Did you know that Fescue Hay covers about 35 million acres of land in the US, and it feeds more than 700,000 horses each year? But at the same time, if the hay is infected, it may kill the horses.
What does fescue hay look like?
It is characterized by Broadleaf blades and equal-sized veins. The hay is drought and over-grazing resistant, but fungi-infected tall fescue hay is fatal for pregnant mares.
In this blog post, I will discuss all the Fescue Hay! Let’s get started.
- What Is Fescue Hay?
- What Does Fescue Hay Look Like?
- What Does Fescue Hay Taste Like?
- Is Fescue Hay Good For Horses?
- Advantages of Growing Fescue Hay
- Is Fescue Toxic To Horses?
- Is Tall Fescue Poisonous?
- Fescue Toxicity
- What Are The Symptoms Of Fescue Toxicity In Horses?
- Causative Agent of Fescue Toxicosis
- How Is Fescue Toxicosis Diagnosed?
- What Is The Treatment For Fescue Toxicity?
- Which Type Of Hay Is Best For Horses?
- Final Verdict
What Is Fescue Hay?
Fescue Hay is beneficial for the equine and is the major grass in the Southeastern American states. The hay feeds hundreds of horses across the country and is sometimes exported because of surplus growth.
Fescue hay is a very hardy, nutritious Hay used all over the US. Many species of Fescues are currently known, but Kentucky-31 is the most common grass in the whole US.
What Does Fescue Hay Look Like?
Fescue hay looks pretty much like other grasses. There are several physical features to identify the grass to be Fescue or not.
A Fescue Hay grows up to 70 inches high and is hardy hay with broadleaf blades and equally spaced veins loaded with essential nutrients required by the horses.
An infected fungus lives in an association (Mutualism: a relationship in which both partners live together to benefit each other) with the fescue horse.
The grass provides all the nutrients, shelters the fungi, and in return, the fungi provide resistance to insects, weed killers, and other pathogenic agents.
But the fungus is a microscopic agent, and we can’t see it with naked eyes, so horses may not identify which grass is infected and eats the infected grass by chance and may have toxicity.
What Does Fescue Hay Taste Like?
As the Fescue grass grows over 35 million acres, it will always be enough for the US horses.
Does the question arise that do horses like the Fescue’s taste?
The Tall Fescue is a delicious and savory meal for the horses, which is low in sugar counts but contains the excellent nutritional value. So Horses like the way Fescue Hay Tastes.
Fescue hay is not suitable to eat in the fall, as the high sugar content is not suitable for the horses sensitive to the sugar.
That’s why always check the hay before feeding it to your horse.
Is Fescue Hay Good For Horses?
While Fescue is found worldwide except the Antarctic continent, it got positive responses from equine owners all over the US.
I would give 1st rank to Fescue horse as an excellent horse grazing forage. Tall Fescue is characterized by hardy, insects, over-grazing, and disease resistance, and easy establishment.
It would even pass through the driest conditions in summer and help in drought as it is not affected by any major environmental changes.
So Does Fescue make good hay?
Fescue makes good hay, as it contains raw proteins of 12% of the total nutrients and has a 65 digestive value. The standard per day feeding amount of Fescue Hay is 13 Pounds.
Advantages of Growing Fescue Hay
Fescue hay makes good hay to the horses, farmers, and nature as well. The tall Fescue helps conserve wildlife and feed over 0.7 Million horses (700,000).
Following are the benefits of Fescue Hay:
- Fescue Hay rapidly establishes and grows without any fear of getting diseases. The hay is resistant to all diseases, pathogens, and also drought.
- Tall Fescue also resists over-grazing so that the lands won’t remain barren.
- The fields require low maintenance and have been very delicious food with high nutritional facts.
- The tall Fescue contains 14.3% raw proteins and has over 65% digestibility.
- Fescue Hay has two types; one grows in a warm environment, and the other grows in a cold climate. So, it will never experience field damages.
- The fungi are not always associated with the grass, and you can check the grass before feeding it to avoid any intoxication.
So there’s no need to worry about the fescue grass, as it is entirely safe even for the pregnant mares, but get your hay checked before feeding it.
Is Fescue Toxic To Horses?
Fescue may establish quickly and has a good protein ratio. Still, at the same time, it is better to understand that a fungi endophyte is always ready to infect and intoxicate the horses pregnant with their foals.
