Temperatures have dipped below freezing for several days and nights. Since horses need to maintain their body temperature during cold weather, they require additional food and hay to keep them warm and healthy. If you’re a horse owner or barn manager, you might be wondering how much hay your horses need during extreme cold.
Before we dive into how much hay to feed your horse, it’s important to understand their nutritional needs. Horses require a significant amount of fiber in their diet to keep their digestive system healthy. The majority of a horse’s diet should come from hay or grass, supplemented with grains for extra nutrients. During extreme cold, a horse’s body will burn additional calories to maintain body temperature. This means they’ll require additional food to meet their energy needs.
When it comes to hay, you should aim to feed your horse at least 2% of their body weight in hay or forage per day. For example, a 1,000-pound horse should be fed at least 20 pounds of hay per day to maintain optimal health. This amount should be increased by 10-20% during extreme cold weather to ensure your horse is getting enough energy to stay warm. Keep in mind that every horse is different, so be sure to consult with your veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine the appropriate amount of hay for your horse. And yes, consider buying a scale to weigh your hay. Every cut of hay and bale is different so going off the number of flakes of hay can be deceiving.
The quality of your hay can have a big impact on how much your horse needs to eat to maintain their weight during the winter. Hay that’s lower in quality or nutrient content will require your horse to eat more to meet their energy needs. On the other hand, good-quality hay will provide your horse with the necessary nutrients and energy they need to stay healthy. It’s important to invest in high-quality hay and store it properly to ensure it stays fresh throughout the winter months.
When horses eat hay, their digestive system generates heat, which helps keep them warm. Offering hay frequently throughout the day can help keep your horses warm and prevent them from losing weight during extreme cold weather. It’s also a good idea to offer hay in hay nets or feeders to prevent waste and keep your horse’s digestive system healthy.
One thing to keep in mind when feeding your horse during extreme winter weather is to watch their weight closely. While it’s essential to give your horse enough hay to stay warm, you don’t want to overfeed them and cause unnecessary weight gain. Weigh your horse’s feed and hay regularly and adjust as needed to maintain their ideal weight.
As horse owners or barn managers, it’s important to understand your horse’s nutritional needs and adjust their feed accordingly. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian or equine nutritionist if you have any questions or concerns about how much hay to feed your horses during the winter months. By providing your horse with high-quality hay and monitoring their weight, you can help ensure they stay healthy and happy all winter long.