Fescue is a form of hay fed to around 700,000 horses each year. It is not the most common fodder and has a reputation as poor fare, but much of this may be counteracted by early harvesting and keeping it clean.
The fescue family (Festuca) comprises around 300 species of tufted grass. Tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus), is grown as feed for animals like horses and cattle. In the U.S., around 35 million acres of land is dedicated to growing tall fescue.
Harvested too late, fescue hay can lose its nutritional value, especially the protein. According to Missouri University extension, fescue should be harvested early in the summer. Early harvesting also helps reduce fungal contamination.
One pound of fescue hay has 0.6 to 0.9 Mcal digestible energy, 40 to 48 percent digestible nutrients, 5 to 9 percent crude protein, 0.3 to 0.5 percent calcium and 0.2 to 0.35 percent phosphorus.
Fescue hay can be used to supplement grazing and also as hay to feed stabled animals. Cattle are also sometimes fed fescue straw (the stalks of harvested fescue).
Fescue poisoning is a result of a fungal infection (acremonium coenophialum). It can cause pregnant mares to miscarry, and otherwise weakens the foal. Poisoning can be counteracted to some extent by supplementation with legume hay like alfalfa.
- Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Kevin Dooley
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