Archive for February, 2021

Evaluating Hay Feeders for Horses

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Evaluating Hay Feeders for HorsesEvaluating hay feeders for horses can help you reduce waste. As one of the most common forages fed to horses, hay can be offered on the ground. It is also fed in a net, or in some type of feeder. Hay is often scattered and trampled by horses, reducing the percentage that is consumed when it is fed from the ground. Nets and feeders are designed to keep hay available, dry, and contained so it can be eaten rather than wasted.

Various feeder types and designs have been developed for use with horses. A recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota and supported by a grant from AQHA, was designed to compare hay waste among several square‐bale feeders used for outdoor feeding of adult horses. Feeder designs included a hay rack, a slat feeder, and a basket feeder. A control situation (hay fed on the ground) was also evaluated.

The Study:

Two feeders of each type were placed in separate outdoor paddocks. Twelve adult horses were divided into four groups of three horses. The groups were rotated through the four paddocks for seven-day periods. Two daily feeding of grass hay were provided, each containing half of an amount equal to 2.5% of the herd’s total body weight. Before each feeding, all uneaten hay left in the feeder and lying on the ground was collected and weighed, and the percentage of wasted hay was calculated.

Using a purchase value of $250 (USD) per ton of hay, the researchers determined the time required to equal the cost of each type of feeder with non-wasted hay. Efficiency of feeders was also compared to the no‐feeder control.

All feeders resulted in less hay waste compared with the no‐feeder control. Average hay waste levels were 1, 3, 5, and 13% for the slat, basket, rack, and no‐feeder control, respectively. The slat feeder was the most cost-effective option, paying for itself in nine months. The rack and basket feeders paid for themselves in 12 and 11 months, respectively. No injuries were observed from any of the small square‐bale feeders during the trial.

Results from this trial may help horse owners select hay feeders and may also assist in estimating how much hay should be purchased.

Interested in learning more about evaluating hay feeders for horses? Visit or call J & J Hay Farms for more information!

Article brought to you by Kentucky Equine Research.

Horse Care in Early Spring

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Horse Care in Early SpringAs winter months pass and everyone is looking forward to the first hints of spring weather, horses still need regular cold-season care to stay well-fed and healthy in early spring. Don’t neglect these areas of horse management:

Blanketing:

Blanketed horses should be checked at least once a day and preferably more often to be sure blankets are secure and properly fitted. Many horses lose some weight during a hard winter, and blankets may need to be adjusted for this change. It’s a good idea to have several extra blankets in reserve in case one is torn or gets so wet and muddy that it needs to be taken off the horse for repairs.

Water:

Don’t count on horses eating enough snow to stay hydrated. In fact, few horses eat snow. They need constant access to fresh water that is not too cold. Some horses love to play in their water trough, even in really cold weather, and muddy hooves in the tank will mean frequent cleaning and refilling. If the area around the water source gets muddy, frozen, or slick, you may need to spread a thick layer of bedding or fine gravel in this spot to keep horses from slipping or bruising their hooves on frozen ruts.

Hay:

Though many people believe horses need extra grain in the winter, a steady supply of forage is actually what keeps horses warm through fermentation in the hindgut. If horses seem cold, increase the supply of moderate-quality hay. Watch to see that timid horses can access hay without being pushed away by more dominant animals.

Turnout:

Even on cold, windy days, most horses will benefit from some turnout time, especially if they have the opportunity to find shelter when they need it. Turnout and free exercise will help minimize the respiratory problems, stiffness, and boredom that may plague stalled horses.

Skin:

The warm, dark area under horse blankets is a prime spot for the growth of fungal or bacterial skin infections. Unblanketed horses are also at risk for skin infections because of wet, matted coats. Horses should receive at least a light grooming daily, and any skin infections should be treated immediately.

Hooves:

Don’t neglect regular trimming and resetting of shoes during the winter, even if horses are not working. Letting hooves get overly long invites chipping, cracking, and a major change in hoof angles with the first spring trim.

Vaccinations:

Check with your veterinarian as to the vaccinations your horse will need. Regardless of if he is staying on the farm, heading for spring shows, or getting prepped for a sale. Get these vaccinations on the schedule. By doing so, immunity will be strong by the time the horse is ready to travel in the spring.

Interested in learning more about horse care in early spring? Visit or call J & J Hay Farms for more information!

Article brought to you by Kentucky Equine Research.

Vitamins for Horses

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

Vitamins for HorsesVitamins are defined as organic substances that are necessary for the proper nutrition of plants and animals. Ingested in minute quantities, vitamins act as coenzymes and precursors of coenzymes in the regulation of many metabolic processes. Some vitamins must be provided by food, while others are produced within the body. Not all animals are able to produce the same vitamins, which is one reason feeds designed for one species are not necessarily suitable for another type of animal.

Horses need vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K for optimal health. The quantities needed are small, but the effects are important. For some vitamins, too much in the horse’s diet is just as bad as too little. Most of the well-known commercial horse feeds supply vitamins in the proper quantities, taking the guesswork out of feeding horses.

Vitamin A and its precursor, beta-carotene, are supplied by ingested material. It is one of the fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that it is easily stored in the body. Horses get vitamin A from eating fresh grass and good-quality hay. Any that is not used immediately is stored in the horse’s liver, and this supply is drawn upon during the winter months when pastures are dormant. Vitamin A is used to support eye function, reproduction, and the health of bones, skin, and muscles. A diet deficient in vitamin A can cause reproductive problems, increased risk of infection, defects in bone and muscle growth, a dull hair coat, and eye problems like tearing and night blindness. Too much vitamin A produces some of the same signs as well as weight loss and neurologic problems.

