Questions: Is it harmful to have dandelions taking over my pasture? Should I spray and try to control them?
Response: Dandelions are not poisonous to horses. Therefore, from a horse health perspective, there is not an urgent need to control them.
However, from a pasture health perspective, dandelions tend to indicate a pasture that is over‐grazed, lacking fertility and in need of weed control. Dandelions, and other non‐poisons weeds, are not a desirable forage for horses because they yield less and are less nutrient dense compared to traditional pasture forages like Kentucky bluegrass, clover, fescue or orchardgrass.
If your pasture is less than 25% weeds (including dandelions), then we recommend using a broadleaf herbicide to control the dandelions and other weeds. When using a herbicide, make sure to read the herbicide label before application, ensure the product is labeled for a pasture (vs. a lawn) and follow any recommended grazing restrictions. Mowing is an alternative to herbicide use, but that may not be effective on all weeds and can take many years of consistent mowing to control weeds.
If your pasture is greater than 25% weeds and bare ground, then we recommend over‐seeding or re‐seeding.
Along with weed control, we recommend setting up a rotational grazing systems, resting your pasture to allow for re‐growth, fertilizing according to a soil sample, and dragging during hot and dry periods to help distribute manure and kill parasites.
This article was written by Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota. Visit their website to subscribe to their horse newsletter.