Dr. Tania Cubitt and Katy Starr interview Penn State Equine Extension Educator, Laura Kenny about how to know if your pasture is adequate, if improvements need to be made, or if it’s a total loss that needs to start over through pasture evaluation techniques.
Laura also shares some tips on how to get the most out of a pasture to benefit the horse and the environment. Laura and Dr. Cubitt talk about why horse owners should determine their goals with their horses before reseeding or improving pastures, and finding a good balance between what is good for the pasture and soil but what is also needed for specific horses, particularly ones struggling with metabolic disorders.
They also discuss foxtail, including what it is, how to identify it and differentiate it from timothy grass, and how to get rid of it.
Have any topics you want to hear more about? Let us know at email@example.com.
Penn State Extension Equine Team Resources –
- ~21:56 – Horse Pasture Evaluation: The First Step for Improvement
- ~30:59 – Pasture Evaluation Table
- ~49:44 – Common Equine Pasture Forages
- ~50:12 – “Weeds of the Northeast” by Richard Uva, Joseph Neal, and Joseph DiTomaso
- ~ 51:36 – How to Tell Foxtail from Timothy and Control It
Connect with Laura and Penn State Extension on Facebook and their website –
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Katy Starr (00:00:01):
Hi, I'm Katy.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:00:02):
And I'm Dr. Cubitt. We're going Beyond the Barn. Come join us on this journey as we bust equine and livestock nutrition myths and interview some of the most intriguing experts in the country.
Katy Starr (00:00:15):
We'll go behind the scenes of how premium western quality forage is grown and brought to your favorite farm and ranch retail store. We're so glad you're here.
Katy Starr (00:00:26):
Welcome back to another episode of Beyond the Barn. Our next guest received her bachelor's degree in animal science with an equine focus and her master's in plant biology from Rutgers University. Her graduate work studied the effects of rotation and continuous grazing of horses. She worked in extension at Rutgers for seven years before joining Penn State in 2016, where she now calls home as an equine extension educator. We are excited to have Laura Kenny on the Beyond the Barn podcast. Thanks for joining Dr. Cubitt and I today, Laura. We're so excited to have you here with us!
Laura Kenny (00:01:04):
Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Katy Starr (00:01:07):
Yes, and Dr. Cubitt, it's also great to have you joining us today as well.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:01:12):
Oh I am loving today cause I get to sit back and listen to Laura. This is fantastic.
Katy Starr (00:01:17):
You're going to have a nice little break.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:01:19):
Katy Starr (00:01:21):
Okay. Before we get started on our questions, I do want to let our listeners know that any of the topics we cover on the Beyond the Barn podcast, they are more generalized and not specific to any individual horse or any specific situation. Be sure to always work with your veterinarian and nutritionist before making any drastic changes to your horse's feed program. Or you can reach out to talk directly with Dr. Cubitt or Dr. Duren on any specifics that you would like to know. So Laura, as we get started on your episode today, we would love to get to know you a little bit as well and your background. So can you share with us when did you get your first start and interest with horses and how has that evolved over the years?
Laura Kenny (00:02:05):
Oh yeah, of course. So I was your typical horse crazy kid. I started taking lessons around eight years old and just kept up with it and you know, I became the barn rat volunteering to help with lessons and then I started working at the barn and teaching lessons. And so, you know, I was just your average horse, crazy kid. I knew I wanted to work with horses in some way but not, didn't necessarily wanna be a vet or a trainer or a barn manager. So I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with myself. When I went to college, I actually started out at a different school for one semester, didn't work out, so I transferred back home to Rutgers and I had to pick a major there and I saw equine science and went, yep, that's it.
Katy Starr (00:02:53):
Laura Kenny (00:02:54):
So yeah, I kept up with all the, there were so many horse activities at Rutgers, so you know, I did the riding club and internships and other clubs and research with the horses there and that just sort of put me on the path that I'm on today.
Katy Starr (00:03:08):
That's awesome. What discipline were you more privy to when you were growing up and everything?
Laura Kenny (00:03:14):
I did hunter jumpers.
Katy Starr (00:03:15):
Okay, that's awesome. So how has your higher education experience in both the equine field and plant field helped you pave the path for improving the health and well-being of horses? Because I always find that fascinating. I love getting to talk to people who have that experience and background with horses, but then also, you know, pasture management and you know, plant growth and all of that because it's so important, you know, putting the two together. What value have you found in having an education in both areas?
Laura Kenny (00:03:51):
Yeah, I found it put me in a really unique position to be able to effectively work with horse farm owners to help them with their pastures and help them understand how pastures should be managed. There are a lot of really excellent agronomy educators and extension, and you know, all over that they know all the details, they know them better than I do and they can give absolutely great advice on managing a perfect pasture. But they don't always necessarily understand how a horse farm is different from a beef farm, you know, or a dairy farm. And the differences we have with our animals, you know, we have some horses that can't graze, or they get too fat on nice pastures. If we want to do rotational grazing, we can't necessarily put all the horses in the same group and rotate through the whole farm. They don't always get along. So I've found having that horse background has been really, really useful. And in fact it's even put me in a position where I can educate some of my fellow educators, conservation field staff that have never worked with horse farms before and help them feel more comfortable understanding, you know, what the priorities are on a horse farm compared to your traditional, you know, beef operation.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:05:02):
I need to interject because I'm, as we are doing this, I'm stalking your LinkedIn and one thing from way back in the day, you were an intern at the Virginia Tech Sport Horse breeding program. Was that in Middleburg or Blacksburg?
Laura Kenny (00:05:17):
That was in Blacksburg.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:05:18):
Ah. So Virginia Tech is obviously my alma mater where I did my master's and PhD and we ran an internship program at the Mare Center, which was in Middleburg. But, you can find out so much about people on the internet
Laura Kenny (00:05:32):
That's right. And I did have a college friend who did the internship at the Mare Center that same year.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:05:37):
Yeah. And who was your major professor at Rutgers?
Laura Kenny (00:05:40):
It was Dr. Carey Williams.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:05:42):
So Carey was my mentor when I first moved to America. She was doing her PhD and kind of showed me the ropes and introduced me to people at her barn that I went on to have lifelong friendships with. But anyway, the world is small, but I would certainly echo what Laura said about horse owners are a different breed. And I have done conservation talks as well. I'm a board member for our local Piedmont Environmental Council group. And teaching them about horse owner conservation, horse owners mentality when it comes to conservation is completely different. And just owning horses is different to owning cows. I mean I own cows now and it's dollars and cents. Horse owners, it's emotional as well.
Katy Starr (00:06:32):
Production is a whole different aspect. Yeah.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:06:35):
It's also about like when I'm talking to a horse owner, there's so many different ways to get from point A to point B and most of them also have external jobs outside of the farm that help them fund this. So it's not just working on the farm. And so when we talk about practices that we want to implement, it's not just about what they can financially cost, but what about their time budget or their, you know, all of, there's so many other things that a lot of other extension agents don't have to factor in when talking about broilers or pigs or cows.
