Hay Substitutes

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If you find yourself in a situation where traditional baled hay isn’t available, you can use substitutes. The trick is to be sure that you’re substituting at a correct rate, introducing the product gradually, and balancing any necessary minerals (see chart).

You may also want to have a weight-tape handy for monitoring the horse’s gain or loss of weight, so you can adjust the amount you’re feeding if necessary. Checking their weight weekly should do it.

The major difference between all these forms of forage is how long they keep the horse occupied chewing. Wood chewing sometimes seen in pellet-fed horses is likely directly related to the low chew time and boredom.

In a study we read, horses fed hay wafers did not show wood chewing, but they tended to chew the wafers longer than pellets. Feeding the largest pellets you can find would, therefore, be an advantage, or using hay cubes instead, as they require more chewing than pellets.

Horses that choke because they bolt their food might be at increased risk when fed pellets. However, older horses with chewing or swallowing problems can choke on hay just as easily as pellets. Soaking the cubes softens them for easier chewing. Beet pulp is a good hay replacement, too, but again it lacks chewing time.