Forage is one of the most important components of your horse's diet. Hay provides most of a domesticated horse's forage intake. The amount of hay your horse needs every day will depend on the size of your horse and how active he is. The amount of nutrition that is in the hay also has a crucial role in how much is needed to sustain a healthy animal.
Louisiana State University and the Humane Society of the United States agree that a horse needs to eat 1 to 2 percent of his body weight in roughage every day. If your horse has free access to plenty of grass, then grass can serve as his forage. If your horse has limited grass then you must make sure his diet is supplemented with hay. The average 1000 pound horse must eat approximately 10 to 20 pounds of hay every day according to LSU.
The weight of a bale of hay will vary depending on the quality of hay and the settings on the baling machine that is being used to bale the hay. The average square hay bale weighs approximately 50 pounds. To provide your horse with the necessary amount of hay you will need to give him a quarter to a half of a bale every day.
Some types of hay are more nutritious than others. Alfalfa is a high quality hay, and if you are feeding a high quality hay then you will not need to feed as much hay or supplement with grain. Poor quality hay will contain few nutrients and is fed more to provide roughage to keep the digestive system moving than it is to provide necessary nutrition. If you are feeding a low quality hay then you will need to provide your horse with concentrated nutrition in the form of grain.
Every horse is an individual with his own unique dietary needs. Some horses gain weight easily and maintain a healthy weight with minimal effort, while others struggle to keep an adequate weight. If your horse is losing weight, you must either feed more hay or add more grain to his daily diet to maintain a healthy weight.
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