Lizzie Drury MSc RNutr
All horses require an adequate supply of forage (grass, hay or haylage), and this should form the basis of any horse’s ration. Forage is essential to satisfy both the horse’s physical and psychological needs. The physical need for forage is to provide bulk, weight and to combat a number of issues, a few of which have been outlined below:
- Reducing the risk of the intestines twisting and looping over each other (Colic)
- Aiding the passage of food through the gut to eliminate gas bubbles
- Helping to maintain a normal pH in the horse's hindgut
- To meet a large proportion of the horse’s energy (calorie) intake
- To provide warmth for the horse through fibre digestion
- To keep the horse occupied
The psychological need is that the horse has a natural 'drive' and need to chew and 'trickle feed'. Restricting this requirement may lead to the development of behavioural issues such as weaving and wood chewing, as well as physical problems such gastric ulcers and colic. As a general rule of thumb long-stem forage (grass, hay, and haylage) should be fed 1.5% - 2% of body weight per day and should NEVER fall below 1% of body weight per day.
Owners of fussy feeders, those with a limited appetites and older horses with poor dentition will find it more of a struggle to ensure their horses receive the required levels of good quality fibre in their diet, especially over the winter months. It is essential that all horses have their forage requirements met and this can easily be done using forage replacers if your horse struggles to consume enough long-stem forage. Commonly used products on the market are Saracen Super Fibre Cubes, or short chop chaffs such as Dengie Hi-Fi.
It is very important to recognise that combinations of these forage replacers need to be fed at the same rate as long-stem forage to support maintenance of body condition and digestive health. These items can be mixed together and fed in a large bucket in place of hay nets.
Saracen Super Fibre Cubes are a great way to increase the fibre content of any horse’s ration. The high fibre cubes have a low-starch and sugar content and are cereal free, making them suitable for good-doers and those prone to laminitis or digestive problems. Soya oil is used within the cubes to help support optimum skin and coat condition. The high-fibre content make Super Fibre Cubes ideal as a partial hay replacer at times when hay is either scarce, expensive or of poor quality. As Super Fibre Cubes are dust-free they are an excellent choice to help maintain respiratory health. They can also be easily soaked to form a mash for horses with poor dentition.
INCREASING FIBRE INTAKE FOR HORSES WITH POOR APPETITES - The Cafeteria approach
During periods of confinement, horses can “shy away” from eating their full intake of long-stem forage and we advise owners to look to forage replacers to increase their fibre intake. One useful trick is to offer the horse a cafeteria style of forage alternatives. Horses are natural browsers and by offering them a variety of fibre sources, they tend to move from one source to another, mimicking their natural “browsing” behaviour. This has been shown, in a number of horses, to stimulate appetite and consequently have a positive impact on the amount of long-stem fibre eaten. Simply place large buckets of different fibre sources around the stable, in addition to hay and/or haylage. The different types of forage sources can include short chop chaffs, such as Saracen Molassed Chaff, Super Fibre cubes and soaked sugarbeet. Super Fibre Cubes can even be placed in a treat ball to further increase natural foraging behaviours and extend eating time.
INCREASING FIBRE INTAKE FOR HORSES WITH POOR TEETH
Horses with poor dentition need to be feed forage in a form they find easy to chew. For some horses this will simply be a case of feeding chaff and Super Fibre Cubes on an ad-lib basis. However, for some horses even this becomes too difficult to manage and these horses require a soaked forage replacer that is easier to eat. The forage replacer should provide a minimum of 1.5% of the horses bodyweight and should be made available to the horse at all times when they would normally have hay or haylage. To make the forage replacer, mix the different feeds together in a large bucket with additional water to make a soft mash.
EXAMPLE FORAGE REPLACER RATIONS:
|Forage replacer||BW 300Kg||BW 400Kg||BW 500Kg|
|Dengie Hi-Fi Lite||3.0Kg||3.5Kg||4.5Kg|
|Saracen Super Fibre Cubes||1.5Kg||2.0Kg||2.0Kg|
|Total forage replacer qty||4.5Kg||6.0Kg||7.5Kg|
These recommendations are meant as a guideline only and may need to be adjusted according to the horse’s body condition, work levels, general health and quality of pasture. We ALWAYS recommend contacting an experienced equine nutritionist to discuss your horse's unique individual needs when formulating fibre intakes for horses that cant consume enough long-stem forage.
Need more guidance?
For a detailed, personalised feeding plan for your horse to ensure optimum fibre intakes, please complete our simple and free Feed Advice form and we will compile a detailed ration using our tailor made formulation software. Alternatively, if you would prefer to speak to one of our qualified nutritionists for some immediate advice, please call our feed advice line on 01622 718 487.