Forage: which are the best alternatives?

To replace forage, the feed should be fiber-based and maintain the nutritional levels of hay, encouraging long chewing.

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Forage substitutes

Not all feeds can be used to replace forage. In order to be used as an alternative, the product must be fiber-based and have a similar nutritional quality to hay, with low levels of starch. Ideally the product should also encourage plenty of chewing, unless the horse has dental problems, in which case a soaked forage substitute is more suitable.

If you know that forage supply can be a problem, “extending” the forage ration can be a useful way to manage costs and make a smooth transition before a total replacement is needed. Many of Dengie’s forages can be used as partial forage substitutes; even Alfa-A Original can be fed up to 3 kg per day for a large horse, which means it is possible to reduce forage by 3 kg per day. This can be especially useful if forage quality is poor, as Alpha-A is much more nutritious than grass forages and contains enough energy to reduce dependence on concentrated feeds.

On the other hand, if it is necessary to completely replace the forage ration, check whether a feed can partially or completely replace the forage ration. The range of Dengie forages suitable as complete forage substitutes contain a higher percentage of fiber sources other than alfalfa. Hi-Fi Senior, for example, contains about two-thirds high temperature dried herbs and one-third alfalfa.

forage alternatives

How much forage should a horse take?

At a minimum, all horses and ponies should receive a forage ration of at least 1.5 percent of their body weight. For a 600 kg horse this is equivalent to 9 kg of dry matter during the 24 hours. If your horse grazes on reasonably good grass, then grazing will account for part of this daily intake. It is virtually impossible to know how much a horse consumes when it is outdoors on grass, so at best we have to use a rough estimate based on time. For example, assuming the horse has been boxed for 12 hours, then we will use at least half the recommended amount.

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How to administer a forage substitute

One of the first concerns many horse owners have about feeding forage substitutes is meal size. Large rations of fiber-based forage should be left for your horse; only concentrated feeds provide larger amounts of starch from grains that should be given in limited amounts. Ideally, all new foods and forages should be gradually introduced into the ration, slowly increasing the amount fed over a couple of weeks.

Forage substitutes cannot be fed in a net, but must be offered in several rubber buckets to encourage foraging activity. Try to increase consumption time by dividing the forage substitute into smaller meals if possible. Intake can also be slowed by the use of very large smooth pebbles, which are too large to be consumed but cause no harm. Regarding soaking, we recommend preparing the forage in the morning and feeding it at night to keep it fresh.

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