Equine Wellness: Health and Nutrition with Jean Klosowicz, Superior Equine Health and Nutrition Inc.

Winter Forages Despite the lack of

snow on the ground we are well into “winter” mode with our horses! Pastures are now dormant and not considered a forage source at this time of year. Many horse owners are now using a variety of dried and processed forages which in- clude

hays, alfalfa cubes/pellets, and timothy-

alfalfa cubes and pellets. Other choices may include beet pulp, haylage and silage while straw and chaff are typically too low in en- ergy and protein to be fed for horses. In this article I will highlight the two most common winter feeding for- ages: Hays and Cubes/Pel- lets. Hays: This is the most typ- ical of forages fed during the winter months when horses are off of pasture. Forage species commonly found in hays in Canada are timothy, timothy- clover or alfalfa, mixed grass hays, and alfalfa.. While small

square bales are the preferred choice by many horse owners for ease of handling, round bales or larger squares of varying sizes are often the choice for when a number of horses are fed, and as a time con- venience for horse owners. However in either case, storage methods will vary as well as costs which may be significant when de- ciding the form to purchase. Some pros to consider in- clude: a variety of baled op- tions

to choose from depending upon what is

hays make an excel- lent choice for horses in growth, pregnancy, lactation, and per- formance. This is be- cause it has higher protein, energy and calcium than grass hays. Hays, regard- less of the mix. should always be analyzed to

most suited to owners/stable managers, readily available locally or shipped in, ac- cepted by most horses, and price point is good com- pared to other forage types (cubes, pellets). Some dis- advantages include: nutri- tional value is highly variable from one lot to the other, owners must be very diligent and knowledgeable about quality when selecting hay (nutrient value, mold, dust, etc), many horse own- ers are unaware of poison- ous weeds that the hay may contain, storage of hay can be difficult and some horses cannot tolerate certain hays because of health conditions (high starch, sugars, pro- teins, iron levels, etc). Nutritional value in

hay can vary tremendously from field to field and across the country due to soil conditions, weather, species, farming practices including fertilization, crop rotation,

spraying, etc.

Hays are susceptible to weed infestations (poiso- nous and non- poisonous), mould, dust, high sugar and starch content, and varying mineral /vitamin content. While most horses tolerate hay very well, not all hay species are suitable for all horses. making them in some case a high risk for some horses. For example timothy or mixed grass hay is commonly fed for mature maintenance or light work horses, while legume mixed

determine if it is the right hay for your horse because of all the variables. It is easy to do and provides a wealth of information to help you make the right se- lection of supplementation for your horse. Horse hay can be fed

in a variety of ways depend- ing upon the needs of the owner and the horse. Flakes and loose hay are often fed at floor level in a loose state or may be fed in hay nets of various sizes. Larger bales may be placed in a bale holder right outside, and preferably under some sort of cover to prevent mould. There are also large slow feeder nets for these size bales that will help to mini- mize waste and keep horses from overfeeding.

Hay Cubes and Pellets: When quality of hay is com- promised due to weather or availability horse owners will often turn to using hay cubes for their horses. Al- though pound for pound

they are typically more


horse owners appre- ciate the conven- ience of storage, feeding and quality control. Hay cubes are readily available directly from companies and feed stores and come in different mixes:


and timothy/alfalfa cubes. The amount of alfalfa in the cube/pellet can vary from manufacture to manufac- turer so it is important to be selective when it comes to purchasing. Alfalfa mixes are generally NOT suited for easy keepers and horses prone to laminitis or founder. Cubes and pellets are often fed to horses with respiratory conditions be- cause of low dust and make an excellent forage for horses with poor dentition, as well as for senior horses in need of keeping weight on. There is usually less wastage, eaten quite readily, reduced manure, and nutri- ent quality is guaranteed. Owners should be aware that there is reduced eating time which may lead to boredom and vices, cubes can lead to choke making it necessary to soak, and intro- duce cubes/pellets gradually into the diet because they are more rich in protein and energy than grass hay. Al- falfa or alfalfa mixed cubes

and pellets should be care- fully balanced in nutrients with other feeds and supple- ments because of the higher calcium levels than grass forages. Always request an analysis from the company to confirm the nutritional value of their products be- fore adding additional feeds and supplements. Over and under supplementation may affect your horse’s health, performance, behaviour, hoof quality and overall well-being so be sure to in- vestigate further before you decide on your feeding choices. If you have questions balancing

about your

horse’s forage to ensure an optimal diet, please send an email

to and I will be happy to assist you! I specialize in balanc- ing diets using NRC guide- lines

and ranges to

maximize your horse’s health and nutrition, and achieve superior results! Cheers! Jean Klosowicz www.superiorequinenutri-

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