Pasture Management Evaluations Offered in Kentucky

Edited press release

Central Kentucky horse farms interested in assistance in evaluating their pastures now have access to the Horse Pasture Evaluation Program offered by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

The program, which started as a pilot program last fall, provides farms with an evaluation that includes assessment of the types of grasses and weeds present in each pasture and their ratios; an estimation of forage available; and evaluation of pastures for percentage of tall fescue and the potential of it to cause fescue toxicity in pregnant broodmares.

The findings will be presented in a detailed report to each individual farm.

"The pasture management program is designed to meet the specific pasture needs for horse farms," UK College of Agriculture Dean Scott Smith said. "The college has long served forage needs for beef cattle, so we are pleased to be able to begin tailoring a program for horses."

This year's program, which runs now through October, will provide pasture evaluation and a customized findings report to 25 horse farms in Fayette, Bourbon, Woodford, Scott, Jessamine, and Clark counties. Participation is on a first-come, first-served basis. The cost is $600.

The team providing pasture evaluation includes Ray Smith, UK forage extension specialist, and Tom Keene, UK hay specialist.

Pasture evaluation will consist of an assessment of pasture species composition, including tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, orchard grass, white clover and weeds (with each species identified); an estimation of forage available at sampling date; tall fescue plant percentage infected with a fungal endophyte (fungus that grows inside of tall fescue plants); concentration of tall fescue ergovaline (toxin produce by the fescue fungal endophyte that causes problems for late-term mares and cattle); and estimate of ergovaline present in total available forage. Other evaluations and analyses may be available if requested.

"Tall fescue has been a concern in Central Kentucky horse pastures for more than 20 years," Keene said. "This program can now help farm managers and owners make more informed pasture management decisions with regard to their broodmare programs."

Final reports will include satellite photos of farms, United States Department of Agriculture soil maps, and recommendations on how to manage pastures, among other things. For more information, contact Keene at 859-257-3144 (, or Smith at 859-257-3358 (