The volatility of the weather in recent years have made hay shortages increasingly common in the United States, much to the frustration of horse and barn owners. With a decrease in supplies, an increase in price and potentially lower-quality hay available, horse owners are seeking alternatives.
In a perfect world, horse owners would be able to simply increase the amount of concentrates to make up for the lack of hay; however, horses need a near-constant supply of fiber to minimize their risk of colic or ulcers. While fiber would ideally come from long-stemmed forages, like grass or hay, short-stemmed or processed fiber can fill the bill help stretch your hay supply.
Owners and caretakers who are facing a hay shortage can:
- Purchase higher-quality hay. Feeding high-quality hay allows a horse's nutritional needs to be met with less hay. Smaller hay meals fed more frequently and the use of hay nets can reduce wasted hay.
- Buy cubed, chopped or pelleted hay. Typically made from alfalfa or timothy, these forages are mold- and dust-free and can be stored for long periods of time. They can replace the majority of hay in a horse's diet.
- Turn horses out to pasture for longer periods of time. Carefully managed pasture grazing can offset the need to feed hay, depending on time of year and quality of grass.
- Add beet pulp to horse's feed. While not able to be the sole source of fiber in a horse's diet, beet pulp, as well as soy hulls and hay stretched pellets, can take the place of some of they hay in equine diets.
Read more at Alltech.
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