The infected Fescue produces toxic chemicals which are produced by the endophyte fungi Neotyphodium Coenophialum. Infectious chemicals are high in June but decrease with seed growth.
So yes, any infected fescue which has endophytes will be toxic to horses, and people need to check the feeds before giving it to their horses. It would prevent any chances of intoxications and save a life.
Is Tall Fescue Poisonous?
Not all the fields of tall Fescue are poisonous and infected with the endophyte. The fungi associated with the plant are not bad for the environment but have only one equine life setback.
Tall Fescue secretes ergot-alkaloid, which is toxic for the horses and may be fatal for the horses. Ergot-Alkaloid has >200 ppb, which is toxic for any animal.
Therefore tall Fescue is poisonous for the horses due to the mutualistic relation of plants with the endophyte fungi.
Although the fungi don’t harm the plant, any broodmare (breeding female horse) that eats the Fescue may get intoxicated.
In most horses, toxicity may occur due to any reason.
Many chemicals may intoxicate the horses, and one of them is Ergot-Alkaloid, a substance secreted by endophytic-infected Fescue.
What is fescue Toxicosis? If a pregnant mare gets intoxicated, or its foal aborts because of eating Fescue, we call Fescue Toxicity.
It may cause several complications in pregnant mares, which should be investigated earlier to avoid serious problems.
What Are The Symptoms Of Fescue Toxicity In Horses?
Fescue toxicity impose many symptoms, and the following are commonly seen in many equines:
- Overall performance reduction
- Fever and Pain
- Lameness also called impaired limbs
- Tail end Sloughing off
- Wight loss, and hard to gain weight
- Accelerated respiration
- Rough coat due to intoxication
- Increased Saliva
- Decreased Prolactin causing fertility defects
- Reproductive performance impairment
- Difficult Giving Birth
- Issues related Lactation
Symptoms severity fluctuates according to the conditions in which the Fescue is grown. High nitrogen fertilizers increase the severity and are more toxic to horses.
Causative Agent of Fescue Toxicosis
Fescue Toxicity is commonly caused by the fungi living in mutualism with Fescue hay. The fungi are Neotyphodium coenophialum and are endophytes.
The endophyte infects the horses but does nothing harmful to the plants.
How Is Fescue Toxicosis Diagnosed?
Its primary symptoms identify fescue Toxicosis. Take the horse to a vet, and he will diagnose the horse with all the early symptoms and confirm if it’s intoxication.
But in some cases, if the vet is not sure about the symptoms, he will do the following:
A sure fescue Toxicosis is diagnosed with the blood samples doing a CBC and other tests calculating ammonia, nitrogen, etc., for pregnant horses; foals are also appropriately diagnosed.
The vet thoroughly checks the pregnant mares, and sometimes a live Ultrasound is the need of the hour to ensure the owner that the foal is healthy.
Even if further there are some further tests, they should be allowed and run.
What Is The Treatment For Fescue Toxicity?
It may sound not good, but there is no actual treatment of fescue Toxicosis.
We need to understand that all we can do for the treatment of intoxication is prevention.
There’s no treatment for fescue Toxicosis, but domperidone is a drug that may effectively reduce the possible side effects of the toxicity.
So other than finding drugs for this, we need to act more responsibly towards it, destroy the infected grass, and plant other legumes and grasses to dilute the field toxicity.
Thus, this is all we can do for Fescue Toxicity.
Which Type Of Hay Is Best For Horses?
It would help if you chose the hay wisely before feeding it to the horses.
High-quality Hay has the following qualities:
- Dry Hay is the best
- There should be no Mold in Hay
- The smell should be sweet.
- Should be weight consistent (it means loaded with perfect nutrients when grown in proper water, air, and sunlight exposure)
- Green hay is the best, as it’s not been too long in sunlight.
- Ask your horses to help you pick the best hay. (feed the hay to the horse, and buy the one it likes)
A Fescue Hay has nutritional values ranging from 10 to 12% nitrogen with a digestive number of 65. It is very well and liked by the horses.
But beware of the harmful intoxication caused by the fungi Neotyphodium coenophialum, which affects pregnant mares and foals.
Therefore, our topic has been completed. So leave a comment below, and if you like the post, share it with your friends.