Making your hay last longer

Are you still enjoying the recent hot weather? Or are you now becoming concerned about the winter months? Have you got enough grazing? Will you have enough hay to last?

We have all noticed that these desert like conditions have turned our grass brown, dry and has stunted its growth which leaves us wondering how we will cope this winter. Horses are grazing animals and will eat whatever they can find, even if this means rummaging through bushes and eating the grass down to the soil. Now, this is where you come in; providing additional long forage (hay/haylage) out in the field, if possible, will not only satisfy your horse’s natural grazing behaviours but will also help to maintain a healthy digestive system and a good weight (particularly important for the poor doers!).

How to Make Your Hay Last Longer

Fast Fibre is a quick soaking (30-60 seconds), easy to eat, high fibre mash which can be used as a partial forage replacement. Whilst long forage such as hay is most natural for horses and ponies, we are all aware there may well be a hay shortage for some people around the country by the end of the winter. The last thing we want to happen is for owners to run out and horses are left without any long forage at all until the next harvest, so how do we avoid this we hear you ask! The preparation can start now, by saving some of your hay each day and topping up your horse’s ration with a little Fast Fibre. To put this into context for you, if your horse normally receives 8kg of hay each day, you could start by feeding 7kg of hay and topping up the ration with 1kg (dry weight) of Fast Fibre.

This principle can also be applied when your horse is in his stable or if he struggles to manage long forage (hay/haylage), which is common in elderly horse’s as natural wear and tear of their teeth occurs – after all, old age affects us all at some point!

Is Your Horse Getting Enough Forage?

Whilst not the most glamorous part of horse ownership, monitoring the number and consistency of droppings your horse is doing each day will indicate if his forage requirements are being met. If you are counting fewer than normal, this is a tell-tale sign that more forage is required.

Top Tip – A great way to check for sand in the horse’s system is to take a dung sample and place this in a clear plastic bag, then fill the bag with water and hang up overnight. If sand is present in your horse’s dung, this will sink to the bottom of the bag by the morning. A course of a psyllium-based supplement can then be provided to aid removal of the sand from the horse’s system, however, it is advisable to discuss this with your vet or supplement company before feeding.

Colic isn’t the only condition to be aware of in this dry spell; for those suffering from gastric issues, ad lib forage is incredibly important to allow for continuous chewing. Unlike humans, horses are unable to produce saliva without the process of chewing. This saliva will buffer the stomach acid to help prevent splashing onto the ulcers and surrounding areas. So, the more chewing, the better!

For the good doers, just bear in mind that whilst we still want them to have recommended amounts of forage each day (1.5% of their body weight minimum), we don’t want them piling on the pounds and becoming the wrong side of ideal on the body condition score chart. So, soaking their hay is a great way to reduce the calorie, sugar and starch content of the hay (also good feeding practice for laminitics). Generally, it is advised to soak the hay for around 12 hours for maximum effect, however, during the hot spells, soaking for 3-4 hours would be sufficient – after this time, the hot weather may cause a large build-up of bacteria in the water (which wouldn’t be too tasty!). This also applies if you’re rushed for time – at some point, we can all end up chasing our tails whether it be getting to work on time, getting the kids to where they need to be or even taking care of other animals. So, just remember, soaking for a short amount of time is better than not soaking at all!

If you’d like some further information on forage and our feeds, please contact our friendly, helpline nutrition team by completing our nutritional enquiry form, calling on 01362 822902 or email [email protected]