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  • January 05, 2023 3 min read

    If you ask horse owners if they feed their horse chaff, you will find that a large majority do. However, have you ever questioned why you feed chaff; is it because you want to "beef up" your horse's feed, slow down their eating, or perhaps to add more forage to their diet? Maybe it is for a completely different reason. Chaff is actually quite an important addition to most horses' diets, and in the article, we will explore why this is the case, as well as the different types of chaff you can choose to feed your horse. 

    Chaff is simply chopped-up hay. So in contrast to hay, chaff is a lot smaller in size and won't contain the long stems that we traditionally have with hay. However, chaff is still forage and so is an essential component of your horse's diet, as it will increase the fibre content. 

    As we know, horses need to eat at least 1.5% to 2% of their body weight in forage per day. The bulk majority of this will be in the form of hay and pasture; however, if you provide a hard feed to your horse, chaff will also make up some of this component. Forage is essential for a horse's digestive system to maintain its microbiome balance and health, so it is important to ensure that it makes up the bulk of your horse's feed. 

    Chaff also stimulates the production of saliva by encouraging horses to chew. Horses need to generate saliva, as when they eat, the saliva will help protect the lining of the stomach from acid, which will assist in maintaining gastric health and reduce the likelihood of conditions such as gastric ulcers. 

    If you feed your horse concentrates, such as muesli or pellets, then feeding chaff will help slow down the ingestion of the concentrate. But why is this important? As we discussed above, chaff increases saliva production, which is important to help protect against stomach acidity. If you fed a horse some pellets, then no doubt those pellets would be consumed within a blink of an eye, so there wouldn't be much chewing going on! This will lead to a lack of saliva production, which can impact gastric health. Also, if a large amount of concentrate feed is consumed too quickly, then this may affect the health of the gut, as a lot of starch will need to be digested all at once, resulting in a change to the microbiome of the gut. A shift in the hindgut bacterial population can result in conditions such as hindgut acidosis and negative changes to the horse's behaviour. 

    Slowing down the consumption of feed also has one more benefit; that is to reduce the likelihood of choke. Choke commonly occurs when the horse eats concentrates too fast, resulting in a blockage in the esophagus. So, we must slow down our gutsy steeds as much as possible - for their own health! 

    So, now we know the reasons for feeding chaff, let's look into some different kinds of chaff available on the market. 

    Oaten Chaff - one of the most commonly fed chaffs, oaten chaff is derived from, yes, you guessed it, oaten hay. Typically this chaff will be higher in sugar, which may affect a horse's behaviour, but it typically doesn't affect your horse's teeth. The reason is that chaff is easier to chew, it is only in your horse's mouth for a short time. 

    Wheaten Chaff - another commonly fed chaff, wheaten chaff is typically lower in sugar than oaten chaff. It may be more suitable for horses that require a low protein and/or low sugar diet. 

    Lucerne Chaff - lucerne chaff is a low-sugar and high-protein chaff. If your horse needs added protein, then this is a great source. Lucerne is also high in calcium and is beneficial to feed horses suffering from gastric disease, particularly before riding, as it helps to buffer stomach acidity. 

    Rhodes Chaff - rhodes chaff is relatively new to the market. It is a great low-sugar alternative for those horses that require a low-sugar diet. 

    Chaff replacements - some products on the market are chaff replacements. These products are often forge based but they include additives that are designed to help with maintaining the gastric health of a horse. 

    Chaff plays quite an essential role in your horses don't, particularly if hard feeding. Not only does chaff help slow down your horse's food consumption, but it also aids in increasing saliva production and adds to the overall forage content of your horse's diet. 

    As always, we are here to help! If you have any questions about which chaff product is right for you, visit us in store or online today! 

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