Tuesday, 25 February 2020
The Arabian Magazine
Home News Hay shortage? Don’t panic says SPILLERS®nutritionist

Hay shortage? Don’t panic says SPILLERS®nutritionist

Hay shortage? Don’t panic says SPILLERS®nutritionist

With a swelteringly hot, dry summer following hard on the heels of a cold, wet winter the parched grass has struggled to grow well in many parts of the country. Hay supplies have been used up early, while harvests have been compromised. But if there is a winter hay shortage there’s no need to panic says Clare Barfoot RNutr, the research and development manager at SPILLERS®, because there are plenty of forage alternatives to choose from.

Fibre provided by forage is the mainstay for equine digestive health. Every horse or pony should have a minimum fibre intake of 15g/kg bodyweight (dry matter) per day, which is approximately. 9kg of hay or 10.5kg of haylage for a 500kg horse. Ideally horses should be fed fibre ad lib, unless on a specific restricted diet.

“As yet it’s unclear as to the extent of any potential shortage of winter forage but it’s likely that quantity and quality may be reduced and prices may go up accordingly,” says Clare. “But don’t worry because there are numerous hay and haylage alternatives that can replace or extend your winter forage supply.”

Straw: Good quality straw is particularly useful for good doers and overweight horses to decrease the energy density of hay. The type of straw is less important than the hygienic quality, although oat and barley straw are used more commonly than wheat. Straw shouldn’t be used as the sole forage source though as the protein content is very low and the fibre can be particularly indigestible, which can contribute to impaction colic in susceptible horses. Up to 30% replacement is acceptable. 

Chopped dried grass: Dried grass differs from hay because it is harvested earlier and is dried artificially rather than in the field. It is much greener in colour than hay and is often higher in protein and energy. It’s ideal for poor doers and veterans but shouldn’t be used to completely replace forage and should be avoided for laminitics and good doers. 

Grass nuts: Harvested and dried in a similar way to chopped dried grass, nuts are pelleted rather than chopped. The protein content is higher than hay and the fibre content is lower so they provide more energy per kilo. They not suitable as a complete hay replacement but can be useful for poor doers and veterans. The high water soluble carbohydrate levels make them largely unsuitable for those prone to laminitis. 

Sugar beet: Soaked sugar beet is a palatable way to add fibre into your horse’s diet. It can’t be used to completely replace hay because its 80% water once soaked and doesn’t require much chewing – which is physically and psychologically important for your horse. But, there is some evidence that feeding sugar beet can increase the digestibility of your horse’s hay.

Short chopped fibre: These can be a useful option. Some contain vitamins and minerals in addition to chopped straw, grass and alfalfa. Look for products that can completely replace hay due to their similar levels of protein, fibre and energy. Often these products are also suitable for laminitics and good doers as well.

Soakable fibre products: Often these can partially replace hay due to their high fibre and low sugar and starch content. Look for products that have protein levels of 8-10%, which is similar to hay.

High Fibre Cubes: These are a versatile and palatable way of providing additional fibre to the daily ration as a complete compound feed, as a partial forage replacer or as healthy fibrous treats in a snack ball.

“So, if the worst happens and hay is in short supply and the prices are high you won’t need to panic because now you know there are lots of other suitable options”, says Clare.

For more friendly advice on hay and haylage alternatives contact the SPILLERS® Care-Line on + 44 (0)1908 226626 or visit www.spillers-feeds.com.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Must Read

The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine Volume IV Issue I

It is time to start work on the next beautiful edition of the coffee-table book The Arabian Breeders' Magazine. Celebrating Arabian horses from the...


Every year on a weekend in July the Ismer Stud hosts two Arabian Horse Shows. In 2019 they were an International B-Show on Saturday...

The Romance of Redwood Lodge Arabians

As the sunshine filters through the morning mist, the gentle whinny of an Arabian horse can be heard. The peacock calls from its vantage...

Ground-breaking book aims to help riders Move Well to Ride Well

A ground-breaking book, Biomechanics for the Equestrian - Move Well to Ride Well, containing information that has not been shared with the equestrian industry...

The Girl with the Jumping Arabs – The Light in the Dark

Despite the frustrating start to the new year, The Girl with the Jumping Arabs finds a new perspective on the situation and looks forward...
error: Content is protected !!