UK’s Pasture Management Program Begins Third Year
Serving Central Kentucky Horse Farms
Ky., (March 14, 2007) – The University of Kentucky’s Pasture
Management Program, returning for its third year with
significant enhancements, is now accepting applications from
central Kentucky horse farms interested in a professional
evaluation and detailed recommendations for their pastures.
The Pasture Evaluation Program, which began in 2005 as a pilot
program from UK’s Plant and Soil Sciences Department, provides
area horse farms with a comprehensive assessment of their
pastures. The assessment includes soil type and soil
productivity, types and ratios of grasses and weeds present in
each pasture, an estimation of forage (food) available, and a
laboratory evaluation of endophyte, a fungus commonly found in
tall fescue, and associated levels of ergovaline, a compound
toxic to pregnant mares.
Because of the overwhelmingly positive response generated during
its first two years, this year’s program has expanded the
services it provides to area farms. Enhancements for this year
include increased acreage (up to an entire farm if requested), a
fecal egg count, a grazing distribution map and follow-up
measurements of ergovaline.
Findings will then be presented in a customized and detailed
report to each farm. That report will include a satellite
photograph of the farm; explanation of soil type and recommended
horse numbers per acre; overall percentage of all grasses found;
information about how to interpret percent of endophyte and
ergovaline levels; general guidelines for tall fescue removal,
weed control and soil fertility; and information on grazing
management, renovating pastures, re-establishing grasses and
grass-legume pastures. The final report also contains more than
20 publications related to managing horses on pastures.
This year’s program, which runs now through October, will
provide services to horse farms in Fayette, Bourbon, Woodford,
Scott, Jessamine and Clark counties. Also new this year is a
limited participation of counties outside of those five central
Participation in the program is on a first-come, first-served
basis, and the cost is $750. The team providing pasture
evaluation includes Ray Smith, UK forage extension specialist,
and Tom Keene, UK hay specialist.
“The equine industry sorely needs the monitoring and
consultation being provided with this service. It’s very
gratifying to know that UK is addressing the issues that are
important on horse farms in central Kentucky,” said Steve
Johnson, former Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers’ Club
president and current president of Margaux Farm. Johnson was one
of the participants in the program’s 2005 pilot phase.
Since its launch, the program has evaluated 31 horse farms in
“The UK forage extension team has been extremely pleased with
the success of the Horse Pasture Evaluation Program in 2005 and
2006,” Smith said. “We thoroughly enjoyed working with everyone
on the farms who enrolled in the program and were very impressed
with the professional animal care and handling that we observed
on all farms. The majority of farms are to be commended for the
good job they are doing in their pasture management programs.”
From the 31 farms analyzed in the past two years, Smith noted
some general areas where there was room for improvement. Those
areas included the need for general weed control and the need to
maintain sustainable horse-to-pasture ratios. Additionally, the
percent of tall fescue on several farms was high enough to
warrant control methods such as herbicide treatments or total
Smith said he suspected those trends hold true for many of
central Kentucky’s horse pastures and offers a few tips that
will be useful to large horse farms as well as those that have
only a few head of horses on a handful of acres. Those tips,
which include steps in spring, fall and winter, are as follows:
• Take soil samples. Work with your county extension agent to
determine fertilizer requirements, and apply recommended lime
and potassium and phosphorus fertilizer at any time of year.
Nitrogen should be applied in late fall for cool-season grasses.
• Avoid damaging pastures during the winter and early spring.
Periodically move hay feeding areas and limit vehicle traffic on
wet soils. Establishing a sacrifice paddock will also be
• Prepare during the fall for spring seeding. Line up desired
seed in advance (for instance, orchardgrass seed supplies are in
short supply this year). Make sure seeding equipment is ready to
go. Remember, late winter and early spring seeding is best for
clovers, while fall seeding is best for cool-season grasses.
• Control broadleaf weeds. Spray in early spring when weeds are
actively growing but still small. Use recommended herbicides for
your state (Kentucky’s recommendations can be found at
http://www.uky.edu/AG/Forage). Be sure to review herbicide
labels before reseeding to avoid residues.
• Rotate horses between pastures. This will enhance stand
recovery, interrupt parasite cycles, out compete weeds, and
increase grass growth and carrying capacity.
• Contact your county extension agent for assistance with all
general agricultural questions.
Farms interested in enrolling in this year’s Pasture Management
Program should contact Keene at 859-257-3144,
Smith at 859-257-3358,
firstname.lastname@example.org. The team will then make an initial visit
to participating farms to explain program details. More
information can also be found by visiting
Contact: Ray Smith, 859-257-3358
Tom Keene. 859-257-3144
The UK College of Agriculture,
through its land-grant mission, reaches across the commonwealth
with teaching, research and extension
to enhance the lives of
Copyright © 2001-2006 University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture,
Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service
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