Revised:  09/14/2012

Ask the Expert -- Nutrition

















Are alfalfa hay and cubes safe for horses?

I recently read that sometimes alfalfa hay will cause hair loss in light colored horses. Finding hay is getting harder and more expensive. Someone mentioned that people are feeding alfalfa cubes when hay is short. I would love to but I'm not sure it is safe for my horse, a 13 year old Paint. If you have any advice on the matter I would love to hear it!


I checked with our other nutritionist on faculty, Dr. Sarah Ralston, and we both agree that there is absolutely no evidence for this claim. Alfalfa hay or cubes are safe as long as they are introduced slowly and the horse has normal kidney function. The cubes can be used as a forage substitute but should be fed in multiple feedings to reduce boredom and wood chewing.


For a 13 year old Paint I would recommend Timothy/Alfalfa mix cubes because the straight alfalfa might be a little too high in nutrients and energy for his needs. I would not feed them free choice, as most horses will tend to overeat and gain weight. Also if your horse has problems chewing them, add just enough water to soak the cubes through to help soften and break them up a bit. Otherwise hay cubes are a great hay substitute!


Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.



Can an alfalfa allergy cause shortness of breath?

My horse is a fat 4-year-old paint gelding. He had laminitis last year after spending 24 hours in an alfalfa paddock. He had a funny episode when he was being ridden by my daughter: he suddenly had problems breathing; he stopped and had his head hanging down; he appeared out of breath. My daughter had to get off and unsaddle him. It passed and she re-saddled him, got back on, and walked him back; he has been fine since. He is not in heavy work and is stabled at night. I have been told that the shortness of breath is a symptom of being allergic to alfalfa. Is this true?


Alfalfa can cause laminitis if the horse is not accustomed to eating it and is given sudden, prolonged access to it. Fat horses are especially sensitive to sudden "overloads" like that. It was not clear from your question as to when the horse had the "breathing" problem relative to his alfalfa exposure and laminitis. I hope she was not riding him while he was in the acute phase of the laminitis - the pain associated with that could cause him to stop and hyperventilate. I am not aware of alfalfa allergies causing an acute episode such as you described. Horses can become "allergic" to dusts and molds that are common in alfalfa hays that can trigger asthma-like attacks in horses (known as chronic obstructive respiratory disease [COPD] or "heaves") but it really does not sound as if that would be the case with your gelding. I'd suggest having your veterinarian examine the horse to make sure he does not have COPD. If he does, it usually can be fairly easily managed by avoiding exposure to the allergens that trigger it.


Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.



How do the nutrients in barley hay compare to those in alfalfa?

I have a question regarding the nutritional value of Lucerne (alfalfa) and barley hay. My horse is housed in a paddock and receives a flake of hay in the morning as a supplemental feed to grazing on grass in the paddock during the day. Currently my horse is being fed one barley hay flake in the morning. Previous to this it was fed Lucerne (alfalfa) hay. When I asked about the suspected lower nutritional value of barley hay, I was told that the two are comparable. Some research on the web points to the fact that Lucerne (alfalfa) has twice the protein levels compared to barley. Do you have any information that compares the nutritional value of Lucerne (alfalfa) and barley hay?


Compared to barley, alfalfa is definitely the superior hay in terms of nutritional content for a couple of reasons. Its protein level is the main reason; alfalfa usually has an average of about 20% protein whereas barley hay, if sun-cured, only has about 8 - 9%. The energy content of barley hay is slightly lower as well. However, fiber content of the two hays is similar. This is usually the case for most hays, but will vary depending on how mature the hay was when cut (which is also the case for protein levels. The more mature they hay is when cut, the more fiber and less protein it has, and vice versa). Minerals to be concerned about are calcium and phosphorus. They are needed in a ratio of 1:1 to 2:1. Barley hay has low levels overall in a ratio of close to 1:1. However, alfalfa has much higher levels of calcium in a ratio of around 6:1.


As a general recommendation, if a horse is a harder keeper or needs a bit of a supplement, alfalfa would be the better choice. If barley hay is being fed alone with no grass or cereal grain supplement, a vitamin and mineral multi-supplement may be a wise choice to add to the diet.


Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.


Are the fat and protein in my feed causing my horse to be 'unruly'?

