Do you have a senior horse (or two) in your herd? Ever have trouble getting them to eat hay, or to eat at all? Then this article is for you! There are many alternative types of “forage” that you can feed your senior horses, instead of feeding them dry hay. Let’s talk about chopped hay for senior horses.
Some of these include hay cubes, soaked hay cubes, grass, and chopped hay. Chopped hay, in particular, is an ideal alternative for normal hay, if you have a senior horse that can still chew and digest it regularly.
In this article, I’ll be discussing the need for alternative forages and the ways in which chopped hay can help your senior horses’ diets!
Chopped Hay for Senior Horses: Forage Alternatives
Importance of Forage
All horses should have forage in their diets. Forage even makes up the entirety of some horses’ diets! Forage is essentially any natural food source that a horse could find in the wild. The most common sources of forage are hay and grass.
Forage has many health benefits for horses. Unlike when horses chew their soft grain or oats, chewing forage is more physical work and causes horses to salivate. This saliva then helps control gastric health and the overall health of a horse’s intestines.
Gastric health is important to a horse’s overall wellbeing, and it helps prevent things like colic, cribbing, and pain-induced behavioral outbursts. Please note though that lack of forage is not the only thing that causes gastric unwellness; there are many things that can contribute to a horse’s gastric issues and the salivation that comes from eating forage simply something that helps encourage gastric health.
So, as you can see, forage plays a very important role in a horse’s diet. So what if your senior horse has trouble chewing his hay? Or isn’t interested in the grass anymore? Thankfully, there are several forage alternatives.
Many of these alternatives create a forage option that is softer for senior horses to chew. Some can substitute a senior horse’s forage intake completely, others are intended to supplement a horse’s typical forage intake.
Some forage alternatives include hay cubes, hay pellets, beet pulp, soybean hulls, and chopped hay.
Chopped Hay for Senior Horses: Other Alternatives
A popular forage alternative is hay cubes. Hay cubes are essentially dehydrated hay that has been compacted into small rectangles. These cubes are then soaked in warm water to create almost a “mash” of hay. Hay cubes can be a complete substitute for hay.
Hay Pellets are very similar to hay cubes. They are also dehydrated hay, but they come in the form of pellets, not cubes. Some believe that hay pellets take more of the nutrients out of the hay than hay cubes do, but it is all dependent on what brands of each you purchase.
Hay pellets can be used as a complete replacement for your horse’s forage intake, but it is probably the least popular alternative forage to do so.
The Practical Horseman describes Beet Pulp with the following words: “A great source of highly digestible fiber, it provides about 9 percent protein, similar to some grass hays. But it has a high calcium content (more than alfalfa) and few vitamins, and it won’t satisfy the urge to chew. It may need soaking before feeding to reduce dust and increase palatability.”
So, it’s a great alternative, but probably shouldn’t be used as a complete replacement for your horse’s normal forage intake.
Horses don’t need to eat the beans themselves, but horses can get fiber from eating soybean hulls. Horses generally like soybean hulls, but they will definitely not be able to eat them as a full substitute for their normal forage intake. Soybean hulls should be fed primarily as a snack or a supplement in comparison to their normal diet.
One of the most popular alternative forages is chopped hay. Chopped hay can be a complete substitute for your horse’s forage intake, and it is as close to normal hay as you are going to get. Chopped hay is exactly what you would think; hay chopped up into smaller bits and compressed into a bag.
Chopped Hay for Senior Horses: Benefits
Because it comes in much smaller pieces, a horse doesn’t need to put as much effort into chewing chopped hay. But, eating chopped hay should still cause a horse to salivate enough for him to maintain his gastric health.
Chopped Hay for Senior Horses: Where To Find It
Chopped hay is pricey, but it’s not hard to find. You can find chopped hay at your local feed stores, and at commercial farming supply stores like Tractor Supply Co. and Family Farm and Home.
You can also purchase Chopped Hay from distributors online, and in doing so, have it shipped directly to your home or farm. Some people even try to make their own chopped hay from their normal hay bales, but this can be extremely time-consuming. And, typically the hay from normal bales is going to be thicker and tougher than the hay that is used to make commercial chopped hay.
The best way to find chopped hay near you is to simply do an internet search. Or, do some face-to-face research! If you live in a farm-country, there might be someone right down the road from you who makes their own.
Forage is an essential part of a horse’s diet, even for senior horses! So, what can be done when senior horses are no longer interested in the grass and have difficulties chewing hay? Thankfully, today there are many forage alternatives.
One of the best forage alternatives is chopped hay. While still encouraging the horse to salivate to maintain gastric health, chopped hay is easy to chew, easy to swallow alternative to normal hay. It’s easy to find, easy to eat, and can be a complete substitute for your horse’s forage intake.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and I hope it helped you learn more about chopped hay as a forage alternative. If so, please share this article, and share with us your experiences feeding chopped hay or other forage alternatives!