Archive for April, 2021

Horses Show Preference for Straw Bedding

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

Straw BeddingIn a German study, horses showed a preference for straw bedding. Warmblood horses were bedded on wood shavings, loose straw, or straw pellets. Behaviors such as eating hay, lying down, and nosing through bedding were recorded for each horse during its time in the stall, which totaled about 15 hours each day.


The results showed that all horses spent more time lying down when they were bedded on loose straw. They also spent more time sifting through the straw or otherwise investigating it than with other types of bedding.

The researchers noted that stalled horses face hours of boredom, and a bedding material that invites investigation and lying down might reduce the number of ritualized behaviors such as cribbing and weaving that may develop when horses are stabled for long periods.


Straw bedding has several drawbacks, however. One is the dust and mold spores that may be present. When horses lie down in straw bedding, they tend to inhale more airborne particles because their noses are closer to the straw than when they are standing. Horses that are sensitive to these particles may develop breathing problems that can be avoided by using a material that is free of dust and mold. A second drawback is that some horses are tempted to eat straw, an undesirable habit from both a health and a nutrition viewpoint.

Bedding choices tend to reflect availability, price, and ease of handling, with the horse’s health and comfort paramount in importance.

Call the hay experts at J & J Hay Farms to discuss your needs and to help select the best hay for your budget and situation.

Article sourced from Kentucky Equine Research.

Alfalfa Hay: When Is It the Right Choice for Horses?

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

Alfalfa HayWhen the word “alfalfa” is bandied about among horsemen, most immediately think of high-quality forage, a vividly green, sweet-smelling, leafy legume. Like all forages, though, not all alfalfa hay (lucerne) is grown, cured, or harvested identically, which makes the hay’s ultimate quality variable.

Differences in growing conditions and harvesting methods impact nutritional quality. Alfalfa hay can be off-colored, dusty, moldy, or weed-ridden, just as any grass hay might be. Therefore, it important to carefully evaluate any alfalfa hay intended for horses. If you are uncomfortable with this task, drag along an experienced hay buyer when it comes time to fill the hay-mow.

Most people can distinguish high-quality hay because its color is often bright and the smell is sweet and pure. An experienced cohort will help you choose between alfalfa that is likely rich in energy and nutrients, and alfalfa that is inferior in one way or another.

Word of caution: do not let color be the only determining factor. Alfalfa hay does not need to be fluorescent green to be appropriate for horses. Good-quality hay comes in all shades of green. Forage testing by an accredited laboratory can reveal the nutrient composition of the forage and is the best measure of adequacy for horses.

Which horses benefit most from the inclusion of alfalfa hay in their diets?

Young horses. Good-quality hay is appropriate for weanlings, yearlings, and other young horses. Keep in mind that alfalfa usually has more energy per equal weight of a grass or mixed (grass/legume) hay. Therefore, less alfalfa hay may be fed to meet energy requirements. Alfalfa hay will not meet all of the young horse’s nutrient requirements, however.

A concentrate specifically formulated for weanlings should be fed alongside the alfalfa hay. If the concentrate and alfalfa combination provides too much energy, a balancer pellet or vitamin and mineral supplement will supply essential nutrients.

Performance horses. Certain performance horses, especially those involved in demanding work, cannot maintain their weight on grass forage, and need the calorie boost provided by alfalfa. Some horsemen shy away from alfalfa for exercising horses because of its high protein content, but experts state there is no reason to do so. Excess protein is excreted without harm to the horse.

Lactating mares. Producing milk is an energy-draining job, and broodmares sometimes require the richest forage available to produce high-quality milk while simultaneously maintaining reasonable body condition. When coupled with a calorie-dense concentrate formulated for mares, alfalfa hay provides a well-rounded diet for lean, high-producing broodmares.

Hard keepers. Some horses do not gain weight easily, even after a wellness check by a veterinarian rules out problems with teeth, gastric ulcers, or hindgut acidosis. Because only so much concentrate can be fed to such an individual, the logical next step is to feed forage with the greatest energy density, and this is often high-quality alfalfa hay.

Palatability. Few horses refuse alfalfa, especially when it is premium quality. Horses lose their desire to eat for several reasons. At times it becomes critical to offer the inappetent horse a palatable forage. Aside from fresh, green grass, alfalfa is the likeliest choice.

Premium alfalfa is chock-full of leaves, which are the most nutrient-dense portion of the hay plant. By vigorously shaking a flake of alfalfa, leaves may drop. Collecting the leaves and offering them to the horse may stimulate appetite.

Availability. In some regions of the world, alfalfa hay is all that is available and is therefore the most economical choice. Practicality and cost of feeding are always considerations when devising a feeding plan for horses.

Alfalfa hay would not be the best forage for certain groups of horses.

Young horses predisposed to growth problems. Feeding a surplus of energy to young horses, especially weanlings, can often lead to growth problems, including contracted tendons. Feeding the hay would not be appropriate for young horses that show a propensity for growth problems.

A good-quality grass hay, in addition to a ration balancer or vitamin and mineral supplement, would likely be the best choice in such a scenario.

Easy keepers. Horses that can maintain their weight easily should not be fed alfalfa hay. Energy requirements would be better met by supplying a lower quality grass hay (though not dusty, moldy, or otherwise unsafe). With fewer calories per mouthful, easy keepers will be able to eat more, which will satisfy the urge to chew as well as keep the gastrointestinal tract in motion.

Performance horses in good flesh. Most performance horses can maintain their weight on good-quality grass forage, and this seems to be particularly true of horses with warmblood, draft, or pony ancestry. Offering alfalfa hay to these horses, especially in regions where there is an appreciable price difference in grass and alfalfa, would be unnecessary.

Do you have any questions about Alfalfa Hay? J and J Hay Farms can help! Contact us today.

Article brought to you by Kentucky Equine Research.

Feeding Round Bales to Horses

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Round Bales Put round bales of hay in a pasture with horses, and within a few days, much of the hay will have been dragged out of the bale and trampled into an ever-expanding circle. The remaining part of the bale will be showing moldy spots where it contacts the ground. As a result, some hay will have been eaten, but much will have been wasted.

After evaluating this scenario, some horse owners have improved the situation by placing the round bale on an elevated gravel pad or wooden pallet, cutting down on mud; others placed the bale in a metal frame to keep horses from pawing out huge chunks of hay; and others gave up on round bales and fed hay in slow-feeder nets so that horses could nibble on it all day without wasting as much.

Several of these approaches can be combined by placing the round bale on a circular wooden pallet and covering the entire bale with a large slow-feeder net. A metal frame surrounds the bale and pallet to prevent pawing and entanglement. Horses can pick at the hay for hours, simulating the natural rate of forage ingestion. With little waste and no mold, a round bale lasts longer, saving money. More of the hay ends up inside the horses, with less trampled into the ground. Initial cost to set up such a system should be repaid as owners will need to purchase fewer round bales.

Do you have any questions about round bales? J and J Hay Farms can help! Contact us today.

Article brought to you by Kentucky Equine Research.