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Written by: Jenna Tranter
Published on: 11/24/2021
Last time we talked we touched on hay analysis. But really what does a hay analysis tell you? When you feed your dog or cat, (or even human family!), a store bought food, somewhere on the packaging is your guaranteed analysis telling you exactly what percentage of daily vitamins, minerals, fats, calories etc. you or your pet is receiving per serving. In a nutshell this is what your hay analysis is going to tell you. As we all know, horses should have a forage first diet with their consumption at 1-2.5% of their body weight (depending on life stage and workload) per day.
By having your hay analyzed you have a better understanding of what you need to feed your horses additionally to make up their daily requirements. But here’s the catch- to properly analyze hay you really need to test a bale from every single field. Soil, drainage, crop rotation and many other factors can change the amount of nutrients even from one side of the field to the other, let alone adjacent fields. To further complicate this, if you're a boarder, ask your facility owner or manager when they last tested their hay. You would be shocked at how infrequently this step is skipped. So the question becomes how do we formulate a diet properly without knowing the hay analysis? Let me tell you… it’s hard!
There are many variations to hay, much like there are many variations in types of kibble or raw dog food diets. Is it a single protein source? Or are there multiple sources of protein in it? Is it first cut hay? Second cut? Even third? Is it grassy and soft or coarse and stemmy? Are there little shattered leaves within your hay (that's the tasty part your horse will fling around their flakes to knock to the bottom and eat first!)? When working to formulate a diet you have to take into account the size of the horse and their workload- a horse going out to show the adult amateurs is going to require more fuel then a horse with the same body type that goes out on a recreational trail ride once or twice a week.
If you or your facility owner are not testing your hay you need to work off the assumption that your horse is not receiving everything they need from their diet and balance the difference with a ration balancer or feed supplement. If your horse is an easy keeper there are tons of feeds out there that simply provide vitamins and minerals with low starch and protein to balance your horse's needs based on their body weight.
We always suggest adding an Omega source as well in those instances- for the easy keepers 1-2ozs of Smart Earth Camelina oil is more than ample. For the harder keepers and athletes out there, there are lots of complete feeds on the market that will add protein, fat and all those good vitamins and minerals as well. In their case we suggest also adding an omega source not just for the PUFA’s but also for the fat content. If your mare or gelding needs some extra pounds we suggest starting with 3-4ozs of Smart Earth Camelina oil initially and then reducing to 1-2ozs a day to maintain their weight. Formulating diets is a fine art with many factors and we are here to help you in any way we can.
Jenna is a lifelong equestrian and lover of all animals big and small. She has both studied and worked within the industry for 20+ years in both the feed sector as well as being a coach and hunter/jumper facility owner with time spent in the UK and Canada. She holds a number of equine certifications from universities in both countries. She also has completed numerous courses in equine body work, including equi-bow, but is not a practitioner at this time due to there just not being enough time in the day! Jenna lives on her farm in Ontario, Canada with her husband, 19 horses, 2 goats, a flock of ducks, a flock of chickens, her barn cats and her 3 loyal dogs, Bosco, Evaa & Eeyore.