Laura Kenny (00:07:11):
Katy Starr (00:07:12):
Yeah, that's interesting. So you talked a little bit about getting, you know, transferring over to Rutgers and getting interested in your equine science and everything. So tell us a little bit about your time there and what kind of clicked for you that you then wanted to pursue your master's in more of the, I guess the field side and pasture grass management and things like that.
Laura Kenny (00:07:37):
Yeah, so when I graduated Rutgers, I had this degree in animal science with an equine focus and I went to Dr. Carey Williams and I said, I don't want to be a vet. What do I do with this degree
, I have no idea what I want to do. And so she asked, have you ever heard of extension? And I had not, I feel like most people in the horse industry have not heard of extension. So she invited me to an extension program that she was speaking at, I don't know, a couple weeks later. And so I went down there and I watched her give a presentation on nutrition probably. And I met that county agent there who happened to be hiring for a job. So that was actually my first job out of school. I was doing crop insurance education in an extension office in South Jersey.
Laura Kenny (00:08:23):
Very strange, completely unrelated
. But it gave me some great experience doing extension work, you know, planning events, doing programs. And I did get to do a little bit of horse related work at that job. I was able to get a little tiny grant to put on a equine risk management program, get some speakers to come in. But a couple years later, Dr. Williams at Rutgers had a position come open back up at the main campus for a program assistant for herself. So I got that job, I went back up to the main campus and there was a lot of pasture research going on at that time. So we decided that I could work full-time and also do my graduate degree at the same time. And this whole thing was born .
Katy Starr (00:09:06):
That's awesome. And so you really kind of found a love there for extension that you didn't even know existed.
Laura Kenny (00:09:14):
Yeah. Extension is a really cool field. It's a fun position, it's a fun branch of the university and we get to help people every day.
Katy Starr (00:09:22):
That's awesome. So then what took you from Rutgers to Penn State in that transition there? Why are you where you're at now?
Laura Kenny (00:09:31):
Yeah. So when I finished my graduate degree at Rutgers, we were kind of running low on funding and it was time to look for a job once I got that degree. And somehow at the exact same time this position opened up at Penn State that was for an equine natural resources educator. And it felt like it was written for me. It was exactly my background and I applied for it. There was some budget crisis going on in Pennsylvania at the time and it took about seven months for them to reach out and schedule the interview, but I got the job and I've been here ever since.
Katy Starr (00:10:06):
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:10:06):
Hearing this story, I'm remembering my conversations with Carey at the time and why she was so excited about Laura was often we have graduate students that have just no concept of the real world and what's going on, but because you had worked in extension and also as a horse owner, knew some of the challenges that we didn't have information here, here and here and horse owners needed this and so this is what we should do. This is practical research that we should do that will directly relate to the consumer. And yes, all the story is all coming back to me now. So people were excited about Laura at the time,
, I'm sure they still are. . It's very rare that a student comes along. I know a few other people that have kind of started their career and then gone back and done a little bit more education and those people really have their finger on the pulse as to what the end user needs.
Laura Kenny (00:11:07):
Yeah. It was a really neat experience and I'm very grateful for it.
Katy Starr (00:11:10):
That's awesome. And it led to you to where you are today
. And you also have a special connection with one of the horses that you worked with during your graduate research. So tell us more about Frankie and what that's all about.
Laura Kenny (00:11:26):
Yeah, so Frankie was one of the first horses that I met when I started at Rutgers as an undergrad. So she was five years old and I was just starting out as a freshman and we had the opportunity to help with some of the research projects that were going on at the time in the treadmill lab at this time. So Frankie was one of the research horses and Dr. Williams was doing nutrition research and equine exercise physiology research. So she was just one of the horses that we worked with and ran them on the treadmill. They did nutrition studies, you know, palatability studies, all sorts of cool stuff. And she was definitely one of the more difficult horses, but I'll put an asterisk there because difficult for a Standardbred
, there's such great horses. So you know, even a horse that's difficult for a Standardbred is not so bad.
Laura Kenny (00:12:15):
But people either loved Frankie or didn't like her very much at all. So I knew her forever. She was one of my research horses in my graduate research years and years later. And that was a lot easier for an older horse. She just got to eat all the time. And so when the pandemic started, a lot of research couldn't be done. A lot of research funding dried up. I was over here at in Pennsylvania and Dr. Williams had to find homes for about half of her research horses, just the money had dried up and they needed to find second homes. And I reached out and I told her, hey, if you have a hard time finding a home for any one of these horses, let me know. I feel like I owe them. You know, they literally got me where I am today. So of course Frankie was the one that she had a hard time finding an appropriate home for.
Katy Starr (00:12:59):
Nobody else wants Frankie.
Laura Kenny (00:13:02):
Yep. So I took her and she had never been ridden before, but I was like, you know, she was 20 when I took her. So we're not going to the Olympics or anything, but she was in great shape, vibrant, you know, wanted a job. So we taught her how to ride and now we do some really light walk trot work.
Katy Starr (00:13:23):
At 20 years old you taught her how to ride. Frankie, good job.
Laura Kenny (00:13:29):
She likes it. She's really smart. She just picked it up like, no problem.
Katy Starr (00:13:33):
That's a really cool story. I mean, oftentimes when, I mean I guess it's, unless you have like wild horses and stuff like that, I mean people have horses that usually, at by two years old, you know, they're getting ready to do all that stuff and so that's pretty cool.
Laura Kenny (00:13:50):
Yeah, she'd done a little bit of race training, but I don't think she ever actually raced as a Standardbred.
Katy Starr (00:13:54):
Okay. You've obviously talked a little bit about extension, but for those who maybe I grew up with extension 4-H and all of that, so I was very familiar with it. But for those that maybe aren't familiar with it, can you share a little bit more about what Cooperative Extension is and what you guys do? And because you guys have a lot of, also there's a lot of different areas and branches of extension, like even beyond like agriculture and everything too.
Laura Kenny (00:14:22):
Yeah, absolutely. I'm really glad you asked that question because I feel like in our industry, people don't think of extension as a resource, a source of information that they can go to. But we definitely are. So extension is a branch of every land grant institution in each state. So each state is going to have one or more colleges that's considered a land grant institution and has a cooperative extension program. And so what we do is we provide non-credit education to the general public. So it's separate from the undergrad degrees and the graduate degrees. So 4-H is the youth component of extension. Most people are familiar with 4-H, but we also have an adult component as well. And as you mentioned, we run the gamut of all sorts of different topics from agriculture, you know, animal science, livestock, horticulture, home gardening, and then even on the family and consumer science side, you know, home canning, there's a science to that, diets, food safety, food quality.
Laura Kenny (00:15:22):
So there's so much information that extension can provide and it's all science-based, research-based, non-biased information. So some states have a bigger equine extension program than others. So obviously I'm in Pennsylvania, we have a pretty strong program, but every county in each state should have an extension office which would house an extension agent and they might be like kind of a specialist like me. They might be more of a jack of all trades so that all of the different producers would come to that one person and then they would find the answers for whatever they need. So that's why we would call it cooperative extension. We have to work closely together.
