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I just lost two babies this year. I think it we due to Fescue grass. One baby was large and still born. We just moved to Missouri from Nebraska. Can you tell me what to do about all my horses now on fescue grass? Thanks



I'd say you've probably guessed correctly as to the reason those two foals died. However, the problem isn't really with fescue, but with a fungus that often grows on it.

Fungus-infested fescue (the vets have a fancy name for it, but I can never remember it!) can cause a longer than normal pregnancy, resulting in the foal outgrowing the ability of the placenta to supply the foal's nutritional needs. That large, stillborn foal is a strong indicator that infected fescue was to blame. Other problems that can result from horses grazing on infected fescue include lameness, weight loss, fever, difficulties in delivering a foal, reduced milk production, and a shaggy coat.

Fescue problems seem to increase when temperatures climb above 75 degrees F., or following application of a high nitrogen fertilizer.

If you've read many of my Question and Answer pages, you may have noticed that I have a strong prejudice in favor of timothy pasture for horses. Unfortunately, timothy grows best in the northern territory where I Iive. It may not do too well in your part of Missouri. If I were you, I'd get some recommendations from the local agricultural extension office. The first suggestion they make will probably be to eradicate the fescue in your pasture. You may be able to just replace it with a specially innoculated strain of fescue. Some of the other grasses that may work are certain varieties of red top, bluegrass, orchard grass, or Bermuda grass -- possibly mixed with some white clover. Since I don't know your area, you'd best check with the local experts. Who knows, maybe timothy does very well in your area!

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