Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

HELLO WEEKEND: Flakes of hay are not created equal!

On occasion, we make a change in our horse’s hay only to notice that this new feeding program is causing the horse to lose weight.  This is where hay testing comes in to actually calculate the nutritional requirement for your horse.

horse forage

A horse owner had a horse that was diagnosed with ulcers and was recommended feeding alfalfa hay by her vet.  She purchased a nice quality of second cut alfalfa and the testing results showed this hay to be exceptional quality containing 1Mcal (1000 calories) per pound.  Previously she fed her horse 4 flakes of timothy per day and 4 pounds of grain per day.  Since this was such good quality alfalfa, she decided to keep the same quantity of feed.  Unfortunately, the horse started to lose weight.  Based on the horse’s work schedule and body condition score, it was determined that he needed 21.5 Mcal per day (21,500 calories per day)

Let’s calculate:  Her horse weighed in at 1,000 pounds and let’s go with feeding 2% of body weight per day in forage, or 20 pounds.  The old timothy hay tested at 800 calories per pound and she balanced the diet with 4 pounds of grain at 1430 calories per day, or 1.43 Mcal.

Forage = 16Mcal  (16,000 calories)
Grain = 5.7 Mcal (5,700 calories)
Total = 21.7 Mcal. (21,700 calories)

In the old diet, each flake weighed in at an average of 5 pounds each, which is how she determined the 4 flakes per day. 1 Flakes timothy hay 5lb x 4 flakes per day = 20 pounds per day x 800 calories = 16Mcal (16,000 calories per day)

When the new alfalfa was weighed, it weighed in at an average of 3 pounds per day.  1 Flake alfalfa 3lb x 4 flakes per day = 12 pounds per day x 1000 calories = 12Mcal (12,000 calories).

With that simple change in hay she unknowingly reduced her horse’s caloric intake by 4,000 calories per day.  With this new information, she added more flakes of hay to the daily ration, increasing the weight and keeping him on track.

It is important to weigh the flake of hay to determine how much to feed your horse per day and then you can adjust the hay feeding program with knowledge, rather than guessing.

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1 Comment»

  kimgivemeahorse wrote @

Oh my, this is so helpful!


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