Forage is the Base of the Equine Diet
No horse can survive without forage and all horses must consume at least 1% but preferably at least 2% of their body weight every day. Forages come in many forms: cubed, chopped and long stemmed, which is the ideal way to feed. Horses need to chew forage for many reasons, including mental and behavioral health, dental health, increased saliva production to help prevent ulcers and most of all, excellent quality nutrition. The type of horse being fed will dictate which type of forage should be fed. For example, a racehorse will require a forage of super high quality and high caloric density, while a Shetland pony needs a more fibrous, lower calorie forage.
Low Starch Low Sugar Forage
Western One is pleased to offer the most nutrient dense, high quality low starch and low sugar forages. Typically forages that are low in non structural carbohydrates also tend to be of low quality. Many are over mature, have been grown under stressful conditions and/or have been rained on. Forages harvested under these conditions can be low in non structural carbohydrates but also lack protein, vitamin and mineral content. Our low starch/sugar varieties of forage are clean, soft, palatable and nutritious therefor suitable for horses requiring the highest level of nutrient fortification. To view a Low Starch Low Sugar analysis, click here.
How to Read a Hay Analysis
The careful management of feed and hay selection can produce the type of performance output expected of an equine athlete. One of the best ways to evaluate your horses diet is to know what is in your hay. Also, very important knowledge for those horses with particular sensitivities such as laminitis or cushings disease. Our ability to buy large quantities allows us to identify each individual forage by location, pivot and farmer. Each pivot is tested by one of the top laboratories in the country. (Holmes Lab, Ohio or Dairy One, NY)
Crude protein (CP) – A measure of protein composition of the hay. CP can range from 8 to 14% in grass hays, 14 to 18% mixed hays and 15 to 20+ in legume hays. Most horses require at least 10% protein, lactating mares and foals require higher protein.
Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF) – Composed of cellulose, lignin and other poorly digested components. Lower the ADF value the more digestible nutrients are in hay. 30-35% is good and values above 45% are of little nutritional value.
Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF) – Measurement of the insoluble fiber. Higher the NDF the less a horse will consume. Horses will not eat anything above 65%.
Non-Structural Carbohydrates(NSC) – Total amount of sugar and starch. For horses that need low sugar/starch diet, the NSC should be no greater than 12%.
Relative Feed Value (RFV) – Commonly used when selecting dairy quality hay. An equine nutritionist will not use RFV as a guideline but 100 is considered an average.
Calcium to phosphorus ratio – These minerals are required in the diet by all horses in specific amounts and vary among different types of hay. Phosphorus levels should never exceed calcium, the ideal ratio 2:1 The level of calcium can be higher and still considered great.
Calcium to phosphorus ratio – Calcium should not be more than twice that of magnesium.
Iron, Zinc, Copper, and manganese – Ideal ratios:
- Iron: Copper 4:1
- Copper:Zinc:Manganese- 1:4:4
Equine Digestible energy
High quality forages should be in this range Mcal/lb
- Legume 1.0-1.2
- Mixed .95-1.0
- Grass .90-.95
Please contact us below for retailers near you or for inquiries on direct shipments.
Alfalfa, Medicago Sativa, also called lucerne, is a perennial flowering plant in the pea family cultivated as an important forage crop in many countries around the world. Alfalfa is a legume. Legumes are unique in that their root nodules contain bacteria. Sinohizobium meliloti, that have the ability to fix nitrogen, so that the plant can produce a high-protein feed regardless of how much nitrogen is in the soil. Alfalfa is very palatable to horses and contains high levels of protein, soluble fiber and calcium. It is the best forage for working, breeding and growing horses. It is very useful in the diet of horses that need superior levels of nutrients and high calories.
Orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata L.) is a bunch-type, tall growing, cool-season perennial grass. Orchard grass is fast growing and matures very early in the spring. In the vegetative (leafy) stage, orchard grass is a high-quality forage. Quality declines as the plants approach maturity. Therefore, to obtain high animal performance, harvesting at an early stage of maturity is most desirable. Orchard grass is high in fiber and has a good level of protein, vitamins and minerals. It is suitable for all classes of horses, but is an excellent feed choice for working and producing animals.
This mix is an increasingly popular choice with owners and horses. There are a variety of mixes which can also change depending on the cutting. Ranging from light, 50/50 to heavy alfalfa, the consistency in past years has been excellent. The positive feedback from large farms and stores regarding the palatability, feed efficiency and quality encourages us to keep increasing inventories each year.
Timothy grass (Phleum pratense), is an abundant perennial grass native to most of Europe. It is named after Timothy Hanson, a U.S. farmer and agriculturalist said to have introduced it from New England to the southern states in the early 18th century. Timothy hay is very palatable to horses if it is cut at an earlier stage of maturity. Timothy hay is an excellent choice for all classes of horses, but especially those that require more fiber and lower calories and lower protein levels. It is an excellent choice for easy keepers.