Using Hay Replacers for Horses

Using Hay Replacers for Horses

Hay cubes are an option if pasture or traditional baled hay is unavailable.

Photo: The Horse Staff

When times of severe drought or other weather phenomenon result in poor quality or availability of pastures and hay, horse owners often turn to complete feeds (those that contain a full diet of roughage, protein, vitamins, minerals, and other needed nutrients) or hay stretchers/replacers (designed to replace the fiber component of the hay/pasture that is no longer available).

These products can be extremely useful to horse owners to help them through the tough hay times, but they do come with some usage guidelines to keep horses happy and healthy. Remember:

Follow the recommended feeding rate. This is of particular concern if the product is being used as the sole diet. To keep gut health intact, enough fiber must be consumed each day for regular gut function. And, to keep the horse healthy overall, it is critical to ensure they are receiving all the balanced nutrients that they would normally get through a combination of hay, pasture, and added concentrate feed.

Horses tend to crave long stem fiber to chew on, which is missing in the diet made up of complete feed or hay stretchers. Owners might start to see unwanted behaviors (such as wood chewing, cribbing, or weaving) without some grass or hay to keep their horse’s mouth and mind busy. While the full daily allotment of hay might not be available or affordable, it is a good idea to offer at least a flake or two each day to help prevent these behaviors (and save your fences). Hay cubes are an option if pasture or traditional baled hay is unavailable.

Ensure proper water and salt consumption. Proper hydration levels are essential to keeping the gut moving properly.

In the absence of available forage, providing a complete feed concentrate is a better option than feeding a concentrate that is designed to be fed with forage by itself. With proper management and attention to detail, both the horse and the owner’s pocketbook can pull through the hay shortage.

Reprinted with permission from The Feed Room, by Nutrena

About the Author

Emily Lamprecht, PhD

Emily Lamprecht, PhD, earned her doctorate in Endocrinology and Animal Biosciences (with an emphasis on equine nutrition and exercise physiology) in 2009 from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She also holds bachelor’s degrees in Animal Science and Psychology from University of Missouri, Columbia (2003, 2004). She joined the Cargill Animal Nutrition Strategic Marketing and Technology team in August 2009 and currently serves in the role of Technology Lead for Consumer Nutrition. Her primary responsibilities include formulation, managing research and new product development for the equine and pet businesses within the United States and internationally, and providing technical support to Cargill businesses, veterinarians, feed dealers, consultants, and customers. Lamprecht is a professional member of the American Society of Animal Science and the Equine Science Society. In her spare time, Lamprecht can be found volunteering with the Minnesota Search and Rescue Dog Association and continues to be an active member of the equine community. She trains and shows her horse in the sport of dressage and enjoys spending time with her husband, trail riding, and hiking.

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