Katy Starr (00:16:02):
I do feel like also it's very underutilized resource that, that people do not always realize about. I think ever since I graduated and in the careers I've been in, I have worked with, like in partnership, you know, with extension everywhere that I've been and the tools and resources that you guys have available for teaching people, it's so valuable and I have benefited from it very much and I hope others realize that, that they can, you know, reach out to their neighboring extension to get questions answered that they may not know. Especially like when it comes to what we're going to talk about today with you know, pasture management and evaluation and all of that kind of stuff. Sometimes, I mean you’ve got to learn it somewhere, especially if you didn't go to school for it and everything. So it's a great resource for sure.
Laura Kenny (00:16:53):
Katy Starr (00:16:54):
So as we get into our topic today, what are the benefits of good pasture? You know, making sure that our pasture is good for our horses.
Laura Kenny (00:17:04):
Right. So there's a lot of different benefits. Some of them will kind of vary farm by farm, you know, for the horses, a high-quality pasture is an excellent source of nutrition. It has lots of energy and protein and and calories. So for some horses that's a good thing. You know, your horse is in heavy work, you're reproducing horses. But if you've got a herd of easy keeping ponies, maybe that's a little bit less of a pro. But for those horses that you know can get a good amount of their nutrition from pasture, a pasture can provide all of the energy that a horse at maintenance or even in light work needs, you know, maybe with a vitamin mineral supplement so you can really get a lot of feed value out of a high-quality, well-managed pasture. It also helps from a horse health perspective, you know, when they're out on pasture, they can eat like they were intended to.
Laura Kenny (00:17:56):
They can have small frequent meals all the time rather than, you know, one big breakfast and one big dinner. Right. So that's great for their digestive system. Keeps them moving, they're always moving as they're grazing. So that's good for their gut, it's good for their joints and their legs. And then you know, all of the benefits that come with turnout, whether it's on a dry lot or a pasture, you know, that social interaction, respiratory health. But the key I think is that having a healthy pasture is also really good for the environment. And so there's a lot of different ways basically keeping cover over our soil with grasses and legumes and you know, whatever else we have in our pasture helps to reduce erosion. So erosion is when we lose our top soil and our top soil is the most valuable soil on our farm.
Laura Kenny (00:18:42):
It's the most fertile soil, we want to keep that. But if we have a big rain event and there's no cover over our soil, it's really easy for that top soil to just wash away. So we want to make sure we keep a good cover over that soil. It can also help to slow down the flow of water. So if you've got a storm event and there's storm water running off your field, that storm water will bring the sediment with it or the soil with it. It can bring nutrients with it from the horse's manure and it can deposit it into surface water. So if you have a stream on your farm or a pond, even if it's not on your farm, it could just be down slope from your farm. We could be putting pollutants like nutrients and sediments into those surface water. So having a nice thick stand of grass and other forage plants helps to slow that flow of water. It helps to encourage the water to infiltrate down into the soil rather than running over the ground and a healthy soil with lots of roots in it and lots of microbes can actually filter water as it travels through the soil and down to the groundwater. So it's really, really healthy for our environment to make sure we have good cover over our farms.
Katy Starr (00:19:56):
So there's a lot of value that comes with having healthy pastures for sure. For obviously our animals. And then just being able to even look out in your, you know, out your window and just how nice it is to keep it nice like that and yeah. That's amazing.
Laura Kenny (00:20:14):
Yeah, aesthetics is a very big deal for some farms more than others. But you know, if you're running a commercial operation it might be really important for your farm to look really nice. Helps with neighbor relations.
Katy Starr (00:20:24):
Especially with horse farm, more certain horse farms other than like other livestock situations and stuff. So how do you know if your pasture needs improvement or if it is in good shape as it is?
Laura Kenny (00:20:38):
Yeah, so that really brings us into our pasture evaluation topic. And I think the biggest thing is getting out into your pasture and looking down at what's at your feet rather than, you know, just giving it a nice drive by and looking through the window as you're driving down the lane and you're like, okay, yeah it's green, it's fine. But when you actually walk out there and look down at what's at your feet, you can see, well it's green but a lot of this green is actually weeds and my horses aren't eating it. So we could get more nutritional value out of this if we fixed it up a little bit. So there's a number of different methods you can use to evaluate pastures to get actual quantitative numerical data or you know, you can just go out and look around and sort of get a feel for what's out there.
Katy Starr (00:21:25):
Just like walking through your fields and I guess traipsing through them I guess in a sense where you can, I don't know if that's the right term for it. So you could actually see, like you said, driving by, I mean you can, you don't get to see what you're actually seeing like that's in the soil. So talk to us then about one of the first methods that you do is called the equine pasture evaluation disc method, EPED right? So talk to us a little bit about that and how that works.
Laura Kenny (00:21:56):
Yeah, so this is a really fun method. It was actually developed by a former Penn State educator, Donna Foulk, who was out playing Frisbee with her dog one day and the Frisbee fell on a weed that she'd never seen before and she was like, huh, this might be an interesting way to like randomly get some data points in our pasture. So what we do with this method is we take a plastic disc, any plastic disc will do, you take a marker and you make an arrow on the edge of the disc just anywhere on the edge of the disc and you'll walk sort of a zigzag or a “W” pattern throughout your pasture and just toss the disc as you go. So when the disc lands, you look for your arrow and whatever plant is directly underneath that arrow, you're going to record as a data point and you'll toss it a minimum of 20 times throughout the pasture and at the end you can calculate, you know, what percent of the pasture was desirable grasses and what percent was weeds. And it actually gives you numbers that you can look at and make decisions based on this data that you collected.
Katy Starr (00:23:02):
Awesome. And you could like literally you could just get like go buy a frisbee at the store and use that. And we will also put, we're going to share some links from Laura in the show notes because visuals are always great. I love podcasts but sometimes it's hard when you're trying to visualize something so that way, cause I know that you guys have some videos that you have shared walking through how to do this and everything so you can kind of visually see what's going on with that.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:23:30):
That will be super helpful cause you know we've always talked about, I always talk about when we're evaluating pastures at least 70% coverage of actual plants, but it's hard for people to wander out there and you know, everybody thinks their pasture may be great, and so this is actually a easy, don't have to buy anything way to assess that 70-30 thing.
Laura Kenny (00:23:56):
Very easy. Unless it's a windy day then it's not so easy.
Katy Starr (00:24:00):
Don't do it on a windy day
. So then another method that you guys use is called the step point method. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Laura Kenny (00:24:10):
Sure. The step point method is very similar, but instead of a plastic disc you're going to use one of those like landscape or contractor flags. So they have either a plastic or a metal pin with a little plastic flag on the end. And so what I do with this method is same thing, I do a zigzag or a “W” shape throughout the pasture and every certain number of steps, maybe every 25 steps, I'm going to stop, I'm going to step with my heel down and my toe up and I slide this pin down the toe of my boot and I identify the first plant that the pin touches. And so it's just a different way to give us a single point that we're going to identify for that pasture. And then, you know, same thing, you write down what you find, you do at least 20 data points and do your calculations from there.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:25:02):
I think the key to point out is the “W” and that in doing the “W” you're really trying to get a representative sample of the whole field. So it's not just a right pokey little w at the gate or around the run shed. The idea is that you try to cover, touch, you know, a little section of all of the field. So I'm sure it'll be in your pictures, but I think that's important to point out that it's not a weak "W” this is a strong “W.”
