Forage Characteristics and Grazing Preference of Cover Crops in Equine Pasture Systems

Jessica L. Prigge, Craig C. Sheaffer, Jacob M Jungers, Aubrey L. Jaqueth, Hannah L. Lochner, Krishona L Martinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cover crops are commonly used to provide environmental benefits and can extend the grazing season, but have not been explored in horse pastures. The objectives of this research were to evaluate forage mass, forage nutrient composition, and preference of annual ryegrass, winter rye, berseem clover, purple top turnip, and daikon radish under horse grazing. Cover crops were seeded in monoculture and mixtures in August 2018 and 2019 as a randomized complete block with four replicates and grazed by four adult horses. Prior to grazing, forages were sampled to determine herbage and root mass and nutrient composition. After grazing, forages were visually assessed for the percentage of removal on a scale of 0 to 100% to estimate preference. Data was analyzed using an analysis of variance and linear regression; significance was set at P ≤.05. Berseem clover was the lowest producing forage (590 to 1,869 kg ha−1 dry matter; P ≤.001), while minimal differences in herbage mass were observed among the other cover crops. All forages met digestible energy (>2.17 Mcal kg−1) and crude protein (>19%) requirements for idle, adult horses. Berseem clover was most preferred (>73% removal) while turnip and radish were the least preferred (<19% removal; P ≤.001). Winter rye and annual ryegrass in monoculture and when seeded with berseem clover were moderately preferred (20%–68% removal). Placing a priority on preference, berseem clover, annual ryegrass, and winter rye appear to be suitable cover crops to extend the grazing season in horse pastures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103663
JournalJournal of Equine Veterinary Science
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Ethical Statement. Approval was granted by the University of Minnesota Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (1905-37032A).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Annual ryegrass
  • Berseem clover
  • Daikon radish
  • Purple top turnip
  • Winter rye

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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