Cold temperatures make feeding horses properly a bit more challenging as the horses can't graze all day like they may be used to. Instead, many horses are switched to a diet comprised mainly of hay when temperatures drop and grass dies off. While necessary, this change in diet can increase the likelihood that a horse will drop weight or develop and impaction colic because of limited water intake.
Eating hay is not all bad as ingesting hay meets a horse's forage needs and helps keep him warm as digestion produces heat. Though round bales are fed in many areas of the country, it's imperative to remain vigilant about the quality of hay that is fed to horses. It's important that round bales fed to horses are kept under cover once baled to avoid mold that can make horses sick if ingested.
Hay that is grown specifically for cattle can be of poorer quality that that horses need; if the round bale is overly stemmy, much of it will be wasted as horses tend not to eat very coarse hay.
If storage space is an issue or if a farm is simply facing a hay shortage, there are options available to increase forage, including hay cubes, hay pellets, senior feed or beet pulp. While none of these can replace hay entirely, they can be used to stretch a hay supply when fed in conjunction with hay.
Horses that don't have access to green grass may become deficient in vitamins A and E, so a ration balancer or supplement may need to be considered if horses don't also get fed a commercial feed during winter months. Access to salt is still important even if horses are not sweating when exerting themselves; access to a salt lick or loose salt should be available no matter the weather.
Water is the most important nutrient in a horse's diet and access to unfrozen water at all times is necessary to prevent impaction colic. Though the easiest colic to resolve, it's better to keep colic at bay.
Read more at Horse Channel.
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