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  • Writer's pictureVerna Lum

What's in your Hay?

Updated: Jun 14


Fibre is a horse’s best friend. Since 60-80% of their digestible energy (caloric intake) should come from forage, it is important to know what your hay provides in terms of crude protein, moisture content, type of fibre, non-structural or simple vs structured or complex fibre.


Horses prone to metabolic conditions such as Cushing’s, Insulin Resistance, Laminitis and Colic should diets containing no more than 10% of non-structured fibre (simple carbohydrates).


Non Structural Carbohydrates, also known as simple carbohydrates (Sugar, fructans, and starch), are readily and rapidly digested in the small intestines (upper gut), providing quick energy.


Structured Carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates or fiber , have a cell wall (cellulose, hemicellulose, beet pulp, pectins) that are not easily digested by enzymes and requires bacterial fermentation in the hind gut to provide energy (volatile fatty acids)


Structured carbohydrates also known as fermentable fibres promote good gut health, enabling the friendly bacterial to break down these fibres to produce volatile fatty acids that will be reabsorbed, improving glycemic response and will be used as an energy source.


Alfalfa hay is higher in protein, digestible energy, and calcium and phosphorous than grass hay. (16-20% vs 6-8% in grass hay). Alfalfa contains approximately 5 times more calcium than phosphorous (5:1). However, NRC suggest Calcium to Phosphorous should be 1.1 – 1.7:1 for optimal health.


Too much calcium can interfere with the horse’s body to absorb other minerals such as magnesium, copper, zinc and iron causing possible health issues such as poor hoof and hair coat quality, sore back and other soft tissue injuries are at risk, calcification in joints, kidney stones.


VL Equine Optimal Performance will take the guess work out of your feed program. We will have your hay analyzed and then balance it with the type of concentrate and supplements you feed to ensure your horse has all the essential energy and nutrients for maximum performance, improved immunity, tissue repair and most important, good hind gut health.

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