Wheat is an excellent cool-season annual grass that can be used for winter grazing. It is not a typical horse pasture species, but as with other cereal grains such as rye, barley, and oats, these forage species can be planted on an annual basis to help extend the grazing period. As with all forage crops, a major requirement for effective use of grazing wheat for horses is proper management. Potential extended periods of grazing are in late fall, early winter, and early spring when the primary forage species are dormant. In return, this could result in a 12-month grazing program if pastures are managed intensively. Wheat and other cereal grains are more cold-weather tolerant and can therefore survive and grow in colder temperatures. They can be planted as a single stand or can be overseeded into an established pasture. Horses grazing cereal grains can be more prone to colic, laminitis, and founder, so it is important to limit their exposure, and the horse(s) must be monitored closely. In addition, if this species is planted as a single plot or pasture, horses should not be turned out when the soil is wet. If they are turned out when it is wet, there is high potential for them to tear up the pasture very easily because no sod is formed. So with proper management of both the crop and the horses, wheat can be an effective part of a grazing program for horses.
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This work is supported in part by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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