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  • May 19, 2022 5 min read

    Cost Saving Tips for Feeding Horses in Winter

    Many horse owners dread winter time - I know I do! It’s not just the short days and dark hours but the cold and the wet, especially at feed time, is just not so nice!  It is generally thought that horses require more hard feed in the winter months.  It is certainly true that your horse may need more calories to maintain weight and keep warm but your costs do not have to spiral out of control. If you want to learn how to keep your horse looking good during winter, while keeping your feed costs under control, we have detailed some of our top tips!

    Hard feed versus hay

    Horse owners frequently opt to meet the increased nutritional requirements of the winter regime with a hard feed but in fact, what the horse really needs is, long fibre (hay) and lots of it!  Lack of long fibre has the biggest detrimental impact on a horse’s weight loss during the colder months, and so not only is increasing your horse's hard feed not your most effective option, but it is also much more expensive.

    Horses have evolved to eat endless quantities of long fibre – grass, hay or haylage.  So set yourself up during the summer months with a good supply of hay for the winter and this can meet most, if not all, of your horse’s nutritional requirements and, at a fraction of the cost.  Horses can actually compete to a decent level on hay or grass alone and so if your horse has a busy winter schedule planned then you may only need to supplement with a small amount ofhard feed or an appropriate balancer in order to ensure the requisite levels of minerals and vitamins. Experts recommend feeding at least 1.5% to 2% of the horse's body weight in hay, so for a 500kg horse, that's at least 7.5kg of hay per day!

    What's more, eating hay warms the horse! As microbes in the horses gut digest hay, heat is released, thereby warming your horse!

    Minimise wastage

    Hay fed in hay nets tends to create less waste thanfeedingthehorsefrom the floor where the hay becomes soiled and caught up in bedding.  If your horse eats his ration too quickly, then use smaller hole haynets one inside another which will slow him down.  Calculate the correct daily amount for his height, weight and work and weigh your hay – don’t feed by eye.

    In saying the above, I do have a horse that will eat more hay if the hay is on the ground or in a large holed hay net. I have found that with some horses, they simply don't want to fight for their food, so if you put the hay in a larger holed haynet they can more easily access this, thereby eating more hay!

    Professional horse feed advice

    Feeding thehorseis a complex topic for many horse owners.  Almost everyone does something different and swears by their own brands but feeding doesn’t have to be complicated.  Left to their own devices, horses are happy to just eat grass.  They have a complex hind gut which was designed to process large quantities of fibre not necessarily the complex compound feeds that are on offer at the feed merchants.

    Some feed companies offer yard visits and will come out and weigh and condition score your horse.  They can advise on feeding routines for optimum health and produce a chart with quantities and weights but they can only recommend the feed they specifically manufacture rather than take a view across the whole of the market.  It is not uncommon for a nutritionist to find that an owner is not only simply feeding too much but that the contents of their feed bowl are a lack certain nutrients and minerals.

    Winter grazing

    Planning ahead in the summer and preserving winter turnout will make a big dent in your hay bills.  Not only is it good psychologically for the horse to be turned out as much as possible, but keeping good grazing for as long as you can throughout the winter will make your life a lot easier and cheaper.  You will save on bedding costs as well as hay and feed.  Use the driest most sheltered land for winter paddocks to minimise poaching in wet weather, so destructive of any remaining grass coverage.

    If you don't have access to a well preserved winter paddock, then it is important to make sure that your horse has access to forage whilst out in the paddock, to prevent boredom as well as eating short shoots of grass, which may cause colic. A hay roll, or hay squares, left out for your horse to eat, will preserve the grass that you have left out in your paddock but will also ensure the health of your horse.

    Ditch the supplements

    Make sure your horse's feed (inlcuding grass and hay!) is appropriately balanced. By ensuring that you are feeding as close to the nutrient requirements of the horse, then you will not only save money, but you will ensure that your horse is getting the appropriate levels of vitamins, minerals, energy and protein that it needs to be healthy.


    Buying brands

    There are so many brands of horse feed out there, and many people will favour a particular brand. However, if you try to choose brands that are locally made in Western Australia or the area in which you reside, then you will save on transport costs, which will often be ther reason why some bags of feed are so much more expensive than others. 


    Choose the right horse feed

    Rather than feeding a basic pasture cube or grass pellet and then supplementing with all sorts of different ingredients, why not consider an all-round broad-spectrumhorse feed which has everything in it and has been nutritionally balanced for you?  This can work out a lot cheaper than buying all sorts of bits and pieces and adding them yourself.


    Saving money on horse feed is just part of the bigger picture.  Horses are expensive and so every aspect of the yard routine should be as cost-efficient as possible.  If you really cannot pare down your feed costs any more, then don’t make a false economy and end up feeding your horse nutritionally inferior products or forage.  There are probably other areas where you can make savings so your horse can continue to enjoy good food and optimum health even during the winter.






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