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Tuesday
Oct042011

THE VALUE OF HAY : A BALANCING ACT

Stallion Visionaire

Summerhill Stud resident stallion Visionaire
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)

"Ensure your feed programme is balanced..."

Vuma Feeds may be the producer of superior equine concentrates and our focus is certainly on providing each and every horse with the best nutrition in every bag, however, most importantly we are all about the good of the horse and when it comes to nutrition and health there is more to it than just a concentrated feed.

We have always emphasized the importance of forage for horses, both for gut health and overall well-being. The problem arises in that all forage is not created equal.

So often there are seasonal variations or availability issues and these can have a major effect on the actual value and digestible energy (DE) of your hay.

To re-cap what we know, a horse should be fed a total of 2-3% of its bodyweight daily. In most cases a ratio of 60:40, roughage to concentrate, is ideal unless the horse is in very hard work and requires more concentrate. Horses should receive 1.5 - 2% of their body weight in hay (or forage) per day. For the average 450kg - 500kg horse with moderate exercise that is about 7 - 10kg's of hay per day.

Hay quality is as important as forage quantity. Hay should have a crude protein content of 7% or higher on an as-fed basis. Hay with less protein tends to be over mature and have too much indigestible fibre, as plants digestibility and nutrient content decline as they mature.

Lucerne has from 14 - 18% protein, good Teff around 12% protein and Eragrostis around 7 - 9% protein.

Simply changing from Eragrostis to good Teff is going to make a difference to the total DE that your horse receives on a daily basis. So it is important to be aware of the quality of your new hay and the necessity to adjust the total diet accordingly.

If all you can get in the middle of winter is poorer quality hay, you may need to increase your concentrate and possibly add extra oil to ensure that the total DE remains the same. Oil is highly digestible in the small intestine and as such is a good source of "cool" energy. Using oil will help to minimize behavioural problems associated with high carbohydrate diets and it provides nearly two-and-a-half times the energy of the equivalent weight carbohydrate. It would also be useful to add Lucerne to your total feeding regime.

On the other hand if your hay supply improves and the quality is greatly improved you may need to reduce the total amount fed, as the DE will increase and you may end up with more energy than you require!

For those of us lucky enough to have good pastures, this can also pose a management challenge. The energy and protein content of foliage in spring pastures can be as much as 50% higher in early growth compared to that in vegetative growth twelve weeks later.

The lush spring growth of pasture foliage is high in moisture and water-soluble carbohydrates and also relatively higher in protein, vitamins and minerals on a dry matter (DM) basis than during other seasons of the year.

If horses are kept on pasture year round, they usually adjust to the new foliage as it grows in the early spring. However, problems can arise if their forage source is abruptly switched from hay to lush spring pasture, as the sudden change and over-consumption of that lovely green grass can put a horse at risk for certain nutrition-related problems, including stomach upsets, colic, laminitis and obesity.

Feeding forage is really about balance, by keeping an eye on the quality of your forage (hay and pastures) and adjusting your management accordingly :

  • Restrict grazing time on spring pastures if necessary, especially if you have horses prone to laminitis.
  • Supplement the grazing with hay. (Important for stabled horses and during winter when pastures are poor.)
  • Weigh your hay, so that you know how much you are feeding daily.
  • Adjusting volumes according to the quality of the hay.
  • Managing the total amount of feed and particularly the digestible energy that you are feeding.

By ensuring that your feed programme is balanced you and your horses should be happy and healthy all year round!

vuma horsefeed africa

www.vumafeed.co.za

AFRICA'S FINEST HORSEFEEDS

For more information contact :
Catherine Hartley : 083 640 1155
Email: catherine@vumafeed.co.za

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