Teff Hay for Foundered Horses: A Good Fit?

In California, teff is being called the “perfect grass for foundered horses.” But is teff hay always safe for horses that are intolerant of high-sugar forage?
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Teff Hay for Foundered Horses: A Good Fit?
Teff has been touted as a safe choice for foundered horses. | Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/International Potash Institute

In California, teff is being called the “perfect grass for foundered horses.” But is teff hay always safe for horses that are intolerant of high-sugar forage? Teff grass (Eragrostis teff) is a new type of grass being introduced around the world for hay production. Originally from the highlands of Ethiopia, there are different varieties grown for grain or for hay.

Some varieties are perennial, but most farmers interested in growing teff hay are looking at using the short-lived annual varieties as a “catch” or “rescue” crop, which is something that can grow in a hurry and use up nutrients left over from a previous crop that failed. It’s especially useful to extend the life of a stand of alfalfa that may have been damaged by worms or winter-kill until it can be replanted later on in the season.

Being very shallow rooted, teff can take advantage of light rains and is very drought tolerant. Water it a lot, you get a lot of forage; water it less, you get less forage. Unfortunately the same shallow root system makes it too easy for horses to uproot, so it is not suitable for grazing. The seed is extremely small, requiring a special seeder, or it can be broadcast by airplane

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Written by:

Kathryn Watts, BS, is the director of research for Rocky Mountain Research and Consulting and a passionate forage researcher. Her web site is www.safergrass.org.

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