In partnership with Baileys Horse Feeds

Is hay calorific? A nutritionist from Baileys Horse Feeds answers, and explains why your horse could be getting more than enough calories from his daily hay ration.

On average, UK-grown hay should provide enough energy/calories to meet minimum requirements for a horse in light work.

We’ve been collecting forage analysis results for 14 years and they show that, on average, hay has a Digestible Energy (DE) (or ‘calorie’) content of around nine megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg).

This means a 500kg horse fed 10kg of hay per day (on a dry matter basis) would therefore, on average, be getting 90 MJ per day. It’s been calculated that a mature 500kg horse in light work needs a minimum daily energy intake of 83.7 MJ to maintain their bodyweight, so 10kg of average hay would easily provide this — and some!

Some horses may require more than this, with factors such as age, health status, temperament, voluntary movement and ambient temperature all playing a role.

‘Forage alone can still cause weight gain’

However, for good-doers who naturally maintain their weight very well, these figures highlight why forage alone, with little or no hard feed, can still result in excess weight gain, as a purely hay diet is already likely to be exceeding basic minimum daily energy/calorie requirements for horses at rest or in light levels of work.

If you have a good-doer, it is important not to restrict forage intake excessively, as doing so can result in digestive health problems, so consider soaking the hay and/or choosing a later cut, stalkier hay which is likely to have a lower energy/calorie content.

Baileys Equine Weight Loss Programme workbook can be requested free of charge on their website. For more tips and tricks to help encourage weight loss in overweight horses, click here.

Listen to the Baileys Horse Feeds Podcast on Forage for Good-Doers here.

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