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Have the lads from the polo club been a bit underwhelmed with your pony’s performance over the last few weekends at the estate? Did your nag not quite get the job done at last year’s Melbourne Cup?

If you want your horses to be the best, you need to have them ingesting the best. If you’re sticking them out in the weedy paddock you’re going to end up with weedy animals. Investing in a good pasture is in the best interests of both you and your horses.

Let’s have a little look at Katambora Rhodes.

History

Rhodes grass originated on the sweeping plains of Africa. Australian soldiers in the Boer war couldn’t help but notice the steeds were absolutely loving the wild grasses that stretched across South Africa. They took back samples and found that conditions in Australia were almost custom built to allow the grass to thrive.

The earliest strains were suited to particularly tropical conditions – great for the far north of Australia, but not ideal for the more temperate regions of the country where temperatures regularly drop below the 20C mark at which classic Rhodes grass starts to struggle. Australian pastoralists were looking for a solution. Enter Katambora Rhodes.

Profile

Developed for the parts of Australia that had previously missed out on the benefits of Rhodes grass, Katambora brings a hardiness that standard ‘Callide’ Rhodes grass just doesn’t have. The ideal growing conditions for Katambora and Callide are actually exactly the same – temperatures ranging from 20-37C, rainfall of 600-1200mm annually – but the difference lies in how they hold up in unfamiliar conditions.

While Katambora grass planted in more temperate areas won’t exactly explode into life as it might in tropical conditions, it won’t fail like Callide might. It can hold its own in almost the entirety of Australia (save for Tasmania and parts of Victoria), due to a stiff tolerance to drought, salt and fleeting frosts. Katambora is so unfussy that it us able to continue to grow in climates with temperature variations of 5-50C.

The improved hardiness of Katambora is just another positive to add on top of those found in the already feature packed standard Callide Rhodes grass. Rhodes grasses share a few features which set them apart as the number 1 choice for Australian horse pastures.

Rhodes grasses have super deep root systems which can stretch down as far as 4.5m. This gives the grass access to lower water tables, meaning it can get through long dry spells far better than most other pastures. The roots and tall exposed blades (of 1-2m) also mean that periods of flooding that last up to 15 days can also be seen off. It needs to be remembered that this doesn’t extend to seasonal waterlogging, which will kill the plant.

Where Rhodes grass excels is as a horse feed, and this is for a couple of reasons. The grass’s make-up provides all the nutrients your stable should need, particularly in its calcium/oxalate levels (high calcium, low oxalate, allowing the horse to digest as much calcium as possible), giving your animals the best shot at being the healthiest they can be. The grass is usually used in grazing situations, but can be cut as hay or used as a deferred feed (but is unsuitable for silage).

Notes

There are a couple of things that you should be mindful of when using Katambora Rhodes as a horse pasture.

Firstly, you want to ensure the plant is well established before setting your animals on it to graze. The root system is deep and extensive, meaning the grass is highly tolerant to grazing when set, but if it isn’t allowed to anchor itself properly then it will be simply pulled out when grazed upon. A year is advised between sowing and grazing.

Secondly, the grass may be tolerant to tough conditions, but surviving through tough spells will affect the quality of the feed. Katambora Rhodes is at its best in its first few years, and while it will survive harsh conditions, things like high salinity and dry conditions will take their toll. Replanting after a few years may have your stable healthier than leaving an old grass grow.

No matter what your situation, if you’re hunting for the best grass option for your horse pasture, contact your nearest McKays seed specialist.