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Q. Can horses be turned out on an oat pasture if it is dried up and not green? The oats have already been harvested, and we turn cattle out to graze the leavings, but is it okay for horses?

Barbara Herbert, Riverton, Wyoming


A. I would assume the available forage in your harvested oat field will be similar to oat straw. This means the forage will be low in digestible energy, crude protein, and the major minerals calcium and phosphorus. Mature horses at maintenance can graze the field, but be prepared to supplement the horses' diets to meet nutrient requirements.

Due to the highly fibrous nature of the stubble, it's important to ensure that horses kept on this pasture are drinking adequate amounts of water to reduce the risk of impaction. Also, horse owners should make sure that no large piles of grain are in the field due to spillage from the combine, as excessive grain intake can lead to digestive disturbances and laminitis.

There's always a concern over nitrate levels on the forage. This occurs more frequently on damaged out crops (due to frost or drought) and should be of limited concern with mature horses.

The forage will give the horses something to graze, but do not expect it to meet their nutrient requirements without supplementation.