FEEDING WHEN HAY IS SHORT—WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
As Presented by Dr. Alyssa Butters,
2009 Equine Services Fall Seminar
With the poor weather during the growing season this year and the widespread shortage of hay, many people have been faced with the prospect of paying for very expensive hay for their horses, or even having difficulty finding hay altogether. Therefore, a commonly heard question has become—with what can I replace hay in my horse’s diet?
So why do we feed hay in the first place? For most horses, hay should comprise the majority of their daily ration. For the average adult horse, good grass hay supplies nearly all their daily protein requirement. Most grass hays contain 9-12% protein, close to the needs of an adult horse at maintenance (10-11%). Hay also provides a good source of fibre. Although not truly a “nutrient,” horses digestive systems have adapted in environments where they graze almost continuously throughout the day, and they have a drive to consume fibre. No absolute minimal level of necessary fibre has been established, however inadequate dietary fibre can lead to increased wood chewing behavior and can increase the incidence of colic and gastric ulcers.