Laura Kenny (00:25:32):
Yeah, that's a really good point. We're trying to get an estimate of the entire field. You know, the only way to know your, your full pasture composition would be to count all of the grasses and all of the weeds out there, which no one's ever going to do. So we're just estimating. But it is meant to be a good representative sample and the point of the disc and the point of the pin is to make sure it's a random point that you're identifying. You're not just going out to the nicest part of the pasture and saying, oh yeah look there's a lot of grass here.
Katy Starr (00:26:01):
Well and I noticed from the video when you were throwing the disc and cause that arrow that you were talking about is drawn over the edge of the Frisbee going down and literally because I mean a frisbee is a a decent size item, right? And so you could easily, there's a lot that can happen in that size of that frisbee. So if you literally are looking for where it places down and that arrow, it really kind of segments that out into that one little spot there versus oh this whole spot, oh look there's grass there, where it could have been, you know, some kind of weed that was there or a bare spot. That's great. So you said a minimum of 20 representative samples. How do you determine, cause anybody listening today, there could be some out here that have maybe three or four acre pasture and there could be some out here that have, I mean obviously some of them are fenced off and everything, so if somebody has like a larger space, like maybe they have like a 20 acre, you know, pasture or something like that.
Katy Starr (00:27:14):
So when you say a minimum of 20 samples, I guess how would you judge that for the smaller acreage to a larger acreage and at what point do you need to do more samples?
Laura Kenny (00:27:24):
Yeah, I don't have any, you know, hard and fast rules on how many you need to take per acre. Statistically the more samples you take, the better your data will be no matter how big the pasture is. When I was doing this in grad school, we actually did a study comparing the EPED method, the step point method and then one other, the line intercept method, comparing those estimates to see how similar they were. And so I did 100 samples for each method in each pasture. And I think these were maybe four acre pastures. So you know the more scientific you want to get with it, the more samples you need. But absolutely as the pastures get bigger, probably more samples is better. And one thing you can do, you know, you don't necessarily have to have a specific number of samples in mind. You know, you can just sort of eyeball it and do your zigzags, do your “Ws” and as long as you have a minimum of 20 when you get to the end, you know you can use that. It's pretty easy to calculate a percentage after that.
Katy Starr (00:28:22):
And in your research that you did comparing the methods, did they all come out fairly similar? Were there differences?
Laura Kenny (00:28:29):
They were fairly similar. It was kind of difficult to, you know, make sense of the data because we couldn't necessarily say which was more accurate without harvesting all of the right grasses and identifying them. But we found that the disc and the step point tended to favor taller grasses. Right. Because we're identifying the first thing that touches the pin or the first thing that the disc kind of folds over. So that favored the taller grasses like your tall fescue and your orchard grass, while the Kentucky bluegrass that was a little shorter at the bottom might not have been counted quite as much. So like there were some slight differences, but overall they were pretty darn close, especially the step point and the EPED.
Katy Starr (00:29:13):
Interesting. Okay. So then would you recommend anybody that is going out to you know, do one of these methods? Is it more of just what your preference is, what you have available to you or what are your kind of recommendations on that?
Laura Kenny (00:29:26):
My preference doing, having done this, you know, 100 times every month for a couple almost a year, my preference was the step point method. I just found it easiest. As I said, the EPED method is tricky when you have a windy day because you can't necessarily even control which direction the disc goes in. You might want to leave your dogs in the house if you're going to do the EPED.
Katy Starr (00:29:49):
They're going to mess that up.
Laura Kenny (00:29:51):
Yeah. But otherwise it's really just a matter of personal preference, you know, just doing it is the first step towards getting some great data.
Katy Starr (00:29:58):
Right, and honestly it almost kind of sounds like with the the disc one, if it's something that's boring to you, go out there and have a little fun, like be a kid again. Throw a frisbee. That's fun. That's fun. Okay, so you briefly touched on this when you were talking about the methods, but I want to go a little bit more into the pasture evaluation table, which is kind of the form that you have to fill out, you know, your data points and everything. So you have your grass forage, your legume forage, weeds, plant litter, bare ground, organic matter and other. Can you briefly touch on what those are just so, I mean if anybody's like well-versed in this, they're going to know, but for those that maybe are kind of like, I've never really done much with my pasture and I'm kind of unfamiliar with this, how could they know the differences between these things?
Laura Kenny (00:30:56):
Yeah, sure. And as you mentioned, we do have a link to an article that has this table. So if you want to use any of these methods, you can just print it out and then instead of having to write down everything, you just put a check mark in whichever column your data point lands on. So grass forages would be pretty much any grass that you see out there. You know, we have desirable grasses like our Kentucky blue grass and our tall fescue and our orchardgrass. There's plenty of different grasses that are good for horses. You have to personally decide if you find something like crab grass or foxtail, you know it's still a grass, are you going to call it a weed or a grass forage, horses can still eat them. So that's sort of a personal preference. Legume forage would refer to things like clover and alfalfa.
Laura Kenny (00:31:41):
So those are typically the legumes that we're going to see out in our pastures. And so you probably know what those look like. They're easy enough to identify. Weeds would be anything you don't want growing in your pasture. Plant litter refers to any dead plant bits just lying on the ground, you know, maybe you just mowed and you've got some clippings sitting on the ground. Maybe it's the middle of summer and some of your plants have gone dormant and there's just yellow brown plant or grass leaves sitting on the ground. So that would be plant litter. Bare ground, pretty self-explanatory, right? Any soil. And then organic matter pretty much refers to manure,
sort of a polite way of putting manure. And then anything else, you know, if you land on like a halter or a bell boot that shouldn't be out there, you can just toss it again. Other might also be like a rock or a puddle. So it's up to you if you want to, if it's something that you think you would like to have data on, like how rocky is my field, maybe you would keep it in there and calculate that separately.
Katy Starr (00:32:44):
Excellent. So once we've done the process, you know, through to completion, a minimum of 20 times, like you mentioned, what does the data in the table present us with to determine a pasture evaluation? Cause you were talking about, you know, if it landed on some sort of grass forage that you have in your field, you make a check mark in that column, what happens then? You have those all checked off, what does the end of that table look like and what do you do to actually have the evaluation that you're looking at?
Laura Kenny (00:33:17):
So what you would do is you would add up all the check marks you have in each column and you'd calculate a percentage based on how many total samples you took. So now you'll have a number and it'll say okay, maybe I have 45% desirable grasses and 30% legumes and you know, so on throughout all the columns you can also take those numbers and you can sort of group them to give you some other useful information. So the first thing I would do is I would group desirable grasses and legumes as these are kind of our desirable forages all put together. So this is what our horses are going to be eating and getting some good nutrition from. So that gives you an idea of how much food is out there for your horse. And then the second thing I'll do is I'll take that number and I'll add weeds to it.
