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Pasture Analysis: What the WHAT!?

Since Bonnie has been diagnosed with Insulin Resistance I have been obsessed with sugars. Sugars in the hay, sugars in the feed, sugars in the grass, sugars, sugars, sugars. I am so tired of trying to guess where the sugar triggers may be! But I did know that the pasture has a good chance of being high in sugar so I decided I better test it.

I took my first sample on June 24th at 7:30 in the morning after a fairly warm night.

While grass tends to be lower in sugar/starch during the summer, the situation changes as the night time temperatures drop below 40 degrees F, making it especially challenging (and dangerous!) to allow pasture grazing.  -Dr. Julie Getty ‘Testing Your Pasture – For Peace of Mind’

According to the research I’ve been doing my grass ‘should’ be lowest in sugar and starch early in the morning after a relatively warm-ish night. And yet my test came back high in sugar and starch. Sigh. I was so frustrated. It seemed that I wouldn’t be able to use my pasture at all for my ponies.

Trying to decipher the pasture analysis was very confusing. I followed Dr. Getty’s suggestions in her article, Testing Your Pasture – For Peace of Mind

She says you read the “Dry Matter” column for pasture. You need to know the NSC (Non-structural carbohydrates- this will not be on the report. It is calculated as WSC+Starch) and the ESC (Simple Sugars= ESC+Starch) levels. She says we want grass that has NSC below 12% and the ESC+Starch less than 10%.

My analysis shows the ESC is 11.5% and the NSC is 14.3%. Far too high for Bonnie, my IR pony, and too high for my other healthy ponies as well.


So I thought I would do another analysis in the afternoon. I waited for a very hot day that had a very cool night the night before. That turned out to be July 4th. It was nearly 100 degrees out that afternoon. I took the sample at 3:30 in the afternoon. The results surprised me!!


The NSC is 9.1% and should be below 12%. And the ESC is 6.5% and should be below 10%!! What the WHAT!? I feel like I’m in bizarro world. EVERYTHING I’ve read says this should not be. Everything. I don’t understand what is going on here, at my place, but everything seems to be backwards. So now my ponies can go out on pasture for a little while in the afternoon/early evening! I don’t let them out every day and I don’t leave them out for more than an hour and Bonnie wears her muzzle, but they do enjoy their time out!


So if anyone can explain what is going on around here I am open to an explanation! I am on a mission to learn and understand everything I can so I can help Bonnie and keep everyone else healthy and happy!

**A little update on Bonnie –> She can now go all afternoon without her boots on. She is starting to really grow some sole! Whoot whoot! She has also graduated to spending nights out on the track without her muzzle. She is so happy being out with everyone. I have a few adjustments to make with the track and my new hay shed and then she will stay out on the track 24/7. I’m so excited about how well she’s doing! I pray for her every day. I pray that she will continue to do well and will winter well. I’ve been running around trying to find low sugar/low starch hay, testing hay stacks here and hay stacks there! It’s definitely getting expensive, but I have to know what is going on with the hay and my pasture. I will know that I’ve done everything I could to help her be healthy. Now it’s up to her body to repair and rebuild.

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