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Winter Feeding: What Do You Know About Hay?

hay-for-horses-2Hay is a useful winter feed in terms of nutritional value and provides the bulk of forage that our horses require after the grass has stopped growing.

What do you know about hay? Here’s some useful facts:

• Hay is generally high-fibre with a moderate source of protein and a low to moderate water-soluble carbohydrate content.

• Early-cut single species hay, and early-cut meadow hay can be very nutritious, whereas late-cut meadow hay, which will look more stalky, is lower in feed value.

• Non-grass hay, such as Alfalfa (also called lucerne) is becoming increasingly available in the UK and contains much higher protein and calcium levels. It is useful for youngstock and pregnant mares.

• Oat hay, made from the whole oat plant, is a useful horse feed equivalent to grass hay cut mid-season.

• Grass stops growing after the soil temperature drops below approximately five degrees.

• Although hay is a good winter feed in terms of nutrition, unfortunately it is often of poor hygienic quality due to the drying process on the field in the UK. High moisture levels and rain can result in hay that contains more mould spores and dust.

• Leafy meadow hay tends to be the dustiest.

• Since hay is generally fed to housed animals with restricted airspace, the mould and dust content can become an issue.

• Mould and dust can be reduced by soaking or steaming hay. Soaking should be for at least 10 minutes and for no more than 30 minutes so nutrients are not all leached out.

• Hay can be soaked for longer to lower the water-soluble content for overweight horses and ponies, or those prone to laminitis. Hay should not be soaked overnight as it may start to rot.

• Hay is better fed from the ground than fed from nets if possible. Haynets reduce wastage and can help reduce intake where necessary, but they cause an unnatural eating posture.

• It is thought that as much as up to half of stabled horses have inflammatory airway disease, although many do not show obvious symptoms.

• Consider feeding a respiratory supplement to support healthy airways and general lung health over the winter months. ReadySupp Lung Aid helps maintain function and its ingredients help soothe and encourage clearance.

Lung Aid

For more useful (and interesting) articles on nutrition, training, events and equestrian news from the experts follow ReadySupp on social media and via our newsletters. Visit our homepage to subscribe.

Our nutritional expert Clare MacLeod is an independent Registered Equine Nutritionist with expertise in equine health and fitness. Her book, ‘The Truth About Feeding Your Horse’  provides more information on equine nutrition and is a useful companion for every horse owner! Visit her website for further information.

If you have any questions on equine supplements, and want to improve your horse’s health, performance, or attitude give our friendly team a call 01672 541 157 for advice. We won’t try and hard sell you anything – we promise.

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Posted in Equine Health, Equine Nutrition, Horse Feed
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