Increasing horse pasture productivity by integrating warm-season grasses into cool-season rotational grazing systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2017: $14,997.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Carey Williams
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. annual), grass (misc. perennial)
  • Animals: equine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, grazing - rotational

    Proposal abstract:

    Traditional cool-season grass pastures in temperate regions of the Northeast United States typically experience low productivity in summer months. This “summer slump” results in increased expense for horse operations associated with costly supplemental feed. Grazing strategies incorporating warm-season grasses, which produce high yields in hot summer months, into traditional systems have shown little economic advantage in cattle. Due to differences in nutritional management goals and drivers of enterprise profitability in equine operations, integrated systems may have greater utility for horse producers. However, little published research exists in grazing of warm-season grasses by horses. This project will investigate the potential for increased pasture productivity through implementation of integrated, sequentially-grazed cool and warm-season horse pasture systems. Three rotational grazing systems (1. traditional cool-season, 2. bermudagrass integrated into cool-season, and 3. crabgrass integrated into cool-season) will be evaluated under grazing by twelve adult Standardbred horses over a full grazing season. Productivity will be assessed by measuring forage yield and persistence of planted forage varieties. This project will also evaluate the effect of test forage (bermudagrass or crabgrass) and establishment method (interseeding or monoculture) on productivity, forage nutritive value, and horse body condition. Finally, this project will determine if this grazing strategy would provide an economic advantage to horse producers. Costs of establishing and maintaining pasture systems will be compared with supplemental feed expense. Results of this project will inform equine grazing management decisions with the goal of improving economic sustainability of horse operations in the Northeast US.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1. To determine if warm-season grasses will increase forage availability during summer months when compared to a traditional cool-season system.

    Objective 2. To determine the most productive and economically advantageous method of establishment (monoculture or interseeded) for the two warm-season test forages in horse pastures.

    Objective 3. To determine if sequential grazing in integrated cool- and warm-season pastures provides adequate nutrition to maintain optimal horse body condition.

    Objective 4. To determine if any advantage in production cost exists when integrating either a warm-season annual or perennial into a traditional cool-season horse grazing system.

    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 or SARE.