What we refer to as vitamin B is actually a complex of several substances including niacin, thiamine, biotin, cobalamine, folacin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid. Because vitamin B is one of the water-soluble vitamins, extra supplies do not build up in the horse’s body. This means that new supplies must be added regularly, but toxicity isn’t a problem because excess B compounds are excreted instead of being stored. B vitamins are made in the horse’s body either from organic compounds in other foods, or by the microbes that live in the horse’s gut. Horses on a normal diet usually have adequate supplies of all the B complex substances, and toxicity has not been reported.

Another water-soluble nutrient is vitamin C, or ascorbic acid. Humans drink citrus juices to obtain vitamin C, but the horse’s liver is able to synthesize this nutrient from glucose. Vitamin C is necessary for proper formation of bones, teeth, and collagen, and is also a powerful antioxidant that protects cell membranes from the damaging action of free radicals. Older horses and those that have been sick or under stress may benefit from a bit more dietary vitamin C. There’s little danger of oversupplementing because this vitamin is poorly absorbed from the digestive tract, and excess amounts are excreted in the urine.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin produced in the skin when horses are exposed to sunlight. It’s also found in hay, but decreases as the hay is stored. It is important for proper skeletal development in young horses and helps to regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in mature animals. Too little vitamin D leads to bone deformities, while oversupplementation can cause stiffness of joints and muscles, deposition of calcium in the horse’s internal organs, and even death.

Like vitamins A and D, vitamin E is present in grass and fresh hay, but levels decline as the hay ages. Alfalfa hay is a better source than grass hay. This fat-soluble vitamin has important antioxidant qualities and also supports healthy function of the horse’s nervous, immune, and reproductive systems. Horses that don’t get enough vitamin E may show muscle trembling, weakness, and atrophy. Equine motor neuron disease, or EMND, is caused by a vitamin E deficiency and is characterized by increased recumbency and loss of muscle tone. Horses appear to be tolerant of high levels of this vitamin.

Needed for proper blood clotting, vitamin K is manufactured in the horse’s hindgut and is also ingested in hay. Under normal conditions, it’s rare for a horse to develop a deficiency, but intestinal infections that disrupt the bacterial population of the gut can compromise production of vitamin K. Grazing sweet clover can also lead to a low level of vitamin K, producing signs like internal bleeding, pale mucous membranes, and an irregular heartbeat.

As grazers, horses naturally meet their vitamin requirement by ingesting grass or hay. Owners should allow as much turnout on good quality pasture as possible and provide hay that has not been stored for more than a few months. Most fortified commercial grain products are formulated to contain the correct levels of the vitamins horses need to consume. Horses that don’t need the calories in grain-rich feeds can look for a balancer pellet that provides vitamins and minerals in a low-calorie formulation. It’s important to avoid oversupplementation of vitamins, so owners should ask an equine nutritionist to evaluate their horses’ diets before adding supplements. The nutritionist can advise whether extra vitamins are needed for some classes of horses, such as those in extreme exercise programs.

Interested in learning more? Visit or call J & J Hay Farms for more information!

Article brought to you by Kentucky Equine Research.

How to Feed Horses in the Winter

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

Feed Horses in the WinterWinter seems so far away, but it is just around the corner. Are you ready? Is your horse ready? Learn how to feed horses in the winter in this post.

In the next couple of months, understanding “Lower Critical Temperature (LCT)” will be important for caring and feeding your horse(s) properly. LCT is the temperature below which metabolic heat production must be increased to maintain body temperature.

For mature horses, their LCT will fall around 5°F for a horse with a thick coat and 41°F for a horse with a thin coat. Senior horses over 20 years old, often have a thinner coat and will fall into a LCT of around 41°F. LCT for young horses ranges between 12°F for those with thicker coats and 32°F for thinner coats.

How to Feed as the Temperature Drops

Forage is an essential part of every horse’s diet, whether an 18 hand Belgian or 13 hand welsh pony. Equine digestive systems are designed to digest forage. As temperature drops in the colder months, not only do we need our normal supply of forage stocked in our barns, but we need to be prepared to feed more hay, should the winter conditions prove to unforgiving this season.

For each decrease in coldness of 1°F below the critical temperature, there is an increase in digestible energy requirements for body temperature maintenance. Table 1 shows the estimated feed energy increase at different magnitudes of cold below the lower critical temperature of mature horses.

For example, a horse with a thin coat and a LCT of 41°F, with no change in temperature (41°F), will have a 0 megacalories (Mcals) increase per day, therefore 0 pounds of feed intake increase per day. Let’s say the temperature drops 20 degrees, so it is 21°F outside. In this case, your thin coated horse will need to increase their Mcals by 4, which means an increase of 4 pounds of forage per day to maintain body weight.

What Type of Effect Does Rain and Wind Have on Your Horse?

Wind can make a tolerable temperature day feel miserable. Add moisture? Even worse. Table 2 shows, with just 10-15 mph winds at 32°F, that is an increased need of 4-8 Mcals per day, which means 4-8 pounds per day for your horse. Given our previous scenarios with Table 1, that’s close to a 10 degree drop also, so not only will your horse need 4-8 pounds of additional forage to account for the wind, they’ll also need another almost 2 pounds. This helps keep your horse warm during these cold conditions and ensure body condition maintenance.

Interested in learning more? Visit or call J & J Hay Farms for more information!

Article brought to you by Standlee Forage.