The leaves are changing, the days are shortening, and the daytime temperatures are cooling—fall is officially here! Many horses are brought off of summer pasture to be put up safely inside for the winter. This means lush pasture grass will be replaced by hay as his primary feed.
Dr. Karen Davison, of Purina Animal Nutrition suggests these five smart-feeding tips to keep your horse happy, healthy, and fit this fall and through wintertime feeding.
Adjust his supplements. If your horse has been on pasture all summer long, switching to hay during the fall and winter months alters the nutrients he’s getting each day. Fresh pasture grass is often more nutrient dense than hay and other forages so you’ll need to make adjustments to his feed rations in order to keep him in good overall condition. Increase or add rations of grain to prevent weight loss and keep his body score up.
Manage his late-season sugar intake. Sugars produced in pasture plants during the regular season help with growth, but later in the season, as temperatures drop, that excess sugar’s stored in the grass for later use. For horses that are overweight or that have difficulty maintaining normal blood sugar levels, an insulin spike could cause digestive upset or laminitis. So, as the weather changes, limit his turnout on pasture grass and begin to transition him to forage.
Be caution of colic. As temperatures decline, horse owners often up their horse’s feed volume to help him stay warm. The weather change also affects a horse’s water consumption. Less water, coupled with more feed can lead to digestive upset, and especially impaction colic. To combat this, make sure your horse has access to clean, tepid water and salt so he’s encouraged to drink consistently.
Make slow and steady adjustments. Just like when you switch to a new feed or alter his grain rations, changes to your horse’s feeding plan should happen gradually. If he’s been on pasture all summer, switch to forage slowly. Allow him to continue with limited grazing while providing supplementary forage. You’ll eventually take him entirely off of pasture grass and he'll have hay only. These small adjustments over time will decrease the likelihood that he’ll experience gut distress during the switch.
Feed for quality. Feeding good-quality hay will also ensure that your horse’s gut stays healthy, and that he has the nutrients he needs. Remember that hay quality is largely dependent on plant maturity. So, young, leafy, immature plants are preferred over mature plants for their nutrient density and high-protein content. Good-quality hay has these key features: a high leaf-to-stem ratio, a small-diameter stem, has few seed heads or blooms, smells fresh, is brightly colored (faded hay indicate old or poorly-stored hay), and free of allergens and contaminants.
This feeding advice, coupled with proper care and maintenance, will help preserve your horse's condition all winter long.
For more information on horse health and nutrition visit: purinamills.com/horse-feed.
About Purina Animal Nutrition
Purina Animal Nutrition LLC (www.purinamills.com) is a national organization serving producers, animal owners and their families through more than 4,700 local cooperatives, independent dealers and other large retailers throughout the United States. Driven by an uncompromising commitment to animal excellence, Purina Animal Nutrition is an industry-leading innovator offering a valued portfolio of complete feeds, supplements, premixes, ingredients and specialty technologies for the livestock and lifestyle animal markets. Headquartered in Shoreview, Minn., Purina Animal Nutrition LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, Inc.