Instore Pickup & Local Delivery


Your Cart is Empty

  • Add description, images, menus and links to your mega menu

  • A column with no settings can be used as a spacer

  • Link to your collections, sales and even external links

  • Add up to five columns

  • June 06, 2024 4 min read

    Feeding Horses During a Drought: Alternatives to Hay

    Drought conditions can significantly impact the availability and quality of hay, a primary food source for horses. During such times, it becomes essential to find alternative feeds that can provide the necessary nutrition to maintain horse health and performance. This blog will explore various alternatives to hay, their benefits, and how to incorporate them into your horse's diet effectively.

    Understanding the Nutritional Needs of Horses

    Before diving into the alternatives, it’s important to understand the basic nutritional needs of horses. Horses require a balanced diet that includes:

    - Forage: The foundation of a horse’s diet, typically provided by hay or pasture, rich in fibre essential for digestive health.

    - Concentrates: Grains, legumes and commercial feeds that provide additional energy, vitamins, and minerals. Concentrates aren’t needed for every horse, but the diet always needs to be balanced for vitamins, minerals, protein and digestible energy.

    - Water: Clean, fresh water is vital for all bodily functions.

    - Vitamins and Minerals: Necessary for various metabolic processes and overall health.

    During a drought, when hay is scarce, the primary concern is finding adequate forage alternatives to maintain the fiber intake necessary for a healthy digestive system.

    Alternative Forage Options

    1. Chopped Hay and Hay Cubes: Chopped hay and hay cubes are processed forms of hay that are easier to store and transport.

       - Benefits: They provide a similar nutritional profile to traditional hay and can be used to replace or supplement hay in the diet.

       - Usage: Introduce gradually to prevent digestive upset. Ensure consistent moisture to prevent choking, especially with hay cubes.

       - Recommended Products: Multicube Hay Cubes


    2. Hay Pellets: Hay pellets are made from ground hay compressed into small, dense pellets.

       - Benefits: High in fibre, easy to store, and less dusty than traditional hay.

       - Usage: Can be soaked in water to increase palatability and reduce the risk of choke.

       - Recommended Products: Milne AllFibre


    3. Beet Pulp: Beet pulp is a byproduct of sugar beet processing and is high in digestible fibre.

       - Benefits: Excellent source of fibre and energy, low in sugar, and can help maintain weight.

       - Usage: Soak in water before feeding to prevent choking and improve digestibility.

       - Recommended Products: Speedibeet and Hygain Micrbeet


    4. Alfalfa Products: Alfalfa is a legume hay rich in protein, calcium, and energy.

       - Benefits: Suitable for high-performance horses or those needing extra protein and calories.

       - Usage: Available as pellets, cubes, or chopped. Should be introduced gradually and balanced with other feed to avoid excess calcium and protein.

        - Recommended Products: Lucerne Chaff and ucerne MultiCubes 


    5. Soybean’Lupin Hulls: Soybean/Lupin hulls are a byproduct of soybean/lupin processing and provide a high-fibre alternative to hay.

       - Benefits: Highly digestible fiber source, low in starch, and can be mixed with other feeds.

       - Usage: Should be introduced gradually and soaked if in pellet form to improve palatability.

       - Recommended Products: Thompson and Redwood Lupin Fibre, Benchmark Super Fibre Mash and Maxisoy Soya Hull Pellets


    6. Rice Bran: Rice bran is the outer layer of the rice grain and is rich in fat and fibre.

       - Benefits: Provides additional calories and fiber, often fortified with vitamins and minerals.

       - Usage: Best used as a supplement to other feeds rather than a sole forage replacement.

       - Recommended Products: CopRice Rice Bran

    The abovementioned list of hay alternatives is not designed to replace hay, but rather supplement it when supply is low. Hay or pasture should always make up the bulk of the horse’s diet. If these are in short supply, then hay should be rationed with the abovementioned products included so that sufficient fibre is provided to the horse.

    Managing Dietary Changes

    Introducing new feeds to a horse’s diet should be done gradually to avoid digestive disturbances such as colic or diarrhea. Here are some tips for managing dietary changes:

    1. Gradual Introduction: Start by replacing a small portion of the hay with the alternative feed, gradually increasing the amount over 1-2 weeks.
    2. Monitor Health: Keep an eye on your horse’s weight, coat condition, and overall health. Any signs of digestive upset should be addressed promptly.
    3. Consistent Feeding Schedule: Maintain a regular feeding schedule to help horses adjust to dietary changes and reduce stress.
    4. Hydration: Ensure horses have constant access to clean, fresh water. Some alternative feeds, like beet pulp, can be soaked to increase water intake.
    5. Consult a Veterinarian: Work with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to develop a balanced diet that meets your horse’s specific needs.

    Supplements and Additional Considerations

    During a drought, it’s also essential to consider supplements and other dietary components to ensure your horse’s overall health and well-being:

    1. Vitamins and Minerals: Supplementation may be necessary to compensate for any deficiencies in the alternative feeds. Products designed for horses on forage-restricted diets can be particularly beneficial.
    2. Electrolytes: In hot, dry conditions, horses may lose electrolytes through sweat. Providing an electrolyte supplement can help maintain proper hydration and muscle function.
    3. Probiotics and Prebiotics: These can support digestive health, especially during dietary transitions.

    Environmental and Management Strategies

    In addition to dietary changes, consider the following management strategies to support your horse during a drought:

    1. Pasture Management: Rotate grazing areas to prevent overgrazing and allow pastures to recover. Consider planting drought-resistant forage species.
    2. Shelter and Shade: Provide adequate shelter and shade to protect horses from extreme weather conditions and reduce stress.
    3. Regular Health Check-ups: Maintain regular veterinary check-ups to monitor your horse’s health and address any issues promptly.

    As Oakford Stockfeeds we stock a great range of products that can assist you with boosting the fibre content of your horse’s feed. To view our range, simple visit us in-store or online!

    Leave a comment

    Comments will be approved before showing up.