With temperatures dropping and frost setting in, paddocks may start to look sparse and patches of grass that haven’t already been turned into a wallowing mud bath, are likely to stop growing.
Second to water, forage is the most important part of any horses or pony’s diet, as fibre from forage provides a valuable source of calories to help maintain a horse’s weight and is essential for maintaining gut health and optimising the absorption of nutrients. It is important to ensure then, that they are receiving a sufficient amount.
5 Facts about Feeding Forage
• Ad-Lib access to forage is ideal for any horse or pony unless they start to gain too much weight
• All horses and ponies, including good doers, need a minimum of 1.5% dry matter of their body weight in forage per day (7.5kg for a 500kg horse).
• As a guide, if stabling for approximately 12 hours, provide no less than half their minimum forage ration as hay/haylage/hay replacer, as we cannot be sure how much is eaten as grass.
• If your horse or pony is maintaining weight on forage alone, unless using a hay replacer with added nutrients, remember to provide a horse feed balancer to ensure they receive the correct levels of vitamins, minerals and quality protein.
4 Ways To Manage Good Doers Forage Intake
• Choose low calorie mature hay that will encourage chewing and reduce the risk of weight gain.
• If your horse or pony greedily eats their hay/haylage all at once, consider putting one hay net inside the other to help slow them down. Placing these nets in several stations around the stable can also help.
• For especially good doers, or laminitics, soaking hay for 12-16hours is recommended to achieve maximum leaching of water soluble carbohydrates (WSC = sugar + fructans - the storage form of sugar in grass).
• Good quality oat or barley straw is a low energy option, making it ideal for good doers. It's best used as a partial forage replacer, rather than the sole forage source.
3 Top Tips When Feeding Forage to Poor Doers
• Choose the best quality forage you can.
• In winter months, grass intake may need to be virtually ignored, meaning greater amounts will need to be supplemented. Additional forage may need to be provided in the field if possible.
• Many believe haylage is richer or more nutritious and therefore less is needed in comparison to hay, but actually, due to the higher water content of haylage, you need to offer 25-50% more than you would as hay (10-11kg of haylage in place of 7.5kg of hay).
Does Your Horse Need A Hay Replacer?
• Horses and ponies that struggle with long fibre will require a hay replacer. From the SPILLERS range consider SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF® , SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF® Molasses Free or SPILLERS High Fibre Cubes, cubes can be soaked to form mash
• If providing a hay replacer, this should be provided in as many small servings as possible, and divided between several buckets to encourage ‘trickle feeding’. If providing a hard feed, offer this first, followed by the hay replacer so that they do not see it as another ‘feed’.
There are many ways to ensure your horse or pony has sufficient forage this winter, even when struggling with poor pasture. Should you have a more specific query however please contact the SPILLERS Care-Line on 01908 22 66 26.