The Horse

OCT 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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NUTRITION ALAYNE BLICKLE | The Horse October 2018 37 W e don't lovingly refer to our horses as "hayburners" without reason. Hay is their primary feedstuff, and equine nutritionists recommend feeding 1.5 to 2% of their weight in hay or for- age a day. For most horses, that usually pencils out to be 15 to 20 pounds. But no matter how long we've had horses, there always seems to be more to learn about hay and choosing the right type. How does hay quality affect overall diet? How can you deal with variable quality? When and how should hay be soaked or steamed? Why use hay feeders? To jump-start my research on this topic I posted on social media, soliciting ques- tions from real horse owners. The ones I got were excellent and intriguing. For the answers I consulted with three experts on hay and equine nutrition. Clair Thunes, PhD, is an independent equine nutrition consultant who owns Summit Equine Nutrition, in Sacramen- to, California. She works with owners, trainers, and veterinarians to take the guesswork out of feeding horses, from World Equestrian Games competitors to backyard-roaming Miniature Donkeys. Natalie Shaw, PAS, is an equine nutri- tionist and lifelong horse owner based in the Pacific Northwest. She is pursuing a master of science from Washington State University, studying the effects of grow- ing and harvesting methods on teff hay's nonstructural carbohydrate values. Emily Glunk Meccage, MS, PhD, is an extension forage specialist and assistant professor at Montana State University, in Bozeman. She co-owns Field and Fodder Consulting LLC, a private equine nutri- tional consulting company. Since 2014 she has been studying the forage-animal interaction, as well as best management practices for forage production. Now, let's get to the questions! Q What are warm- and cool- season grasses, what regions do they grow best in, and do they make good hay? Warm-season grasses, such as Ber- muda grass, dallisgrass, pearl millet, and crabgrass, grow best in higher tempera- tures and in most cases are more water- efficient than cool-season species. "They generally have lower protein and digestibility and higher fiber than cool- season grasses at similar maturity stages," says Meccage. "These grasses require soil temperatures to be around 55 degrees F before they even start germinating and growing. We grow them all throughout the U.S., but not every area is suited for them. "For instance, in Montana warm- season species have been working really well in many places," she continues. "However, at some of the higher el- evations, we don't have enough days at higher temperatures to allow for optimal growth, so we generally don't see them there. And we are not able to grow any perennial warm-season species—only an- nual ones—whereas in the Southern U.S., they can grow perennial species that can survive the more mild winters." Cool-season species grow best in the spring and fall, with cooler temperatures and plenty of moisture. These include orchardgrass, timothy, fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass. "These make great hay sources and, depending on maturity, can be high in protein, energy, and digestibility," says Meccage. "Legumes like alfalfa and sain- foin are also considered to be cool-season species, which … are extremely high in protein, as well as a good energy source. PAULA DA SILVA/ARND.NL Q&A About Hay Equine nutritionists address real horse owners' queries about this essential forage Hay is your horse's primary feedstuff, and he should consume about 12 to 20 pounds of it (or other forage) a day.

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