Grazing and Frost

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Willow Flats

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I live in a warm climate but we do get the occasional frost. I had always heard not to let my horses graze when it has frosted (high sugar) so I don't turn them out on those days. But will have a morning freeze for the next 4 days. Does that mean no turnout at all? Will sugar still be high in late afternoon, early evening? I'm not sure how that works.
 

Kelly

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For me, there is no way I would turn colicy Thunder out on that, but he doesn’t get any pasture time anyways 🤣

My other two are pretty healthy so they get turnout everyday from 9-4pm, frost or no frost. Mine also get unlimited hay while out. Right now all of my grass is dead for winter, not beautiful and green like yours.

I have heard that too, but have never had any issues, wondering if I am just getting lucky?? I’ll be curious to see what everyone else does.
 

Taz

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I've heard that about frost but completely ignore it. If I didn't they wouldn't get out much spring/fall here in Canada. 😂
The sugar content is always lower in the mornings when it's been used up overnight so if you're only doing part time turn out that's the best time for it, night time turn out is the worst. I don't know if that applies to when it freezes at night too but it would make sense since the grass isn't dead there just cold. Then again maybe that would be considered stressed and it will hold onto the sugar instead of using it up overnight? Sorry, that doesn't help at all, maybe someone knows?????
 

Willow Flats

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Found this recommendation below from a department of education. Normally if we have a frost I don't turn them out that day, but I do on the next day. If nothing is growing in your area it probably doesn't matter as much, but we have lush green spring grass here and this is a hard freeze. My water spigot was frozen too which we don't normally get.

What I found:
Frost-damaged forages can contain higher sugar contents. This can lead to a higher risk of colic or founder for grazing horses. To help prevent these health issues, wait up to a week before turning horses back onto a pasture after a killing frost.

During the day, plants carry out the process of photosynthesis. In this process they make sugars as an energy source for the plant. A second process, respiration, is when the plants use up the sugar they produce for energy.

Plant respiration slows down when temperatures decline to near freezing. As a result, the plants hold their sugar overnight. Freezing can stop respiration and lock the sugar in the plant for over a week. Thus, plants tend to contain more sugar in colder temperatures or after a frost.
 

Abby P

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General rule is, sugars are highest in the afternoon of a sunny day, and when the temp goes below 40F overnight, or in times of stress such as drought. Worst is when the temps are low at night but warm enough during the day for the grass to be green and growing. Once the grass is brown and dead it's basically hay but this will only happen in places that get really cold for long periods of time. I recommend safergrass.org if you want to read all about it! But this is why a lot of horses have issues in the spring and fall more than in high summer. Of course for some horses, any grass is going to cause a problem, so you just have to know your horse and what they can tolerate.

When you wake at break of dawn,
Let your pony graze your lawn...

Not sure if that's still up on the safergrass site but it was a good one. :)
 

Silver City Heritage Farmstead

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^^^^^^^^^^
I agree with what this says. The majority of the time, dried up brown grasses aren't dead, they're dormant. During dormancy, they're not doing as much of what you and Abby P have described.

If your turnout areas are already greening up, then be cautious. Turn out your horses as early as is possible. Let them have their zoomies and graze for 1-2 hours, bring them in, and then a couple hours later give another 1-2 hours turnout. If they haven't been on "paddock restriction" anyway, you can do just one longer turn out time instead.

If the above isn't feasible because your not a stay-at-home horsie mom, turn them out early and bring them in before you leave for the day. Yes, it's extra work. However, it's a WHOLE lot better than dealing with a laminitic episode.

You're a sensible person and know your horses. Trust your instincts. The fact that you're asking means your gut is telling you to be cautious. Listen to it!
 

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