Are you confident your horses get sufficient nourishment from the hay you feed them? Horses eat up to 2.5 percent of their body weight in dry matter daily. That means that, on average, a 900-pound horse needs at least 18 pounds of hay every day. That’s why ensuring your horse eats the best feed is essential. There are two main types of hay feed: legume hay and grass hay. Here’s what you need to know to keep your horses fully nourished.
Alfalfa, white clover, red clover and birdsfoot trefoil are common types of legume hay. Alfalfa hay is popular because it’s an excellent source of protein, digestible energy, calcium and other nutrients. However, you may need to add a high-phosphorus mineral supplement to alfalfa hay to balance the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio better.
Legume hay is best for horses that require energy- and nutrient-dense food sources. It’s a better choice for broodmares, foals and working horses, which need to consume many calories.
Kentucky bluegrass, orchardgrass and timothy are all common grasses used for hay. In Ontario, timothy grass is particularly abundant. Although grass hay is lower in protein and energy than legume hay, it’s often sufficient for most horses. Plus, it’s higher in fibre. Grass hay also more closely matches a horse’s natural diet.
In general, grass hay is best for the average horse, as well as “easy keepers” and retired horses. It provides the animal with plenty of nutrients and roughage without adding too many calories or excess protein.
How to Choose
When determining what type of hay to feed your horse, remember that no two animals are the same. You must consider your horse’s breed, body type, weight, age, metabolism and workload. In many cases, a mix of legume and grass hay will provide a healthy, balanced feed. However, it’s best to consult an equine veterinarian and have your hay tested to know exactly what you’re feeding your herd.
Equine Equipment in Southern Ontario
Ontario Wholesale Farm Direct (OWFD) carries a wide variety of equine products, including corral shelters, cattle panels, welded mesh panels and heavy-duty wire fencing. We also have various livestock feeders, including tombstone, slant bar, manger and round bale feeder options that significantly reduce hay waste. We serve farms of all sizes in southern Ontario, from small hobby farms to large-scale operations. Contact us today for more information or to place an order.