Winter Horse Care: What hay is best?

 

During the cold winter months, providing a sufficient amount of water supply is equal to providing adequate high-fiber food requirements to horses like forage.
Having forage in their daily feeding is needed as grazing is usually not an option. They tend to lose weight by this time simply because the temperatures drop. Because of this the number of calories they need to burn to stay warm and maintain their body temperature increases. One article revealed that a mature horse needs approximately 2% of its body weight per day in the total feed while lactating mares need up to 3%.

 

CHOOSING THE BEST FEED FOR HORSES THIS WINTER SEASON

During the cold winter months, providing a sufficient amount of water supply is equal to providing adequate high-fiber food requirements to horses like forage. Having forage in their daily feeding is needed as grazing is usually not an option. They tend to lose weight by this time simply because the temperatures drop. Because of this the number of calories they need to burn to stay warm and maintain their body temperature increases. One article revealed that a mature horse needs approximately 2% of its body weight per day in the total feed while lactating mares need up to 3%. While the general recommendation doesn’t account for wasted forage or extremely cold weather conditions it is best that this is met. If owners would assume that 20% of forage will be wasted, an average 1,000 lb. The horse would require 24 lbs. of hay per day to meet the actual recommendation plus an additional 4 lbs. to account for those that are wasted. Meeting the daily feed requirement for horses is even more difficult when the quality of forage is poor as it doesn’t provide the energy and nutrients they need to survive during a harsh, cold season. This is why a high-quality forage is very much considered as it is very critical in their overall health condition attributing to 50 to 90% of their total nutrient intake. Speaking of high-end quality forage, there are two distinct types: the Alfalfa and Bermuda.

ALFALFA:

This leafy green legume is grown in most regions of the U.S. for horses and other livestock but some have already started growing in other areas of the world. Several experts like Ray Smith, PhD, forage extension -specialist at the University of Kentucky (UK), in Lexington, said that Alfalfa was one of the first domesticated forages, planted and harvested in what is now Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan several thousand years

BERMUDA:

Even though Bermuda grass generally is in protein, energy content, and calcium than Alfalfa, this forage is high in fiber which makes it a good choice for most horses during the winter periods too. Bermuda’s low protein and energy level content makes it a preferred food option for mature horses, non-working horses, and non-breeding horses. For senior horses, it’s easier on their kidneys and easier to chew and digest. This wonder grass is a great food for easy keepers --- horses that easily gain weight or struggle to keep their weight down, especially ponies. The main reason for this is that the Bermuda grass satisfies those horses’ appetite, without adding extra calories and protein.