During winter, many owners will be thinking about supplementing their horse’s grazing with additional forage. If poor teeth or clinical conditions such as laminitis mean that hay and haylage are no longer suitable, a hay replacer will be essential.
Choosing a hay replacer
- Where possible, choose short chopped fibres to help extend eating time.
- If your horse is no longer able to manage short chopped fibre, look for feeds that can be soaked to make a mash.
- Some products are only suitable for feeding as partial hay replacers, these include sugar beet and ‘pure’ alfalfa pellets/ chaffs.
- Avoid grass based products for laminitics as they may contain high levels of water soluble carbohydrate.
- Check whether your chosen hay replacer(s) contains added vitamins and minerals to ensure your horse’s diet is balanced without feeding unsuitably high levels of any vitamins and minerals that can be harmful if over-supplied – a nutritionist will be able to offer more advice on this.
Tips for feeding hay replacers
- Divide hay replacers into a minimum of 4 meals, trying to ensure the first and last meals of the day are given as early/ late as possible to avoid long periods without forage overnight.
- The volume of feed in the bucket can make feeding a hay replacer a scary prospect. However provided changes are made gradually and your chosen feed is suitable for feeding as a hay replacer, larger meals are generally acceptable.
- Always weigh your feed(s) before soaking.
- As a guide, a Stubbs scoop of short chopped fibre weighs approximately 300-500g whereas the same scoop of a pelleted option (such as grass nuts or alfalfa pellets) weighs approximately 2kg.
- Field kept horses may need to be turned out individually or separated at meal times.
Ideally hay replacers should be fed ad lib although this may not be practical for good doers. Equally, weighing your horse’s ration, at least to start with, is a good way of ensuring you are feeding enough. Total forage intake should not be restricted to less than 15g per kilogram of bodyweight per day (7.5kg for a 500kg horse) on a dry matter basis but what does this mean in practice?
- For every kilogram of hay replacer (or any other forage) you feed a certain amount will be water and therefore doesn’t count towards your horse’s forage intake. The term ‘as fed’ is used to describe what you actually feed, whereas ‘dry matter’ is what you feed minus the water.
- Most hay replacers contain approximately 10-13% water and therefore to ensure you provide 7.5kg of ‘forage’, you would need to feed approximately 8.5kg of your chosen hay replacer(s) to replace all hay and grazing.
- For many horses, a feeding rate of 20g/ kg BW/ dry matter (approximately 23g/ kg BW/ day as fed) to replace all hay and grazing is an ideal starting point.
SPILLERS hay replacers
The following products are suitable for feeding as full or partial hay replacers and contain added vitamins and minerals to balance the diet:
- SPILLERS SPEEDY-MASH Fibre is quick soaking sugar beet blend ideal for horses and ponies unable to chew short chop fibre. It is also suitable for laminitics.
- SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF and HAPPY HOOF Molasses Free are low calorie, short chop fibres ideal for laminitics.
- SPILLERS High Fibre Cubes are low in calories and can be soaked in warm water to make a mash.
For more advice on feeding a hay replacer contact the SPILLERS Care-Line