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More on the advantages of hay, and on  hay quality
More on the advantages of hay, and on  hay quality


If we do not yet have hay stored away for winter, it is time to be scrambling.  Many of us were so concerned about the very dry spring and retarded grass growth we searched out hay early.  If you were more patient (or procrastinated longer) and purchased your hay later in the summer, you were probably rewarded by less expensive hay of equal or better quality.

The quality and type of hay we feed is often based on personal preference.  It can also depend on how the hay is used:
Is it going to be the only roughage Dobbin receives, or will it be used to supplement winter grass?
Is it for riding horses or pregnant mares?
Will Dobbin be receiving grain along with the hay, or is hay going to be the total ration?
We know Dobbin is an ‘easy keeper’ and needs little grain to stay fat, but what of his cousins of a different breed that have a higher maintenance requirement?

We will try to address each of these questions regardless of how many weeks it takes.  The answers will be based on the horse’s nutritional needs, and you may choose to feed a better quality hay, or a hay you have previously fed with good results.  We know horses do very well on grass and hay; they did so for millions of years until we felt obligated to improve their diet and limit their range.

Is grain going to be fed with the hay?
Why are we feeding our horses grain?
Is it because they need additional body condition?
Is it because they are worked hard every day?
Could it be because we enjoy feeding the horse and enjoy the ‘feedback’ we receive from him?  I suspect this is the first reason many horses receive grain.  They in turn reward us by coming when we call, give us the attention we enjoy, and staying fat with the slick haircut we enjoy seeing.  They have us trained very well.

One of the rules of feeding horses is to spend most of the nutritional dollars on roughage.  If the horse needs additional condition, a better quality hay can be fed.  If the horse still lacks the desired condition, then grain can be fed for the fat and carbohydrates it contains.  Protein can be provided by grain, but the most economical source is a good quality hay.  It provides protein as well as other important nutrients.

The primary reason we use grain for protein and energy is convenience.  It is easy to stop by the store for a few bags of grain for the pasture horses.  During the winter we can increase the amount of grain fed and throw the horses some of the grass hay we have stored.  To rely on hay for the horses’ needs we have to find it first, and maybe even haul it in this 100 degrees + weather.  It requires more storage space,  and is harder for the wife to haul around.  Depending on the ages, use, and maintenance requirements of the horses within the herd, different qualities of hay may be needed.  This would require finding even more supply sources and more storage space.  Even with all that is involved in finding the hay and determining your particular horses’ needs, it should still be more economical than the grain needed to keep Dobbin in the same condition.

Actually, I will agree, if the herd consists of 2 or 3 horses, the additional costs of a grain-based diet is probably not enough to make a difference.  Besides, as we tirelessly preach, money spent on horses is insignificant compared  to the enjoyment they provide!

Next week we will finally address the above questions.  We hope this article provides basic information you can use.  We all have a feeding program we are comfortable using, but additional information may be beneficial if a need for change arises.

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