Laura Kenny (00:34:06):
So it'd be grass forage plus legume, forage plus weeds. And that gives us an idea of the total plant cover in that pasture. So we mentioned a little bit earlier how 70% total plant cover is considered a threshold for minimizing erosion and how we want to, you know, keep our topsoil in our fields and not let it erode and leave the farm. So that sort of gives you an idea. I mean even though our horses are not always going to eat the weeds, they're not that valuable. They do give us some value in terms of just keeping cover over the soil.
Katy Starr (00:34:42):
Excellent. So then 70% or above is a good number that you're looking at for evaluation, right? For canopy cover and then for your desirable forages, would that number be the same, 70% or above evaluating? From a perspective of like this is good, not necessarily from canopy standpoint, but from just the desirable forages that you know, your horses will actually be able to consume and provide value to them personally.
Laura Kenny (00:35:10):
Yeah. We do have some thresholds for what you might want to consider management-wise based on what your numbers say. So if you have 70% desirable forages or more, we would say you're doing a good job, you're doing a good job managing your pastures, you know, if you want to do some renovations or add some seed, you know you're welcome to, but you're, you're doing a pretty good job between 50 and 70% desirable forages. We would say, you know, adopt some new management practices, maybe think about reseeding, think about your soil fertility, maybe you need some lime and fertilizer, take some soil tests, maybe you need to mow more frequently to help control those weeds. So there's a number of different renovation practices we can do to help improve these pastures and get that number up a little bit higher.
Katy Starr (00:35:58):
Okay. And then below 50%, what do you do?
Laura Kenny (00:36:02):
So below 50% desirable forage means that more than half of your pasture is either bare ground or weeds. So usually in this case we feel it's not worth it to try to save the grass that's out there and we would do what we call a re-establishment of the pasture. So that just means destroy whatever's out there and start over, do a complete reseeding. So there's a couple different methods to do that. One of them would be to till over the soil and just sort of turn everything over, kill the grass that's there and plant into that. From an environmental standpoint, tillage is something we're trying to reduce as much as we can. It gives you a lot of bare ground, a lot of loose soil that can be eroded very easily. So we try to avoid tillage. It also, you know, you can only really do it on flatter land.
Laura Kenny (00:36:50):
So if you do it on a really heavy slope, really steep slope, you're going to lose a lot more soil. So this is all going to be dependent on each individual farm. The other option would be to use an herbicide to just kill everything that's out there. So that would be a non-selective herbicide and they shouldn't have any residual activity. So you could seed right into that pretty shortly after. And the herbicide will provide you that dead plant litter, which actually can act as a useful mulch. So that helps to keep some moisture in the soil. It helps to keep the soil cooler for those grass seed to germinate. So it's actually kind of helpful to have sort of that dead plant litter before you seed.
Katy Starr (00:37:34):
Yeah, that's excellent. And then let's say, and I don't know how the situation is in Pennsylvania and everything, but there are other areas of the country that struggle with drought and so in the summertime it can be really hard on pasture some it's like you really don't have a choice, you've basically lost all your pasture, depend, like some areas of California, things like that, Texas. But some that maybe like struggle with it a little bit. Do you, I'm assuming maybe extension probably their local extension probably has resources available for that. But do you have any thoughts on managing some of these pastures that are in some drought areas of things that they can do maybe to, efficient water use and things like that?
Laura Kenny (00:38:19):
Yeah, if you have an irrigation system, that's great. We don't really see that on horse pastures that much, at least where I am, maybe in other parts of the country more so making sure that you have grasses that are suited to your climate is an important one. So you know, or earlier I was talking about our desirable forages being Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue. Well that's for where I am. Those cool season grasses up here in Pennsylvania. So in the southern part of the country you might have different desirable grasses, so that's fine. So planting grasses that are well suited for your area. One big thing which everybody hates to hear is that during drought conditions the best thing you can do is keep your horses off the pastures cause that grazing, you know, nibbling away at what's left until they get down to the base of the plant and nibbling down into that really damages the plant and it can't recover until the rain comes back. So I know it's difficult for a lot of horse farms, but if you have like dry lots, sacrifice lots, that's a good place to keep horses until that rain comes back and the pastures can start to grow again.
Katy Starr (00:39:20):
Excellent. And then how often should we be doing a pasture evaluation and what time of year is most ideal?
Laura Kenny (00:39:30):
So our pastures can change a lot from season to season, especially if we do have some weeds. So you know, we've got winter annuals and summer annuals and perennial weeds and so your pasture is probably going to look quite different from season to season. So if you have the time, my recommendation would be to evaluate it once per season, right? So then you'll get a picture of what it looks like in the spring when those winter annual weeds are going crazy and looking happy in the summer when you might start to see some perennials popping up. And then in the fall when the perennials are going to flower and maybe starting to, you know, get big and bushy for the year. So you can compare those year to year, but I wouldn't necessarily compare a spring evaluation to a fall one.
Katy Starr (00:40:18):
Okay. So it's just best consistency wise I think with a lot of things, if you keep things consistent, just do it the same time of year, that way you can have comparisons and things like that.
Laura Kenny (00:40:29):
Yeah, absolutely. It's a great way to monitor how your pasture's doing over time too.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:40:33):
I want to throw out a question, I've been a little quiet, but one of the questions that I get often is I want to reseed my pasture. What is the best mix? And so there's, from my understanding, there's two answers here. You know, if you are looking at a grass mix that is going to withstand trampling and be the strongest, that may not necessarily be the best for my pony breeding operation where I've got a lot of fat, laminitic ponies. So they ask me often I talk about warm seasoned grasses and those native grasses being lower naturally in sugars and starches, but they're also clumping grasses that your horse will pull out and they don't really make for a great pasture stand in a small environment. They were great when horses were grazing the plains and wandering. I feel like there's got to be a happy medium. How do we blend the two? And maybe it's less about blending the two and more about just actual management of plants. For me something that's actively growing is actively using carbohydrate and sugar. And so that's one way. But can you touch on, are we in research or are extension agents recommending blends of pasture seeds or is it more, okay this grass will make a good, healthy, beautiful looking pasture, and yeah, if your horse has laminitis, it's never going to go out on it, you'll just have to mow it.
Laura Kenny (00:42:10):
So yeah, a lot of different things we touched on there. I think in general it's good agronomically to plant a blend, right? So you can make a custom blend based on your soil characteristics. So we know things like Timothy has sort of a shallow root system, so if you have really wet soil or really droughty soil, Timothy's probably not going to do so well there. So we have these characteristics of each of our cool season forages that I'm more familiar with. And so we can kind of come up with a blend that'll do well in your situation based on your soil type and you know what you've got going on that farm. And so planting a blend lets you take advantage of the benefits of each different grass in that blend. And so for instance, Kentucky Bluegrass doesn't like hot weather. It doesn't do so well in the summer; it tends to go dormant.