I bought a horse a couple of months ago. It was a little thin, its coat looked dull and its hooves were dry and cracking. The horse looks much better now with proper nutrition and plenty of grazing. My question is this – if I give the horse feed that is high in protein and fat, will it make it hot and unruly? I started to notice it was getting a little hard to handle when I rode it and was sweating quite heavily with minimal exertion. I backed off on the feed and started cutting it in half with oats. All I know is, the horse doesn’t seem to be as hot. I use a biotin supplement for its feet and I feed the horse about 6 lbs of feed per day plus all the hay and grass it wants. Is this a good diet with proper nutrition for this horse? I want to maintain the weight on the horse now, plus provide proper nutrition. Of course – I don’t want the horse to become unruly and resistant because of the feed I am giving it. Can you help me decide what a good daily feed plan should be?


It sounds like what happened is that when the horse was finally being fed the right nutrients in a balanced diet, it felt better and had more energy! It wasn’t necessarily the fat and the protein in the feed; it was just the feed in general. Fat is a good energy source for underweight horses because it has more calories per gram than carbohydrates; however, it has a much slower release of energy than carbohydrates, so it doesn’t cause the same burst of energy that feeding something like corn would. Protein is not really ever used as an energy source (only 15% of our total energy normally comes from protein) unless the body has no other choice (i.e. starvation or certain diets like the human Atkins diet). So the protein in the feed is definitely not the problem. Excess sweating is actually a good thing; the time you need to worry is if the horse doesn’t sweat enough. It probably isn’t used to this much work or having this much energy to be utilized towards work.

Adding oats to the feed you are giving the horse isn’t the best idea. What you are doing is essentially diluting the nutrients that are concentrated in the commercial feed. The high fat, protein and other vitamins and minerals are now much lower in the total feed because oats are not as concentrated. As long as the horse has access to plenty of pasture or good quality forage, you should not be at risk for any nutrient deficiencies because most forages contain more than adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals for an adult horse. Watch that the horse doesn’t start gaining too much weight. You probably can back down on the grain you are feeding assuming the horse is now in good body condition.


Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.



What kind of hay is good for a laminitis-prone horse?


For horses with a history of laminitis, what particular type of grass hay would be best for their long-term maintenance diet?



If a horse has a history of chronic laminitis my first concern would be to address the metabolic issues contributing to the problem. Usually, these are obesity and/or pituitary dysfunction, both of which are treatable. If the horse is truly insulin resistant or glucose intolerant, there is no one type of grass hay guaranteed not to trigger a bout of laminitis. It depends more on the harvest conditions, not the species of grass, as to whether a batch of hay contains sufficient non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) to cause a problem. NSCs include starches, water-soluble sugars and fructans. Most horses tolerate over 20% NSC without adverse effects, and most grass hays, especially from the eastern states; contain only 7-18% NSC, with an average of 12%. Even legume hays, on average, contain less than 15% NSC. Oat hay, on the other hand, averages 22% NSC. (Values are based on 5 years of data from Equi-Analytical laboratories).


Grasses accumulate NSC throughout the day, with highest concentrations achieved late in the day if the sun is shining. If temperatures are above freezing and adequate water is present, NSC is converted to cellulose and other structural carbohydrates overnight, resulting in very low sugar concentrations by daybreak. If this process is disrupted by drought or freezing temperatures overnight, NSC concentrations can increase significantly. The grasses continue to "respire" after cutting until the hay is baled and "cured". The longer the hay is dried in the field, the lower the NSC will be. Also, sugars and fructans are water soluble - if the hay is rained on, or soaked in water, the overall NSC will also be reduced. "Warm season" grasses such as coastal Bermuda and crabgrass tend to accumulate lesser amounts of sugars than the "cool season" grasses like fescue, orchard grass and timothy under adverse conditions, but some accumulation will still occur if the conditions are right. Be aware that most horses are not adversely affected by this variability; either in pasture grasses or hays.


If a horse really is sensitive to NSC content, the "safest" hay would be coastal Bermuda or timothy cut early in the day after a warm night and recent rainfall, and dried in the field for at least a day or two - even rained on a bit! (I.e. hay from the first or second cutting, depending on the year, from the eastern states). Western hay producers tend to cut their hay later in the day to prevent excessive drying, and also can get it baled more quickly than is possible in the humid east - all of which tends to preserve the NSC present.


