Warm season grasses, cool season grasses, and NSC values.
The most logical difference between cool and warm season grasses is the climate that they thrive in.
- One other difference of interest to horse owners might be the non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) values. NSC is the combined sugar, starch, and fructan levels of grass. More on NSC things here! Typically, cool-season grasses have higher NSC values. Warm-season grasses have no fructans, thus lowering the NSC.
Luscious, luscious salad. But do you know what’s in it?
- Cool season grasses, such as blue grass, orchard, canary, rye, fescue, and timothy do well in cooler climates. Think the northern portion of the US. Although, they might also do well in the southern US during the winter. Peak growing season is spring and fall.
- Along with higher NSC values, cool season grasses typically have more calories and are more delicious for horses.
- Warm season grasses love the heat and do well in drought conditions. Bahia, bermuda, and millet varieties are all warm season. Overall quality and tastiness of the grass is a bit less than a cool season grass, but the lower NSC values might make it more suitable for the metabolically challenged horse.
Many horses benefit from a muzzle…so they don’t get too many NSC’s…so they stay trim…and stay away from laminitis. This is the Greenguard Muzzle – great for houdini horses.
NSC values will fluctuate because of many factors:
- Time of day and temperature – After a cool night or in the afternoon sun, NSC values are higher.
- Sun and shade – sun stimulates photosynthesis, so sunny pastures have higher NSC values. Shade patches are lower.
- Soil – soil varies zip code to zip code!
- Drought – typically, drought stresses out a plant, which will make it hoard sugars, increasing the NSC values.
- Weeds – delicious weeds like dandelion and clover are much higher in NSC, and because of their taste, most horses eat them first. More on dandelions here!
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