I love to watch animals select the grasses as they graze. The cattle, goats, sheep, and horses we have typically use unimproved pastures. We mow as needed, overseed occasionally, and control poisonous weeds. Other than that, grazing animals pick and choose what they want to eat. We add minerals and nutrient sources and this all seems to work pretty well.
Have you ever stopped to think about the amount of thought that goes into the selection of what the animals actually eat? Some things are potentially harmful, but apparently quite tasty. But the safer grasses and forbs eaten by horses acclimated to their pastures….I don’t know. I see a level of intelligence there.
So, my weird, strange, theory. We’ve moved our animals to a brand new climate in a state where very different things grow. Ruminants are much easier to put out on grasses because they just aren’t as susceptible to digestive disorders as horses are. Nevertheless, we brought an older cow from our previous state, who needed a companion anyway, so we bought a local heifer before turning them out on grass. It seems to have worked. I was hand grazing our cow before we bought the heifer and she selected different grasses than she does now. I believe she has benefitted from local knowledge that the heifer learned from her mother. They graze together and, although our older cow is in charge, she eats what the heifer eats.
Our horse, pony, and donkey are on dry lot right now. Their pasture won’t be ready until we replace some barbed wire. It’s also quite rich and they will have to be introduced slowly. In fact, the pony and donkey will only have access to a small area. The horse, however, I think could benefit once we are in the position to buy a local horse to show her what to eat. I was even thinking of finding a retiree to hang out with her.
What do you guys think? Horses have amazing senses of smell, but I think they might benefit from local knowledge. So many plants are related, but can have very different biological effects.