Answer provided by Sarah Ralston, VMD, Ph.D., dACVN, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.



Does the nutrient value of hay decrease over time?

If hay is cut, dried, baled, and stored properly, does it lose its nutritional content over time (a few months, a year, two years, three years)? By “stored properly,” I mean in an enclosed structure that keeps off the sun and rain but is not climate controlled. Does the answer change depending on whether the hay is made from alfalfa, timothy, orchard grass, or rye? Does the answer change if we consider round bales or square bales?


I will try to answer your question as accurately as possible; however, it really depends on a number of things. First, yes: hay does lose its nutrient content over time, especially vitamins! Vitamins are one of the most unstable components in hay, so even if it is stored properly over the course of months to years you will lose some vitamin and mineral content. Most of the other nutrients are more stable, so the protein, fat and carbohydrates should be maintained. If hay is left in the sun, the vitamin content will go to zero in a matter of weeks. The longer hay is sun-cured/sufficiently dried, the lower its vitamin content will be even if freshly baled.


I have not seen any research done as to whether hay’s vitamin and mineral content changes with round or square bales, however, I assume it would be similar. The only concern here is if the round bales aren’t cared for they can mold much more rapidly.


The amount of nutrients in the hay will vary between different types of hay, not necessarily due to storing methods. So if you are storing alfalfa and timothy hay the same way, I really don’t think one would lose nutrients faster than the other. However, alfalfa has the highest nutrient content, especially in terms of vitamins -- so after a year of storage, alfalfa would still have a higher level of nutrients compared to grass hay, even if both are stored the same way.


Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.



Does feeding oat hay make horses hot?


Does feeding oat hay to horses make them hot?




Oat hay will not make horses “hot” or excitable if it was harvested early, when the oat grains are in the early dough stage. Oat hay is high in fiber and, like most grass hays, generates a fair amount of fermentation heat while being digested which actually helps keep horses warm in the winter. Oats have higher energy in them than hay alone. Since they are mixed with stems and leaves and still in their high fiber hulls, oats found in hay should not cause major swings in glucose or insulin, or give horses excess energy that may make them excitable. Whole oats are the highest fiber grain, which is why they are so popular to use in horse feeds. Feeding hull-less oats can be more of a problem. See question about feeding oats.


For more information on how digestion produces heat, refer to the previously answered question:



Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.



Is it okay to feed horses round bales?


Is it okay to feed horses round bales?




While feeding horses round bales is not ideal, as long as the horses are vaccinated against botulism and the bales are under cover where they will not mold as quickly it should be okay. The main concerns when feeding round bales are mold and botulism. The amount of “pecking order” behavior and fighting you may see will depend on how the bales are placed and how many horses will be eating from each round bale.


Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.


Why would feeding round bales be bad for horses?


I would like to start feeding my horses a round bale in their fields in the winter; however, I have been told this is a bad idea. Why would feeding round bales be bad for horses?




Large round bales of hay, usually weighing 800 to 2000 lbs, are easy to use if you have the proper equipment to move them around, and fairly economic compared to square bales. However, a study from the University of Minnesota discovered that if they are placed directly on the ground, uncovered, the cost benefits are less because so much hay is wasted from trampling by horses. There are several round bale feeders on the market that are quite effective at reducing wastage.


If bales are left on the ground, mold can form at the bottom of the bales. Although the mold is probably not pathogenic, once the mold spores have formed they will persist, even in freezing weather, and can cause allergic reactions in some horses. Most horses will avoid eating moldy hay if they can. Round bales are certainly used extensively, especially in the more arid western states, so feeding round bales is not necessarily a bad idea. However, in the humid, warm regions of the country, one needs to take some precautions.


