Value Of Pasture

Good quality pasture is an excellent basis for a feeding program. The old saying that ''Dr. Green is an excellent veterinarian'' is still true. Proper use of pasture provides a much higher level of such antioxidants as vitamin E and carotene than are present in hay. Pasture can reduce the incidence of colic, ulcers, signs of respiratory diseases (due to decreased mold and dust), and abnormal behaviors.

Of course pasture is not a perfect diet. Excessive intake of lush pasture can cause founder because of the high content of soluble carbohydrates. Pasture may be lacking in certain minerals depending on the content of the soil. Soils in many areas of the United States may contain low levels of selenium, zinc, or copper. Toxins may be present in the cultivated plants or in weeds. For example, the USDA found 61.6% of the samples of tall fescue tested positive for the endophyte, Neotyphodium coenophalium.[8] Compounds produced by the endophyte adversely affect reproduction.

Pasture can also be a source of parasite infestation. Prompt removal of feces will greatly reduce the parasite load and improve pasture utilization. Horses normally will not graze near fecal piles, although they will if pasture is in short supply.

The diet must contain all required nutrients in reasonable amounts. Ration evaluation should be conducted periodically. Fortunately, the widespread use of commercial rations has greatly decreased the incidence of simple nutrient deficiencies. Nutrients of particular concern when evaluating rations include energy, protein, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iodine, selenium, and vitamins A and E.

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