How Much Hay Does A Horse Eat? The Answer Might Surprise You! | Kidadl


How Much Hay Does A Horse Eat? The Answer Might Surprise You!

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A significant component of a horse's diet is forage which it usually fills on by consuming hay.

Horses either look to feed on hay or grass in order to consume the required amount of roughage in their daily diet. Interestingly, if you own or take care of a horse, you would need to keep a close watch on your horse while it feasts on both grass or hay as horses can tend to consume too much or too little which can further affect the body weight of the animal.

The right amount of hay to feed your horse depends upon the body weight of your horse. It is essential that you try and maintain the body weight of your horse around a certain range to ensure that your horse is healthy and in good condition. On average, if a horse weighs around 1,000 lb (454 kg) it should ideally consume 1.5%-3% of its own body weight worth of hay which is around 12-15 lb (5.5-6.8 kg) of hay per day. Now, this amount is not exact and varies greatly depending upon the particular horse. Some of the factors which determine how much hay a horse needs are its metabolism rate, the workload of the horse, the other components of its diet that it is eating, and the time of the year in consideration. This can be seen in different breeds of the same animals as ponies tend to require less hay every day while larger horses such as draft breeds eat a considerably greater amount of hay. Hence, one bale of 40 lb (18 kg) square hay lasts three and a half days, meaning that a horse eats around two bales of square hay every week.

Why do horses love to have hay?

Horses love eating bales of hay, a significant part of their diet and a considerable part of their day is spent eating bales of hay. Many horse owners believe that a horse needs good quality hay per day in order to maintain its body weight and consume the majority of its everyday calories from roughage.

At times, trail horses do not need grain in their regular diet as they can do very well with bales of hay and if not then grass. Horses have evolved in such a manner that the digestive system of these animals is designed to take benefit of the nutritional elements present in these grassy stalks. At the same time, horses that spend most of their day in their stables do not go out for a lot of grazing so in order to replicate their feeding pattern, you can provide the horse with a bale of hay throughout the day which the horse can then nibble on. Horses tend to eat some part of the hay every day sitting in their stable then take a break, doze off for some time and then again return for feeding on the hay which keeps their digestive system running and their body weight in check along with taking in all the nutritional benefits. Depending upon the horse's diet, you can feed your horse around 12-25 lb (5.5-11 kg) of hay per day. This is around half a bale of hay per day if the bales are 45-50 lb (20-23 kg) each leading to a consumption of 15 bales of hay a month on average.

What to feed horses when you run out of hay?

During certain times of the year, good quality hay isn't easily available but equine nutrition requires a certain amount of forage every day. It might not be healthy to make your horse graze on infertile pasture. There are thus a number of substitutes or alternatives to flakes of hay that your horse can be fed to fulfill the required nutritional elements.

The best alternative to possibly replace your horse's entire hay consumption for a long period is by feeding it bagged chopped forage which provides all the quality nutrients that a bale of hay provides. Another ideal replacement for your horse's regular diet of bales of hay is hay cubes which are chopped cubed hay usually Timothy hay or Alfalfa hay or at times a combination of both. Timothy hay is one of the most popular hays to feed horses but it can be quite expensive. It has the highest nutrient content when it is harvested in the pre or early bloom stage.

A pro tip for using hay cubes is to soak up the cubes to ensure that the horses do not choke while eating. Hay pellets are a common replacement for hay; they can be obtained from any forage which has been grounded, dehydrated, and then cooked to produce hay pellets. Although hay pellets aren't exactly long-stemmed and might not interest horses at times. Some of the other hay replacements include soybean hulls and beet pulp.

Nowadays you can also get your hands on good quality complete feed which is a mix of vitamins, minerals, forage, and grains. This mixture doesn't need to be fed along with hay and provides a fiber content of around 15%. At the same time, this complete feed has a higher calorific value, thus, you should be careful while substituting hay with complete feed.

Feeding a hay substitute to your horse is not exactly the same as feeding hay as the latter perfectly satisfies a horse's need to chew.

Do horses need hay if they have grass?

Over the years, horse owners have always looked to cut out the grain part of their horse's diet if possible and maintain the forage part as they require it for maintaining their weight and gaining all the essential nutrition. Horse owners in various parts of the country look to feed hay to their horses irrespective of the availability of grass as the former is essential for their health. It is said that horse owners can reduce the quantity of hay they feed their horse if the pasture of grass available is nutrient-rich and can provide all the necessary nutrients that good quality hay provides.

In areas like Florida where the quality of grass pasture is not that appreciable, horse owners feed their horses bales of hay but in areas like Tennessee the quality of the grass is better but the horse owners were still adamant about feeding hay as the primary food in the forage department of their diet.

How long can horses go without hay?

Equine health is severely affected when it is deprived of hay. Hay is an integral part of a horse's diet and it helps keep the horse healthy. The digestive tract is designed in such a manner that it works best when it is in a constantly working condition.

It is advisable that horses should always have open access to forage in some form or other so that they can keep munching without any concern. Researchers believe that depriving horses of hay can increase the chances of issues like gastric ulcers; it is thus advisable that your horse keep feeding on hay whenever it wants throughout the day. It is said that as long as the horse's digestive system stays active and the horse keeps eating, it is in its best condition.

People might often think that horses tend to stop eating when they feel like they have had enough and that they are full but horses lack the ability to control their appetite and do not realize when to stop eating, even after they have met their nutritional requirements. Interestingly, during the winter months, the hay consumption level of horses might go up by a notch in order to keep the body warmer. To conclude, horses must have access to hay round the clock as it is better for their digestive system.

Written By
Dhruvit Patel

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