Botulism is the main concern when feeding round bales in a humid climate. It is caused by a toxin secreted by a Clostridial bacterium under certain anaerobic, humid conditions. The bacterium is fairly ubiquitous in the soil in many regions and even in the intestinal tracts of animals. The bacterium itself is not pathogenic. However, in anaerobic environments such as that seen in a dead animal’s carcass or in moldy or fermenting hay, the bacterium sporulates and releases a toxin (Botulin). During the baling of hay (even the small square bales) small animals like mice, moles, rabbits, snakes and even baby deer can get hit by the harvesters and have their carcasses incorporated into the hay bales. As they decompose inside the tightly baled hay where there is little to no oxygen present, the decaying tissues provide the necessary conditions under which the Clostridial bacteria release toxins into the surrounding hay. Even if the carcasses are found and removed, the hay will remain contaminated and could potentially harm the horses eating it. If you do find a carcass in a bale of hay, discard all of the flakes in contact with the carcass or even better, the whole bale. It is more likely for toxicity to happen with large round bales than with small squares because it is easier to detect a dead animal when feeding the smaller "flakes" or "laps" of hay from the square bales.


Horses can recover from botulism, and the severity of the disease will depend on the amount of toxin ingested. Again, most horses would avoid eating hay that "smells" like a dead animal, even if the carcass is no longer present. Nevertheless, it is strongly recommended that horses fed round bales, especially in humid climates where it seems to be more of a problem, are vaccinated against the botulin toxin. Unfortunately there are several different strains of these bacteria, and the vaccine only protects against the two most common toxins. The vaccine does not guarantee 100% protection, but it is certainly worth the cost.




Is there any research on Teff Grass Hay for horses?

We are using a grass hay mix that is shipped in from New York. Due to price increases, my wife started looking for alternative hay sources. She found a farm in New Jersey that has teff hay. There is a lot of information on teff, both good and bad. Has Rutgers done any studies on teff?




There is a growing body of information concerning teff. At Rutgers we were not really sure about how well it performs in New Jersey and so we began some field trials and observed some farm fields.

A farming study compared 6 different species of teff at one of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Stations. We found that the variety Pharaoh performed best in terms of yield. All teff varieties can withstand dry, hot temperatures better than bluegrass and timothy, but they do suffer nonetheless with reduced yields and lodging as seen during the August drought. This was a little disappointing, as we were hoping for a drought-resistant grass that could give good yields during mid-summer when most pastures and hay fields go semi-dormant. With the harvest of standard commercial varieties this season, we saw some very reduced yields loaded with crabgrass that outcompeted the bluegrass, fescue and timothy under such poor growing condition. There may be fewer weeds in teff plots.

We are still processing the nutritional analysis results for teff varieties compared to 40 other standard pasture/hay blends. These results will be published on the Equine Science Center website after they are complete. It's interesting that the grain is nutritional enough for humans to consume as well.

A few horse owners and farm managers have reported that horses quickly consume teff and may prefer it over some standard varieties. However, a more extensive survey is needed. The seed prices for teff are reasonable. At a low planting rate, the hay price should be competitive. Here in New Jersey we can't produce enough of our own local product and thus are forced to go with $8.00/bale imports. Supporting your local grower could help encourage more New Jersey teff production, which should save considerable transport costs.


Answer provided by Bill Sciarappa, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Monmouth County Associate Professor/County Agriculture Agent.



What is the nutrient content in Teff Hay and is it good for my ponies?

I was searching your site for information about the nutrient content of Teff hay. I understand that information is forthcoming but was wondering if you had any updates? I have been feeding Teff grass hay exclusively to my pony for the past three years. If his round tummy, glossy, silky coat and perky attitude are any indication, he is doing extremely well on the Teff. Also, as an older pony that has lost some of its molars, the finer stems of the Teff seem to suit it. I have not seen any quidding. I am very pleased with the quality and performance of the Teff and am curious as to any other information.




Dr. Bill Meyer is a professor in the Department of Plant Biology & Pathology at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and the New Jersey Agricultural Experimentation Station who has been conducting research with Teff Grass. His reply is below:

“We analyzed a few of our experimental entries and one commercial lot of Teff hay. We were discouraged because the protein content ran around 6-7% and some were higher in sugar than others. When I asked a breeder from Ethiopia about the low protein he said we were high at 6%. When we showed our tests to Dr. Ralston, an equine nutritionist and member of the Equine Science Center, she thought an inactive horse could be maintained on Teff hay, but active horses would need more nutrients. We also had problems with lodging as a hay crop, and one year when it was dry after the first cutting, it did not grow back.”

