How To Extend And Preserve Your Hay Storage
 By Winniefield Park   •   19th Feb 2015   •   1,474 views   •   0 comments
How To Extend And Preserve Your Hay Storage

Groundhog Day has just passed and the groundhog didnít see his shadow in this corner of the woods. That is supposed to mean an early spring. Big deal. Around here, weíre lucky to get only six more weeks of winter. February 2 was also Candlemas Day and thereís a few little bits of lore attached to that date. Itís the date Victorians took down their Christmas greens. I wish my neighbors would take that hint. February 2nd is supposed to be half way between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. I haven't done the math, but it sounds reasonable. Pagans celebrated it as the Feast of Lights when winter starts to yield to a more spring-like sun. Itís a Christian celebration. But of course, most important to horse owners is ďA farmer should, on Candlemas Day, have half his corn and half his hayĒ.

Itís a long way to haying season, when the next crop will be ready. So what if you donít have enough hay to see you through to early summer? Here are a few things you can do to extend and preserve your hay store.

There are two things that hay fulfills for a horse. It provides necessary nutrition and it is a substitute for grazing, which should take up most of your horseís time and staves off behaviors born of boredom. For good health, Horses need 1.5 to 2.0 percent of their body weight in high quality hay per day. When this isnít possible, we need to replace the hay with something that will provide the same good nutrition and fibre. During the winter I used to feed my horses soaked beet pulp to provide them with a bit more fluid, fibre and nutrition. When I fed beet pulp, I noticed that the horses did not eat as much hay.

There are a few other things you can feed to extend your hay supply. Hay cubes are an alternative to bales. I like to feed them soaked as I find some are densely compacted and that could lead to choke. Hay cubes take up much less space than baled hay and are usually made of top quality grasses or legume mixes. Haylage, silage or ensilage is sometimes fed to horses. Because itís stored at a higher moisture content than hay, there is a chance of botulism growing. The bags should also be air-tight, so itís wise to prevent punctures while handling them. If you feed this type of forage, your horse should receive a botulism vaccine.

Related: Signs and Symptoms of Choke
Related: Avoiding Feed Mill Horse Feed Poisoning
Related: Dangers of Monensin Antibiotics in Horse Feed
Related: Common Horse Feeding Myths

If youíve read the Little House on the Prairie books, you might have learned that Pa Ingalls fed his horses straw. This was once common practice. Some horses canít be bedded on straw, because theyíll pig out on their bedding. Itís possible, but not ideal, to feed horses straw. Thereís little nutrition in straw, so it needs to fed with concentrates to make up the lack. Itís also harder to digest for youngsters and seniors. A lot of horses will turn their noses up at wheat or barley and rye straw can carry a harmful fungus. Oat straw is probably the best bet for giving your horse something to munch on between feedings. Use caution when introducing it.

Related: Sand Colic

Concentrated feeds such as blends of grains, meals and supplements are great for adding extra energy and nutrition into your horseís diet, but they arenít good for your horseís need to graze. Nor is a big stomach full good for its digestive system. Concentrates lack fibre, and are eaten in a short time. A lack of fibre can lead to colic and EGUS. Your horse needs to have itís diet comprised of more than 20% fibre. Use concentrates to make up for nutritional shortfalls, and not as the mainstay of your horseís diet.

And of course thereís real pasture. But, for many of us, that is still a long way off.
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