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Alternative Forages 

What "Alternative" Forage is

    Alternative Forage is any source of fiber you can get that isn't baled hay or pasture. Forages include:

  •     Beet Pulp Shreds or Pellets
  •     Bagged hay chops (though I don't like this as it usually is loaded with molasses)
  •     Hay Cubes or pellets
  •     Rice Bran, Wheat Bran, etc. 
  •     Silage (not suitable for horses) is a chopped and fermented by product commonly fed to cows.

   Beet Pulp and Hay cubes are fine alternate sources if you have a hay shortage or a horse with dental issues that can't eat regular hay. Most senior feeds will have processed beet pulp and alfalfa pellets, and often also have rice bran included. Rice and Wheat bran aren't really a hay replacement, but they are high fiber. Silage can be moldy and toxic, so avoid it.

   Beet pulp is a by product left after they squeeze the sugar out of the beets. The fiborus pulp is highly digestable to horses and is an excellent source of fiber. It is hard to find any that doesn't have molasses added back in, though. I recommend rinsing the sugar back out with warm water. There is a myth that if it's not soaked it will explode the horse's guts. That won't happen. However, soaking does eliminate a potential "choke" episode with greedy eaters. Usually, just adding the water as you serve it is sufficient. If you have a horse with dental issues, soak it for 20 mintues before serving to allow it to swell up first. Most healthy horses don't need it soaked very long. If you have a horse with chronic laminitis or metabolic issues, be sure to rinse the molasses out and feed sparingly unless it's the only forage you can find, as it IS fattening because it is so digestable.It is not a complete feed but can replace a good portion of the hay when needed. 

    Alfafla cubes/pellets. This is just processed alfafla. Cubes are coarser chopped, the pellets more refined. I like to add a bit of water either way, just to cut dust in the pellets. The cubes I frequently toss out in the dry lot for the horses to hunt for. It squeezes in exercise. If your horse is fat, don't feed more than a pound or two a day of alfalfa (It's fattening, but otherwise not harmful to laminitic horses).

  Timothy or orchard grass pellets/cubes. Same as for alfalfa, except Timothy can be higher in NSC than alfalfa.

    Rice bran is a good way to add calories to the hard keeper's diet. It's what they scrub off to make our rice white.  It's good for putting on mucscle and adding fat to the diet. Rich in vitamin E. It comes in granular or pelleted forms.

   Wheat Bran is a traditional treat feed as a mash to stimulate bowel movements and keep horses hydrated. I think they've disproved its usefulness as a fiber supplement, but it isn't known to do any harm unless overfed for a long time as it's imbalanced for calcium/phosphorus (pairs nicely with alfalfa, though). But, as a treat, with warm water, horses love it.




Don't forget, you can feed less tradtional treats, as well. Sweet potatoes, bananas, pumpkin seeds, are all good nutritious treats that will naturally supplement your horse's diet. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds make an excellent coat supplement for shine, vitamins for hooves and alternative to traditonal grain as they are low in NSCs, but still feed in moderation.