Laura Kenny (00:43:02):
So if you have a hot area and you've planted all Kentucky bluegrass, your pastures aren't going to look so good in the summer. But if you have it mixed with some tall fescue, which can do a lot better in the summer, then at least you know you'll have something green out there. So I'm a big fan of blends. I think it's important to plant a mix of different grasses. It's also good for the environment, for the soil to have a mixture of different plants out there. But again, as you mentioned, those are all improved pasture species and they're designed by the plant breeders to be high nutrition. You know, we don't really have breeders breeding forages for horses. They're mostly bred for beef cattle and you know, animals that we're trying to put a lot of weight on fast. So I know there's some really interesting research going on at a couple universities looking at warm season grasses as sort of a diet pasture for horses. As you said, they tend to have a slightly lower nutritional quality. Generally. And so they're looking at forage varieties of crabgrass for horses.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:44:11):
Laura Kenny (00:44:11):
Which always makes me laugh because everyone hates crabgrass, but it does, it can grow like two, three feet tall.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:44:17):
It has that really spreading ability. It's not your natural clumping because I'm here in Virginia so very much like your climate in Pennsylvania. And I actually just last week did an evaluation for a beautiful farm. She's got two retired horses that are her daughter's heart horses and one pony has suffered from laminitis and she's improved all the pastures and they're beautiful and green. And I'm saying, well maybe the pony can never actually go out on these pastures. So then, you know, it's terrible because I feel like we have to find that happy medium cause horses should be able to go outside. The exercise is great, but even with a grazing muscle on and sometimes, you know, it's just not practical. So I think that's a great area and I think it also points out why, you know, finding an extension agent or even our listeners in other parts of the country reaching out to you because being a pasture specialist does not mean that you're an equine specialist and bringing in that equine knowledge and asking the client before they're reseeding their fields, what do you do?
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:45:28):
What is the goal here? Because maybe the goal is a lot more sacrifice areas and some smaller pasture areas but teaching them how to do those sacrifice areas so that we're also getting, you know, the not the runoff and that kind of thing. So having horses is hard. It really is. I mean my cows, they just love life, eat grass all day long and then the horses next door, it's a whole different ballgame. It's a lot harder. But so anyway. Yeah, it's very challenging. I digress a lot. We could have 15 podcasts with you just talking about this because I mean it is a topic that a lot of listeners ask. It's a topic that a lot of my clients ask about and I don't have a great answer right now. You know, a beautiful pasture is not, looking-wise, is not always the best for your horse
Laura Kenny (00:46:17):
Yeah, I agree. I get that question a lot and it's very hard to answer. Or you know, what time, when is the best time to graze my horses? Oh, there's so many things that go into that question.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:46:28):
There so many things and that was struggle with this woman. And obviously, you know, at Virginia Tech that was a lot of the research that we did with Dr. Bridgett McIntosh. It was just a wee bit after Carey, she lucked out and did not have to be there, hour every hour taking those dang pasture samples. But you know, then it's, oh but I heard that after a frost, you shouldn't turn the horses out. So, you know, I usually recommend over wintertime you're probably fine. The horse, the grass is dormant as long as they're not, you know, trampling it down cause it's not growing. But in her mind, she read, oh, after a frost, I can't turn my horse out. So I was like, there's bits and pieces of information and this is any equine topic and it's so hard for people to kind of sift through it all and really work out what to do. And this is one, especially in our area where people actually do have pasture available. It's a challenge. Anyway, continue. I’m just sitting here listening.
Katy Starr (00:47:24):
No it's great. I love this conversation because I mean what you just said, right? That's why we often have our disclaimers that we put in when we do our, you know, educational Facebook Lives or any of these podcasts because it's so easy to take just one little nugget that you hear from something and apply it because you think that it's, I need to do this and this will fix this. But there's so much that goes into it and so that's why, you know, relying on our experts, right? So our veterinarian, our nutritionist, we have our Cooperative Extension that we can work with in a lot of areas as well. So being able to, you know, lean on these experts to help us for our specific situations is going to be so much more valuable to us. It's going to be more cost effective in the long run and it's going to be better for our animals and for us, it just makes a lot more sense than just, you know, driving yourself crazy, trying to find that missing puzzle piece that you're trying to fit in. And you can't get it to fit
by yourself. You don't have to do it by yourself.
Laura Kenny (00:48:25):
And that's definitely a great place where extension fits in. You know, our job is to take that research and make it applicable and make it understandable to everybody out there. And so, you know, one thing on this particular topic is that we are getting new research every month. You know, so this is a highly changing field. We're learning more all the time about this, you know, metabolic issues in horses. So that's definitely one place where extension can fit in and sort of translate that science into good recommendations.
Katy Starr (00:48:59):
Okay, so another question that I had was actually for those that are maybe trying to get their pastures figured out, but that's not really their forte, so they're not familiar with identifying different grass species and things like that. Do you guys, I know in other extension offices as well probably have resources and guides for like plant identification and just being able to help those people, like especially if they're going out there, they might be able to put, oh that looks like a grass, but I couldn't tell you if that was orchard grass or you know, for those that maybe don't know, what kind of resources do you guys have available for them to get some help with?
Laura Kenny (00:49:41):
Yeah, so that's a great question. On our Penn State extension website, we do have an article with some of the more common grass species that we would plant out in our pastures and their attributes that characteristics and also how to identify them. So we have some of those for some common cool season grasses. I'm certain that you can find something similar for warm season grasses. I can also recommend a book that I absolutely love. It got me through graduate school, it's called Weeds of the Northeast and it's by Richard Uva, Joseph Neal and Joseph de Tomaso. They just put out a second edition with a bunch more plants. It is a wonderful book. It has grasses in it as well. So a lot of our common weed grasses but also forage grasses. So it's great for helping to identify those kind of things. And if you, you know, when I'm doing an internet search, when I'm trying to teach myself something, I will often try to look at university websites first because I know they're credible. I know they're science-based. So one thing I'll do is I'll put in my search term and then I'll put “site:.edu” and so that will make sure that my Google search or whatever I'm using brings up university sites first. And so I do a lot of plant identification off of university sites.
Katy Starr (00:51:05):
That is a great tip. I love that. Okay. And I say speaking of, you know, weeds cause we're identifying grasses and weeds and stuff, I think a lot of people in their mind think of foxtail as a weed cause of how, you know, notorious it can be sometimes, but it is actually a grass as you mentioned. So tell us a little bit about how foxtail is with horses because it can, not be a bad thing, but it can be a bad thing. So tell us why.
