Tips for horse owners during hay shortage
By Larry Spradlin | Extension Agent/Agriculture

Aug. 6, 2006 -- I wanted today to share with all of our equine owners some feeding tips that I have just received from Pete Gibbs, our Texas Extension Horse Specialist.

He stated that, due our dry period throughout Texas, changes in type of hay is the single biggest dietary factor associated with digestive disturbances in horses. Horses do not tolerate dietary change well, and the shortage of hay has caused some horse owners to have to feed hay of different types.  

In typical years of adequate rainfall conducive to growing good Texas hay, horse owners have been able to be somewhat picky about hay and even ask for nutrient analyses prior to purchase.This spring, many horse owners are just glad to be able to find hay that is clean and free of mold, and are not really worried with the nutrient content. This shortage of hay has prompted many questions about alternatives for meeting roughage requirements. 

One way to stretch your hay is to actually weigh each block or portion of hay prior to feeding, aiming for no less than 0.75 percent of a horse's body weight per day in a long-stem roughage. This is the minimum amount of daily hay just to keep a horse's digestive tract healthy. Concentrate feeds that are higher in crude fiber than a horse owner might normally feed can be used to help decrease the need for long-stem roughage. Some processed forms of roughage can also be helpful during the hay shortage.

A combination of feeding your regular hay with some of the processed high-fiber feed also works very well.

For more information on selection and use of hay and processed roughage in feeding horses, go to http://animalscience.tamu.edu and click on equine science, or contact us at the Hopkins County Extension office, 228 Hinnant St., 903-885-3443.

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