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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38 October 2018 The Horse | NUTRITION These work well all over the U.S., and ma- ny are commercially grown throughout." Q When people refer to a first, second, etc., cutting of hay, what do they mean? This number describes how many times a hayfield has been cut during a growing season. "The first time a field is cut in the year is the first cutting and, depending on the part of the country, is done usually in May or June," says Thunes. "The field is then allowed to regrow and is recut, which would be the second cutting. The part of the country and the length of the growing season typically determine how many cuttings there are." Cooler, high-elevation areas such as Wyoming get one cutting. "Some parts of California get as many as six to seven cut- tings of alfalfa," says Thunes, "sometimes even eight." Most areas, however, only get one to two cuttings of grass hay. "There is this philosophy that second cutting is best and that first cutting may be more mature and stemmy than is desirable—or that there may be more weeds in the first so a second cutting would be 'cleaner,' " she adds. For horses in life stages or careers without high demands, this stemmy, less digestible hay with greater 'chew time' is perfectly fine and might even be desir- able. It's not a good choice, however, for high-performance horses, lactating broodmares, or weanlings, which all have greater nutritional needs, says Thunes. As far as which cutting has lower nonstructural carbohydrates (NSCs— something to avoid if you have insulin- resistant and easy-keeper horses), "with more mature hay we would expect lower levels of NSCs, but the only way to know for sure is to test it," says Thunes. Q Is one grass hay variety more palatable than another? Researchers have performed a variety of studies evaluating forage palatability for horses. "In general, one of the biggest impacts is going to be maturity of the grass at harvest," Meccage says. "The later it is cut, the stemmier and more fibrous it is going to be, which will de- crease palatability. If you see lots of stems and seedheads, with few leaves, you can probably expect higher refusal compared to a leafier hay. The most common spe- cies I see used and sold as horse hay are orchardgrass, timothy, tall or meadow fescue, smooth bromegrass, and alfalfa. All of these, when presented in dry form, usually are going to be fairly palatable to a horse." Q How does hay quality affect overall diet? How can I get and interpret a hay analysis? "Hay quality is everything," Shaw says. In addition to palatability, it affects digest- ibility and the horse's glucose response. It tells you how much to feed daily and what you might need to supplement to meet your horse's nutritional needs. "I think it's important to understand that hay quality can be separated into two categories," she adds. "There's an aes- thetic quality (i.e., green, leafy, and dust-, weed-, and mold-free), but there is also an analytical quality (i.e., how well the forage meets your horse's needs). I always stress the difference between these two, as a quality analysis for one horse may be very different from another horse." Perhaps you have purchased a load of hay without a hay analysis, and now you want to have one done. "Any county with an extension office should be able to help you with that," says Shaw. "Borrow their hay probe, or perhaps they can assist you with getting the hay sample (done) and sent out for analysis." All land grant universities have a state forage agronomist who should also be able to assist you; your local extension office can help you get in contact with that person. You might also go through your local feed dealer. "Most or all feed companies have a regional or local feed rep that can help," says Shaw. "Most carry a hay probe and will often come out and do a hay analysis for free for horse owners. Not only are feed reps horse-savvy but they have a regional understanding for things like selenium deficiencies." She adds that if you purchase hay in bulk, you might be able to request that the grower provide a forage analysis as a value-added component, which should only cost them about $50. "As hay prices go up, we need to be more demanding from our hay growers," Shaw says. Q When should I soak or steam hay? Horses with metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance benefit from hay soaking to remove some of the sugars. "If the sugar content is unknown, it is generally suggested to soak (each meal of) hay in order to remove and lower the water-soluble carbohydrates consumed," says Thunes. The same is true for owners who are trying to reduce the amount of calories their overweight horses consume. When soaking hay, Thunes suggests filling the haynet first, then submerging it completely in water (such as in a clean muck bucket) for 60 minutes. Hang the haynet over a drain to allow excess water to drip away, and then feed. "Be careful, as in some climates it may begin to fer- ment quickly," says Thunes. As for steaming hay, "research shows steaming is primarily helpful with respi- ratory issues," she says. "It helps get rid of dust and mold in hay," but has less effect on NSC levels than does soaking. Depending on the region, elds might produce anywhere from one to seven cuttings of hay in a season. ISTOCK.COM

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