Laura Kenny (00:51:36):
Right. So I see a lot of foxtail out in horse pastures around me before it goes to seed. It's just like any other grass. You wouldn't be able to tell it apart probably from most other grasses. And it's perfectly safe for horses at that point. What happens is it, it develops this seed head, it looks an awful lot like a timothy seed head at first. But the problem is each individual seed has what we call an awn. It's like a spike or a barb. So at the tip of each of these seeds, there's like a hair that's barbed and what it does is it can get lodged in our horse's gums, in their lips. It can affect dogs, it can get in between their little toes and sort of migrate through their flesh. And so it can cause some nasty lesions and infections if it really gets lodged in an animal's flesh. So that's what we're most worried about. Most of the time when I see horses that have issues with foxtail lesions in their mouth, it tends to come from their hay when everything is dried out. And I guess they're not as good at avoiding it. I don't hear, you know, when I'm out at a farm and their pasture's full of foxtail, I'll ask them if they're seeing any lesions in their horse's mouth and they say no. So I think they might avoid it a little better when it's in a pasture.
Katy Starr (00:52:55):
Well, and I'm wondering, and Dr. Cubitt, I don't know if you have any experience or knowledge on this end either, but I mean essentially the majority of that moisture is pulled from it when it is cut with hay and is dried out versus being in a pasture where it probably has some more moisture to it. So just that dry factor maybe influences that a little bit as well.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:53:16):
Yeah, and I think most times when horses eat weeds or things that they are going to be detrimental, it's usually in the hay because they're less selective in the hay in a field with other pasture species or grass species available, they'll usually select something else. So maybe they take one bite and ooh, that hurt and move on. But I get what you're saying, you know, when something's dried out it's harder and so maybe the barbs are worse in a hay too.
Katy Starr (00:53:43):
Laura, can you share some differences cause you talked about how it can be difficult to differentiate between foxtail and Timothy at maturity. Can you talk about the differences between the two that we can actually look for as early as possible so we will be able to maybe control it before it becomes worse, becomes a problem. Especially if, I mean some people do have pastures that you know, they cut, you know, they may not have them for grazing, but maybe they use that for their horse hay pastures that they cut later on. And so how can we differentiate between the two?
Laura Kenny (00:54:17):
Sure, yeah. There're three things we can look at on a grass plant to identify whether it's going to be Timothy or foxtail. So the first one is obviously the seed head, which as you mentioned sometimes is not present. So the seeds for Timothy don't have that little hair, that little awn. It has sort of a pointy end, but it does not have a hair. Foxtail will always have some sort of an awn on those seeds. There're three different types of foxtail. So giant foxtail will have a seed head that sort of droops over, and that's a pretty good sign that it's not Timothy, yellow and green foxtail might have that upright spike seed that looks a lot like Timothy. So you might have to look a little bit closer to see if it has those awns. The next place we can look is where the leaf meets the stem of the plant.
Laura Kenny (00:55:09):
So what you would do is you would hold the plant, the stem of the plant, and you'd pull the leaf away. So at the point where those two met, is called the collar region. Timothy is going to have a tall membrane that will stand up. It's right next to the stem. So as you pull the leaf away, you'll see that membrane sort of pull away from the stem. So Timothy has that. Foxtail on the other hand, in that same location, has a fringe of hairs. So you might need a magnifying glass if your vision is not as great. But with a pretty big mature plant, you can see these pretty easily. And you can find pictures of this online very easily. The last thing that I would look at would be the base of this stem. So where the stem meets the roots. So you'd actually have to pull up a plant to take a look at this.
Laura Kenny (00:55:59):
Timothy has a bulb like structure called a corm, and it would be right above where the roots come out. So it's sort of, it flares out. It looks like a bulb, almost like onion grass or something that you might pull up as well. And so Timothy has that, but foxtail does not. So those are the three main things that I would look for when trying to differentiate if something is Timothy or foxtail. And I will say, even if you are mowing your pasture pretty regularly, foxtail is great at adjusting to your mowing height. So if you consistently mow to like a four-inch height, you will see little seedheads that are less than four inches.
Katy Starr (00:56:37):
Wow, that's interesting.
Laura Kenny (00:56:37):
I've seen it in my lawn at home. They're like three inches tall.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:56:42):
Foxtail sounds like the pony of the grass world. It is so good at adjusting. Is it the same for cows? I'm selfishly asking that because I have cows.
Laura Kenny (00:56:54):
I think it is. I can't imagine why it would not affect their mouth, but it would do a horse.
Katy Starr (00:56:59):
Well, and like you said though, especially if you're noticing it more in hay and everything, because I can just think about all the cattle that we've had wherever we've had it in different locations, and we've literally never, we've had foxtail, but we've literally never had issues with foxtail in cattle's mouths.
Laura Kenny (00:57:17):
So maybe they're better at avoiding it.
Katy Starr (00:57:19):
They might be. I mean, if you think about how certain species are more particular in, in grazing certain types of plant species and things like that, I don't know though. Interesting. Okay. And then if we have foxtail in our pastures, what do we do? Especially because it is a grass. So you know, the control methods probably make that a little bit more challenging. How can we do that to make it, you know, control it effectively?
Laura Kenny (00:57:45):
Yeah, foxtail can be a real challenge to control. It's not something you're going to be able to spray once and call it done. So there're a couple of different methods we can use, depending on whether or not you're willing to use an herbicide. It's an annual grass, meaning it only comes back year after year if it's allowed to drop seeds. So we can take advantage of that fact and not allow it to drop seeds. So something like carefully timed mowing, as I mentioned before, if you mow regularly, it'll just set its seed head below the height of your mower. But if you let it grow tall, you let it start to make it seed. But it takes a while before that seed becomes viable. You know, at first, it'll be green and then it'll turn darker when it's more likely to fall to the ground and be a viable seed.
Laura Kenny (00:58:34):
So if you can cut it or mow it in between that seed head forming and it becoming a viable seed for next year, then you can break that cycle of dropping seeds year after year. Now that being said, there will be a considerable seed bank in the soil. So it'll take a couple of years of carefully timed mowing to reduce that seed bank and less and less we'll come back each year. There's a challenge there because it germinates over sort of a long period in the spring. So some will be going to seed and some won't be quite there yet. So the timing can be tricky. Another thing we can do is to fully renovate that field and just sort of kill everything that's out there and replant and hope that the desirable cool season grasses, again, I'm talking cool season climate, that those desirable, cool season grasses, which germinate a little bit earlier in the spring, will compete with those foxtail seedlings when they start to pop up.
Laura Kenny (00:59:35):
So those are our non-herbicide options. And then the herbicide option is actually a pre-emergent herbicide. So that means you're going to spray that herbicide on the area where, you know, foxtail is going to grow before it starts to sprout in the spring. So it has to be done pretty early in the spring. Typically in our area, we say it's when the forsythia starts blooming as an indicator of the soil moisture and it needs to have some rainfall to bring it down into the soil, into the root zone, and you know, activate it where those seeds are. So the herbicide is called pendimethalin. It has recently been approved as a pasture herbicide in Pennsylvania. So there's a couple of different brand names for it. But you absolutely have to make sure whenever you're using an herbicide, whether it's this one or something else, that it is labeled for pasture use in your state.