It would probably be appropriate for ponies, as they don’t need quite as high a level of protein or other nutrients as do exercising horses. In this case the 6-7% would be fine. However Dr. Ralston also says that some of the samples analyzed had a reverse calcium to phosphorus ratio and high sugar content, as mentioned above. If your pony is prone to founder or if you are feeding it other concentrates that are high in phosphorus, it might be a good idea to at least get a sample of the variety you are feeding analyzed.


Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.




How much hay should be fed to stalled horses?

I board horses. I average 1 horse for every 2 acres of pasture, and I practice rotational grazing. During winter months, I provide round bales of mixed grass hay in the pasture. The horses are out for approximately 50% of the day (12 hours in pasture/12 hours in stall). They are all healthy and carry a good weight.


I feed between 6 and 10 pounds of hay when they are stalled. I hear from some boarders that I do not feed enough hay. The reason, I am told, is that horses need to be eating constantly. I would like to know if horses need more hay than what I provide, or if they need any hay at all when stalled, and why.



It is best for horses to have free choice access to hay, particularly when they are in stalls. This can prevent vices which occur due to boredom. Horse stomachs, unlike those of humans, constantly produce acid. This can contribute to gastric ulcers if the acid is not buffered by the constant intake of forage.


It sounds like you are feeding more hay than most places I see. A 1000-lb horse should eat about 20 lbs daily, or 2% of their body weight. By providing the round bale outside, the horses have free choice for ½ of the day, and feeding 10 lbs inside gives them approximately the other 50% of their daily intake.


That said, I would monitor each horse for their leftover or wasted hay in the morning. If some horses are cleaning up every last morsel of hay, I would consider feeding them another pound or two. However, if others are leaving some scraps behind, they are getting an adequate amount and feeding them more would be wasteful.


Also, look at the body condition of these horses. Some overweight horses can consume up to 3 to 3.5% of their body weight, and if doing so they need to have their food intake restricted. However, some hard-to-keep horses will not eat all the hay they should, so finding other sources of hay that they will consume might be necessary. Feeds such as alfalfa cubes or beet pulp might help in this case.


The bottom line is to check your horses. It sounds like some of them might be getting enough hay, but others might not.


Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.


Do timothy hay and beet pulp meet nutritional requirements?


Is timothy hay alone enough to meet a horse’s nutritional requirements? Also, is beet pulp a good nutritional supplement?



It depends on the quality of the hay and the horse. An “easy keeper” adult horse with light to no exercise should be able to do just fine on free choice good quality grass hay, water and a salt block. If the hay was over mature at harvest (you will see lots of seed heads in the bale of hay if so), has been sitting around for a long period of time, or has a lot of weeds, a "complete" vitamin/mineral supplement might be in order. Soaked beet pulp is one suggestion for a "carrier" for the supplement, since horses often will not eat supplements alone. Beet pulp has moderate calcium and phosphorus in a good ratio, good fiber content, some protein and some calories, but minimal vitamins and trace minerals.


Answer provided by Sarah Ralston, VMD, Ph.D., dACVN, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.



Can I feed Vetch to horses?


I would like to know if feeding horses common vetch for hay is safe. I know some of the varieties are poisonous but this one is not. I believe this is a mixture of Kentucky Blue Grass and timothy hay. I feed round bales so I have free choice of hay in the winter months only. During the summer, my horses are on pasture.


There is very limited information on feeding Vetch to horses. There have been some trials wherein it was fed to donkeys with good results. It seems to be used commonly in Australia and Mexico. It is a high protein legume and indeed it should be fed in limited amounts to reduce risk of obesity. I could not find a complete nutrient analysis (ie: calcium and phosphorus content) for it. Most of the studies I could find used a mix of common vetch and oat hay, which would probably be comparable to your bluegrass/timothy mix. The grass/oat hays would dilute the protein and energy content somewhat so that free choice feeding would not be as great a concern.


I strongly suggest that you get a complete nutrient analysis run on your bales, especially if you are feeding broodmares and foals. Your local extension agent should have a hay corer for taking representative samples. Go to for details on sampling and submission of forages for analysis.


That being said, I usually do not recommend feeding round bales to horses unless the bales are in a covered area and in feeders kept off the ground. There is a significantly increased risk of botulism otherwise. I recommend that you vaccinate your horses against botulism if you are using round bales. Also, make sure the bales do not become moldy if left outside too long. It is best if you can go through the round bales quickly without letting them sit for weeks at a time.


