As traditional forage supplies are pinched, horse owners may need to consider alternative forages such as cereal hay or alfalfa cubes. There are other forages that horse owners could consider, but they vary with local conditions.
When considering alternative feeds, horse owners should be aware that the nutrition content will vary. Waste will also increase as the horse will pick through the forages and select the parts they find palatable.
Some owners may choose to use more concentrate in their feeding programs this winter than normal. The use of fibrous feedstuff, such as soy hulls or beet pulp, can help horses meet their nutritional needs while allowing the horse owner to stretch hay supplies. These feeds can be used at a rate of .25 to .35 percent of the horse's body weight included in a cereal grain mix to supplement the hay portion of the program. The total concentrate meal shouldn't exceed .5 percent of the horse's body weight. This would be equal to five pounds per feeding for a 1,000 pound horse. It is important to monitor your horse's body weight on the program to ensure your horse is maintaining its body weight. Adjustments may be needed.
When administering fibrous feeds, owners should be cautious about how much fiber their horse consumes because too much fiber can knock a horse's digestive system out of whack. Owners should make sure they provide their horse adequate fresh, clean water. When feeding a horse fibrous, low quality forage, it is important for the horse to have adequate water intake to prevent impaction.
Typically, a horse should have a minimum of one gallon of water per 100 pounds available to them every day. The horse should also have sufficient salt and minerals incorporated in its diet.
There are some feeds available commercially that are designed to be the sole food source for horses, but these feeds are very high in fiber. These types of feeds provide sufficient nutrients for the horse but can lead to the development of bad habits, such as chewing on fences. These habits are the result of a horse's boredom.
If you are having trouble finding adequate winter forage, contact the Jessamine County Extension Office to see where hay is available. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Web site, www.kyagr.com, also has information available for those needing to buy or sell hay. With gas prices so high, going elsewhere for hay could be a costly venture, but it's well worth the cost to maintain the health of your horse.
If you decide to incorporate alternative feed sources into your horse's diet this winter, your horse needs to get adapted to the alternative food. Now is time to start adapting horses to alternative food sources by mixing it in with the horse's normal food supply. Feed the horse two to three times a day to give the horse a continuous source of feed. Don't feed your horse all the hay it's going to get for the day at once. Divide and distribute it every time you feed your horse supplements or alternative feeds. This way the horse gets some hay with each of its meals.
Rations for stretching hay supplies
The drought has caused a shortage of hay supply for all species of animals this winter. As farmers are struggling to find enough hay to meet winter feeding needs, many are finding that hay is either too expensive or just not available.
The following rations use commodity feeds to supplement and stretch the current hay supply. All of these rations meet the nutritional requirement of our beef cows. If you need more information on formulating rations for beef cattle or using other feed supplements, contact the Jessamine County Extension Office.
These rations are for cows during early winter:
Ration 1: 11 pounds of soybean hulls and three pounds of grass hay.
Ration 2: 7.7 pounds of corn gluten feed, 3.3 pounds of soybean hulls, three pounds grass hay and .2 pounds of limestone.