Laura Kenny (01:00:25):
And that can change state to state and that you are reading the label extremely carefully and following it to the letter because the label is the law. The other thing to know, if you read that label really carefully, it will say with this pendimethalin chemical, you have to wait 10 months before replanting grass seed. It will affect any grass seed that you plant in between then. So that maidens, you really have to be careful. You have to set up a schedule for when you're going to plant new seed, when you're going to spray this, and hope that it works out the next year. Typically, I would say replant in the fall. So again, northeastern climate up here, so late summer/fall, and hope that those grasses that you plant in the fall will thrive and do well in the spring. And then in the early spring we can spray that area where the foxtail has been coming up and that should prevent it from coming up that next year. And we can instead have a nice stand of grass that will shade out any new seedlings that try to come up.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (01:01:25):
I've quickly googled pendimethalin cause I've not heard of it. And I am constantly trying to look for my own fields cause I put clover down again for my cows. And now there's some broadleaf weeds that I would like to kill without just spot spraying, but I don't want to kill off all the clover. Does this kill clover? It says it protects crops like soybeans and peas. So I'm thinking it might be okay, but I don't know.
Laura Kenny (01:01:51):
I think it is okay. There are some separate restrictions for if you have a mixed stand of legumes and grasses. So it's all on the label. It'll tell you, you know, don't harvest for this long, wait this long before grazing. And it's not necessarily for an animal health issue, it's for, you know, how the legume reacts to it.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (01:02:13):
Katy Starr (01:02:17):
And so you said if you choose to go this route, obviously not the situation that you'd want to be winging it, you need to plan this out, kind of get your bearings figured out. If you were to go that route, is that something, and you figured out, you know, you know the areas where that foxtail grows within that 10 month period and then replanting and everything, could you potentially within that year get rid of majority of that foxtail then?
Katy Starr (01:02:44):
Or is that again, maybe it depends.
Laura Kenny (01:02:50):
Maybe. There will probably still be some in the soil, some seeds in the soil. They can survive, I want to say up to 30 years in the soil. So it might be a couple years of doing the same thing. So I would highly recommend, if you want to do this option, talk to your county extension agent and have them help you, you know, read through the label, make sure you're doing everything correctly, make sure it's labeled in your state. It has to be labeled for pastures and forage. Again, that means, you know it's okay with grazing animals. We can't use turf or lawn herbicides on pastures because they're not safe for grazing animals.
Katy Starr (01:03:25):
Excellent. That's good to make sure that we are aware of that. Okay, excellent. We have talked about so much today and I know Dr. Cubitt and I are excited to have you probably come back and join us again on some other topics, just a wealth of information. But Laura, can you give us maybe some of your key takeaways that you'd like to leave our listeners with on the topic of pasture evaluation and even, you know, foxtail and things that we've talked about today?
Laura Kenny (01:03:57):
Yeah, absolutely. So I'd say my first takeaway is learn what's in your pastures. You know, you might need to teach yourself, you might need to take a class on grass identification. Grass identification is hard, weed identification is a little bit easier. But learn what's in your pastures, learn what you have and then decide if that's what you want. You know, not every pasture needs to be a gorgeous, lush, thick, improved pasture. Again, our herd of ponies maybe don't need that. But remember that there are environmental benefits to having good pasture. So that overgrazed lot with one inch of, you know, super nibbled down forage isn't doing our waterways a whole lot of good. So we do want to try to maintain some cover out there. Some plants are better for more of a exercise lot situation versus a nutrition situation. So I guess my big takeaway is work with a professional, your extension agent, to figure out what's going on your farm and what works best in your area and have them help you, you know, take all the steps to improve your pasture if that's what you're interested in. Because there's so much to know. You can absolutely teach yourself if you want to take a lot of time and do a bunch of reading. There are textbooks on this, but you know, extension agents can often come out to your farm and do a site visit and help you figure out that schedule for your farm based on what you have there. So don't forget about that resource.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (01:05:28):
My local extension agent has come out several times to help me with soil testing and fertilizing and that kind of thing. Real quick, is there a, I know it's hard, I use a plant ID app all the time cause I'm into all my native species, but is there one that is good for helping our listeners ID grasses?
Laura Kenny (01:05:49):
So this is interesting.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (01:05:51):
Or are you making one?
Laura Kenny (01:05:53):
I do use plant identification apps sometimes when I'm on a farm and I just haven't seen something before. But my rule with plant ID apps is use them but then verify, because they're not always correct. So whatever it says, I'm going to Google it and see if it matches.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (01:06:10):
It just at least gives you the right direction, especially if you're completely new to pastures.
Laura Kenny (01:06:14):
Yes, yes. And you could say lookalikes for this plant if it's not quite right. But Dr. Krishona Martinson, I believe, it was at Minnesota, did a quick research project to see how accurate these plant identification apps were with different plants, and grasses was one of them. And she found that they really are not terribly accurate for grasses. Grasses are hard to identify. You know, even you look the same with a trained eye. So not that useful for grasses. You’d have to learn what the collar regions look like on all the different grasses to really do a good job.
Dr. Tania Cubitt (01:06:46):
That’s a shame. That may be as a project for you going down the road. But I would certainly reiterate something that Katy and I always talk about, whether we're talking about carbohydrates or performance or electrolytes, is that people really need to evaluate what their goals are. When we're talking today about pasture, when we are talking about feeding a horse with low carbohydrates or electrolytes or whatever, I think it's, you really have to have a real honest conversation with what are my goals, what do I want to get out of this? And that gives you a good starting point because you can go online and, oh, I should be doing this and this and this, and then you're like, none of this doesn't kind of meet my goals at all for what I'm doing. And you know, maybe you just don't have enough land for the amount of horses you have on your facility. So I like that you pointed out that there, there are different plant coverage, plant species based on what you want, whether you want it to be an exercise lot or you actually want horses to get nutrition from it. And both options are completely okay. Don't feel bad cause you're going with one or the other. You just have to work out what are your goals. So Perfect. I can't wait to have Laura back on.
Katy Starr (01:08:01):
Yes, no, it'll be great. And actually Laura, if you wouldn't mind, just so our listeners, if they'd like to stay connected with you and Penn State Extension, how would they do that?
Laura Kenny (01:08:11):
Yeah, absolutely. So we do have a Facebook page, which we are very active on. You can also go to our website, which is extension.psu.edu. And there's usually going to be a little pop-up that says, would you like to stay connected with us? And you can sign up for our email list there by filling it out and checking the horse topics. So we send out emails about programs that we are offering. We do a bi-monthly lunch and learn webinar that anyone can log in. You know, you don't have to be a Pennsylvania resident to enjoy those. And they're all recorded too. So we have a pretty good library of webinars and articles on our website too.
Katy Starr (01:08:53):
That's awesome. And we will link in our show notes to the Facebook page and website just so everybody can find that easy. So thank you, Laura. We sure appreciate you giving us your time today and hopefully we'll see you back here again.
Laura Kenny (01:09:07):
Yea, you're welcome and thanks for having me. This was really fun!
Katy Starr (01:09:16):
Thanks for listening to the Beyond the Barn podcast by Standlee Forage. We'd love for you to share our podcast with your favorite people and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite listening platform. Until next time, keep your cinch tight and don't forget to turn off the water.
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