure don't want the blooms!

Well, I know it's not green, but what do the blooms look like? I'm just used to hay that is either fescue, orchard or a mix. Seldom any weeds or anything else. So I can't tell what some of the stuff in this hay is.

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It looks a bit like a fescue seedhead but MUCH larger. The seedhead part can be as much as 10 inches long, branching like a fescue head, but much thicker and stemmier. It rarely grows mature enough to head in a hayfield that is cut regularly.

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you can tell JG is VERY broad leaf doesn't look like coastal at all! we would fertilize every year and kill it. good growers of coastal shouldn't have it in the hay(or very little) ,Coastal is fluffy and small stem Johnson is steamy broad stem and really sticks out. you'll see it!! also watch for Blister Beetle!!more worried about that!our pastures had JG(hard to totally be rid of it as it has long roots) but the horses wouldn't eat it,as long as the rest was good. secret is good regular fertilizing,and a good year of thunderstorms

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It is NOT the purple seed head that is toxic on Johnson. Johnson grass hay is NOT toxic if it was not cut in a drought when highly fertilized Johnson grass can have high levels of nitrates. Actually, under those conditions, 'good' hay can have high nitrate levels.

Prussic acid is very toxic to cattle, but you are mistaken about when it is worst. It has nothing to do with the seed heads. If the conditions are right (or wrong), it is the leaves that are the most poison. It seldom affects horses at all. I have never seen it affect horses even when I have seen cattle die and horses were with them. A big ranch near hear lost 48 mother cows in the space of 5 minutes about 5 years ago when we had the worst drought in 50 years. A cowboy working for them opened a gate and let pairs into a field that had wilted down with the dry heat but a tiny shower had made the Johnson grass sprout up about 6 inches with fresh light green growth. We had the same thing here in our yard and a couple of pastures around our horse and I told my husband that morning that I bet that little new Johnson grass was poison. Later that night, a neighbor called and asked if we had heard that Crabtree Ranch losing 48 cows in 5 minutes. Some of their cows only got 20 or 30 feet inside the gate.

It is only stressed Johnson grass and the little tender leaves that come back after frost or drought stress that are that toxic. Most grass hay around here has some Johnson grass in it. It is really hard to keep it out of a place if you feed any hay cut anywhere else and brought in a fed on your place. But, with horses, you do not have to worry about anything besides mold from a poor cure. I am feeding round bales now that have some Johnson grass in them. When you buy 200 tons of hay a year, it is pretty hard to not get any Johnson grass in any of it.

You can very easily kill Johnson grass by spraying or 'wicking' it with Roundup or a generic equivalent. (Chemical's actual name is 'Glyphosate'.) It dies with a very low 1/2 or 1/4 of the regular amount of Roundup applied to it. Around here, the State of Oklahoma sprays all of the road right-of-ways with it in May. It turns the Bermuda Grass brown, but does not kill it. It comes right back but the Johnson grass dies. 'Wicking' works very well on tall mature Johnson grass. A very absorbent cotton 'wick' applicator is pulled behind a tractor. The wick stays wet with Roundup solution and as it is drug over the taller Johnson grass, it gets Roundup on the Johnson grass and kills it. If you only have a little Johnson grass, you can spot spray it without killing any of the good grasses around it.

If you buy Glyphosate, be sure you look at the concentration. The concentrate that makes a lot of spray is 41%. You can find junk at Tractor Supply and home centers that seems cheaper until you see that it is only a 10% or 15% concentrate. Roundup also works very well if you spray it under electric fences. It kills green weeds or grass on contact, but does not have any residual effect. You can spray the weeds and grass in a garden spot and plant a garden the next day.

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I know for a fact my aunt fed nothing but Johnson grass one winter not knowing any better when she bought her hay. It was course and stemmy but all three horses lived lol. These were ugly dusty round rolls too. Not the best situation but they did not suffer ill effects and I educated my aunt on how to determine good grass hay that winter lol.

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Yes! Dust is by far the worst problem with Johnson grass hay. It is all but impossible to get a good cure on it. It is so heavy and wet when it is cut, that 3 days later, it is still green and wet on the bottom of the wind-rows. It has to be turned once or twice to get it cured at all. Heavy arrow leaf clover or vetch are like that too. Any clover is hard to get a good cure on.

Dusty hay is real strange. Some horses are so sensitive that even a little dust brings on a cough or full blown heaves. Other can live on that kind of crap every winter and never cough. It is probably directly proportionate to their value. You can't kill a junk horse by feeding it junk and a good horse can look at bad feed and cough or colic.

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Yep her horses are all pretty much just grade trail horses and must be immune to bad hay lol...

Ive come to figure that the lower end horses get fed alot of this kind of dusty moldt crappy hay on and off and get used to it from birth or something. They never colic or founder etc unless its something really really off. Maybe the expensive ones are over pampered and never allowed to acclimate to lesser hays? IDK....

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That is what it looks like when it first heads out. As the seed heads get more mature, they turn purple. The plants can get over 6 feet tall. The individual grass leaves can get up to an inch wide (most are about 3/4 " wide) and over 2 feet long and the center rib or vein in the leaves is very prominent.

It cannot take any frost (a light frost makes it very poison to cattle) and it turns brown and the leaves curl up when the plant gets too dry (also when it is toxic to cattle).

The roots are white and tuberous. Hogs love them and root them up. Horses like them, too. I have known horses to sand colic when they were trying to eat Johnson Grass roots that were growing in sandy soil.

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