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Discussion on Properly Hayed Sudan Grass

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Patricia L. Cannon
New Member
Username: kibsy

Post Number: 1
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Saturday, Feb 17, 2007 - 12:06 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I have received a load of beautiful, sudan grass. I usually feed alfalfa/meadow grass hay, but the gophers moved into that field and now the alfalfa/grass hay is too dusty for the horses. Anyhow, the sudan grass was hayed last summer and is green and soft and smells sweet. I have read many conflicting views from different websites about feeding Sudan Grass safely to horses. If it is properly hayed and allowed to set for several months prior to feeding is there a REAL risk? Thanks!
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 17799
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Sunday, Feb 18, 2007 - 11:06 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Welcome Patricia,
Sudangrass is in the family of sorgums along with johnsongrass and are associated with both nitrate (primarily in ruminants do to rumen conversion to nitrite) and cyanide (where prussic acid is converted on damage to the plant) poisoning. Both acute and chronic cyanide poisoning have occurred in horses but nitrate poisoning is much less likely.

Whether or not your hay is safe is actually quite a complicated question that is effected by the
1) Variety of sudangrass used, as some only produce low levels of cyanide.
2) Was the pasture fertilized and if so how much and when. This determines the nitrate levels.
3) The conditions under which the grass was hayed. Stress and damage to the plant will raise levels of both toxins.

When doubt about safety persist you should have the hay tested for levels of nitrate and cyanide.
DrO
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Patricia L. Cannon
New Member
Username: kibsy

Post Number: 3
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Sunday, Feb 18, 2007 - 12:43 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thanks, Dr. O:
The sudan grass that I received was from my father-in-law (Incidently, he is a well-respected large animal veterinarian). It is off an irrigated field and was not drought or frost damaged, however, I am quite sure that it has been well fertilized. He has been feeding it to his beef cattle mixed with alfalfa for several months with no sign of distress.
I would like to have the hay tested though, if only to reassure myself....I am always a bit neurotic when I am forced to change feed for my horses. Can you suggest an analytical laboratory or two for me to contact.

Also have you had any experience with horses becoming constipated on this hay? I read about that possibility on the internet and wasn't sure if I should give it any credence.
Thanks again!
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 17807
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Monday, Feb 19, 2007 - 6:18 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Does he plant a variety known for low prussic acid production?

I don't know who your local laboratory would be but your veterinarian or extension service should be able to refer you.
DrO
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