Answer provided by Sarah Ralston, VMD, Ph.D., dACVN, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.



Is wheat hay okay to feed to horses?


Because of the recent drought and resulting hay shortage, some people are feeding wheat hay to their horses. They say their horses love it, but it looks like straw to me. What's the nutritional story on wheat hay?



Out west, cereal grain hays are commonly fed to horses. These include oat and wheat hay (beardless wheat is more common for horses). They are perfectly fine hays, but it might take a little while for your horses to get used to them. Start your horses off gradually, over the course of 3 weeks or so, and they might not reject it too much. I teach a 3-day nutrition course in California and have done some consults where all folks feed is beardless wheat. Horses do well on it, and like it.


I think the biggest thing you will have to contend with is getting your horses completely switched over. They should be able to consume as much wheat hay as they would grass hay. The nutrient content is similar: the average protein content is 10 %. Wheat is fairly low in calcium though; be careful if you are feeding it to lactating mares or growing foals. They might need additional legume hay or a mineral supplement. The sugar and energy content of wheat hay is low to moderate, so that should not be a concern. Wheat hay is fairly high in fiber, which will keep horses from chewing fences, etc.


Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.


Should new hay be mixed with the old hay when introducing a new load?


For fifteen years I have always asked the barn manager to mix the old and new hays together when switching to a new load, especially since my horse has colicked a few times over the years from excessive heat, flu shot, too much alfalfa hay added during winter, and such. When I asked them to do so this year I was told that they no longer believed it needed to be mixed, so they elected to just give less of it in the stalls. Now my horse has loose stool. Do you think hays should be mixed when introduced?



It is never a bad idea to slowly introduce anything new to a horse’s diet. That includes new hay. Mixing the hay over the course of about a week would be the healthiest option for any horse, especially horses that are prone to digestive problems due to change in feed; although, your list of triggers indicate that the horse may be sensitive to a lot of other environmental triggers. Start by adding a small amount of new hay and removing a small amount of old hay. Then go to ½ new and ½ old, and finally mostly all new. This should help decrease the incidence of diarrhea.


Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.




Where do I find 'no starch' feeds?


I am having some issues keeping weight off my two mares. The facility where they are housed has beautiful pasture and, due to the wet season, it has been constantly rich in sugars. All summer and fall they have had muzzles on, but they still seem to be slowly gaining weight. I spoke with my veterinarian and he suggested a hay pellet with NO starch, low calorie diet. I currently have them on a low starch, low calorie diet with exercise 5 times a week, but with the winter season, their exercise will decrease due to outdoor ring conditions. I am having a very hard time finding a feed with no starches. I have only found low starch grains. Do you have any suggestions on where I could find the feed I'm looking for?



There is no such thing as a ‘no starch’ feed for horses. Carbohydrates make up the majority of all animal feeds including forages. Some grain-based products are formulated to have lower starch and/or sugar by not using molasses and replacing grains with forage such as legume or grass hays or high fiber ingredients like beet pulp. However, your horses probably do not need any grain at all. A good quality hay or hay cube can provide all the nutrients that a horse needs, as long as they are not growing, lactating or undergoing heavy exercise. The lowest starch type of forage is going to be grass hay or hay cubes. Usually these are made from timothy and/or alfalfa and tend to be a consistent source of nutrients, especially if selecting from a manufacturer instead of a hay producer. Cubes take a while for horses to consume, so the potential of boredom that could come from lack of long stem forage in the diet. I would also recommend trying to keep these horses in a dry lot to prevent them from eating any of the pasture grasses that may have a higher starch content this time of year due to the freeze-thaw cycle (day/night) and the overgrazing that can occur with the reduction of grass growth.


Make sure the horses are at least eating 1.5 % of their goal body weight (i.e. current a 1200 lb horse, with a goal weight of 1000 lb should eat 15 lbs per day) however, and it may be a good idea to also provide them with a vitamin and mineral supplement to make up for the lack of nutrients in the hay you are providing.


Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Rutgers Cooperative Extension.




The material provided on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prevent, or treat any illness. Any recommendations are not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Mention or display of a trademark, proprietary product, or firm in text or figures does not constitute an endorsement by the Equine Science Center or Rutgers University and does not imply approval to the exclusion of other suitable products or firms.







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