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Are You Feeding the Right Forage?
Horses come with a lot of important choices. For instance, should you let your niece name your new filly? She doesn’t really look like a “Princess JollyRancher Mcpuffins,” but it could probably work. Then there are the really important choices, like what type of forage is ideal for your horse. In fact, forage is the single most important ingredient in a horse’s diet, even compared to grains and supplements. In this email, we’ll help you understand which factors are important when evaluating forage for your horse.
There are several different types of plants that can be used for horse forage. Horses can also eat multiple types of forage assuming they’ve adapted properly. Forage can roughly be divided into 2 types: legumes and grasses. Legumes commonly include alfalfa and clover. Grasses consist of plants like timothy grass, orchard grass and blue grass. The trick is matching up which forage type best meets your four-legged friend’s needs. Performance horses, broodmares and horses needing to gain weight will all benefit from the additional calories and quality protein in legume or legume mix forages. On the other hand, easy keepers (horses with slower metabolisms) and those undergoing moderate to light exercise will do well on grass-based forages.
Forage comes in a variety of different physical forms including pellets, cubes, chopped (chaff) products and bales. Like forage types, a horse can digest multiple formats of forage without upsetting their system, assuming they’ve gradually adjusted. When it comes to forage format, there’s no universally “better” or “correct” option. Instead, you should be using formats that match your horse’s specific needs and eating habits.
No matter what format of forage you’re using, proper storage is crucial to keep your horse happy and healthy. Forage that’s kept outside without a cover runs the risk of being rained on. This can cause the forage to mold or become weather damaged, no matter what type of physical form it’s in.
Sugar Content of Forage
Certain diseases such as insulin resistance and laminitis can make horses more sensitive to their forage’s sugar content. The amount of sugar in forage is determined by many factors including the type of forage as well as growing and harvesting conditions. For instance, cool-season grasses store carbohydrates as sugar. This means they’re naturally higher in sugar than other types of grasses. Make sure you’re using forage that matches your horse’s sugar content restrictions.
Besides type, format and sugar content, there are a number of other factors to consider with forage. Many of these have to do with the way forage is harvested and baled. For instance, the height at which forage is allowed to grow before it’s cut will affect its nutritional content. The taller a plant becomes, the more of its structure is dedicated to keeping it upright. This means as plants grow taller, they become more fibrous and less digestible. Taller plants contain less energy, less protein and are less digestible.
Moisture content also plays an important role. If forage contains too much moisture, it will mold, potentially causing problems to your horse’s health. Because of this, it’s important that forage is dried properly after it’s been cut.
With local forage, moisture content and plant height are both factors you’ll need to take into consideration. However, with Standlee Premium forage, we take care of those concerns for you. All our forage is cut at the perfect time to provide your horse with the ideal nutritional content. We also carefully sun dry our forage to keep moisture at or below 12%, insuring it never molds.
Why not find out if you’re giving your horse the ideal forage to meet their needs? Click the button below to use our forage finder, a special tool developed by our nutritional specialists to help you provide the best diet to your favorite four-legged friend.