The choice of pasture grass as a horse feed is an important one, directly affecting the health and happiness of your stable.
As a solution, you could do far worse than Rhodes grass (Chloris Gayana).
A native of Africa, Rhodes grass has spread throughout the tropical and subtropical parts of the globe and is particularly prevalent in the subcontinent and the Americas.
Australia first got introduced to Rhodes grass when it was brought back by soldiers returning from the Boer war in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century. Pastoralists soon worked out that it was ideally suited to balmy Australian conditions, and its use quickly spread throughout the rural community.
Rhodes grass is an annual or perennial grass, with a leafy blade coming from the stem that generally reaches 1-2m in height. The grass is very deep-rooted, able to get to depths of 4.5m. Rhodes grass is a high quality forage, particularly when it’s young, and is mostly utilised in grazing situations. While it can be cut as hay or used as a deferred feed, it’s unsuitable for silage.
The deep root system allows Rhodes grass the ability to withstand long dry spells of up to 6 months, and up to 15 days of flooding (although extended seasonal waterlogging will kill the plant).
The calcium levels and the low concentration of oxalates make Rhodes an ideal choice for a pasture that keeps your horses as healthy and happy as possible.
While the Rhodes grass of a century ago was suited solely to the tropical conditions of Northern Australia, Mckay’s now offer two types that, combined, can grow almost anywhere on the continent.
Callide Rhodes Grass
The more “classic” of the Rhodes varieties, Callide is a horse pasture suited to the warm Northern tropical climates of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.
Areas with highly fertile soil and high rainfall are ideal. 600-1200mm of rain per year and temperatures that stay between 20-37 degrees will result in optimal growth.
Katambora Rhodes Grass
While the ideal growing conditions aren’t much different to that of Callide (temperature of 20-37C, 600-1200mm of rainfall), Katambora brings to the table a far higher resistance to conditions found in the less tropical parts of Australia.
Frost tolerance, salt tolerance and drought tolerance are all up on that of Callide, with the ability to continue growing through temperature extremes from 5-50C. For heavily irrigated pastures, the salt tolerance is invaluable, as it can be cultivated without a problem.
On top of the pure Rhodes varieties, McKays also offers horse feed blends that can provide more flexible options for your pasture. For a hardy and nutritious blend that is suited to the more mild regions of Australia, tryMcKays’ Temperate Horse Pasture Blend, and for those looking for a different choice up North,McKays’ Tropical Horse Pasture Blend is worth a look for a beautiful, quickly replenishing grass.
For any advice on what horse feed is best for your situation, consult your local McKays seed specialist.