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Roughage - The best food for horses

What do horses eat? Roughage is the basis of the best horse food menu.

That roughage is the basis of the horse menu, most horse owners know, but not everyone is aware of the fact that the whole inside of your horse is running on roughage. What types of roughage are there and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Before we zoom in on the different types of roughage, we are going to talk about the advantages of roughage in general. Because why are grass, hay, grass silage, lucerne, but also possibly corn and straw indispensable for a horse? A horse can not live on concentrate alone; roughage must always be the basis. Roughage contains more fiber, and significantly less energy than concentrate. In order to keep a horse healthy, constant food must always be present in his gastrointestinal tract. A horse alive in the wild feeds a 'bite step': almost the entire day, he walks his head in search of roughage: it stimulates intestinal passage and is a super healthy way of eating.

Roughage creates saliva

Coarse roughage fibers ensure that a horse has to chew well, thereby making saliva. Saliva is indispensable when processing food because it makes the food get soaked. The more chewing movements, the more saliva a horse produces. To chew a kilo of hay, 2200 to 2500 chewing movements are needed. A horse is chewing for about forty minutes on this, producing 3.5 liters of saliva. By way of comparison: the milling of a kilo of chunks takes about ten minutes and costs about 600 chewing movements. Here 'only' a liter of saliva is released.

Another advantage of saliva is that it plays an important role in the neutralization of gastric acid and thus helps to prevent a stomach ulcer. A horse that has stomach ulcers is not allowed to stand for roughly an hour without roughage. If empty spaces arise in the horse stomach, the stomach acids get a chance to work on the stomach wall. A lot of small portions per day can prevent that.

Grass

What is it?
Grass contains about 84 percent water, other roughage only 20 to 40 percent. For horses, a little longer, structurally rich grass is healthy during grazing. In a horse pasture we prefer to see grass that has grown a little longer and looks more like hay than on a golf course.

Gras

How is the grass extracted?
Most meadows in the Netherlands are sown with grass seed mixtures for cattle meadows. They contain quite a lot of perennial ryegrass of a modern type that grows rapidly. This specific production grass can not withstand the way horses graze. Horses millimeter the turf with their teeth while cows cut the grass with their tongue, so that grass is kept for a fairly long time. In order to maintain a healthy turf, you should fertilize regularly, sow once from time to time and once every ten to fifteen years, re-sow the entire lawn after a fertilization. Furthermore, regularly remove the manure or allow the pasture to be grazed by sheep, for example, to crush worm contamination.

What does it do?
Grass makes horses happy. Often you see that a sick horse that has to eat again, is the first tack for grass. But furthermore, horses just love to walk in the pasture. Move the movement, outside air, in a group of horses with your head down through the grass. Perhaps outside grazing is more important for a horse than the grass itself. The nutritional value that grass offers could also be given in a different way, but the grazing itself is a treat for your horse.

What are the advantages?
It just grows outside, horses love it and it is especially available in spring and summer.

What are the disadvantages?
Especially in spring and summer, eating grass is often associated with laminitis, colic and diarrhea, and that is because horses eat too much. An excess of fresh grass is not healthy for your horse. Usually you see that the stool becomes less steady, but as long as your horse does not have water-thin manure for a week, and if he does fit, that is not something you should worry about. In order to prevent your horse from getting colic or catching hoofs of grass, it is important to gradually build up pasture in the spring. Start with an hour a day in the meadow and build it up by an hour a day.

Hay

What is it?
Dried grass
Hooi

How is it made?
Grass is mowed, dried on land and pressed into packs.

What does hay do?
In the past, hay was mainly a substitute for grass, especially to provide the livestock feed in the winter. Today, most horses eat hay all year round. What applies to grass also applies to hay and silage. Coarse fiber-rich hay that was harvested from meadows where the grass could grow long is good for horses, while cattle benefit from energy-rich hay that was extracted from soft spring grass. Coarse hay with long stems that smells spicy and light green to yellow in color is the healthiest for your horse. Always check whether there is no stinking willie on the land. If you doubt the quality of your roughage, or if you want to know if your hay contains all the necessary ingredients in the right proportions, you can have it analyzed.

What are the advantages?
Hay is fairly consistent in quality. When you buy the suits, you can see, feel and smell what you get (or rather: your horse) in general terms. Hay can not hurt: in principle, a horse can eat it without restrictions.

What are the disadvantages?
Hay can be dusty and if it was not dry enough when it came from the land, later became wet or stored for too long, it could go moldy. In addition, hay must be kept dry and in a ventilated place.

Silage hay

What is it?
Not completely dried grass. It is also called pre-dry pit, grass silage, press feed or silage. Silage hay contains much more moisture (forty percent) than hay (twenty percent). Because silage hay for horses is much coarser, less protein-rich and drier, this is also called predatory pit. Silage for cows is browner, more acidic and wetter than the feed that is healthy for horses. It is important to clearly describe which silage you want. Good silage for cows is a completely different product than a good pit for horses, for your horse you have to say that you are looking for dry, hard-growing silage.

Kuil

How is it made?
The grass is pressed into silage bales before being completely dried on land. The food is sealed airtight with plastic. A biochemical process is created in the silage bale so that lactic acid bacteria in the grass multiply. This preserves the product.

What does it do?
See under "What does it do?" for hay

Silage hay contains less crude fiber and more protein than hay, so it is less suitable for colicky horses. Unlimited hay can not hurt in most cases, unlimited silage.

What are the advantages?
The plastic bales can be stored outdoors, saving space. Silage is damper than hay and much less dusty. That is why it is suitable, for example, for horses with sensitive airways.

What are the disadvantages?
Many people are annoyed by the heirs where the bales of silage are stacked up high. A hay is more beautiful than shiny plastic bales. The quality of silage is less constant than that of hay because it depends on the way the product is preserved. When the plastic packaging is opened, the feed can only be kept for a limited period of time. Many horse owners are worried about the fact that silage in its packaging undergoes a kind of 'rotting process'. Pit does indeed spoil faster than hay, but it is certainly not the case that with silage, your horse gives a 'rot' product. Pit should smell a little sour, but the product should not be too wet or smelly.

Cut corn/Maize

What is it?
Cut corn or maize silage is chopped and ensiled maize.
Snijmais

How is it made?
When producing maize, the whole plant is used, not just the corn cob. By collapsing (airtight covering), the maize generally undergoes the same process as silage: the lactic acid bacteria ensure that a preservation process takes place.

What does it do?
It is produced as feed for pigs and cows, but some horse people regularly get a bucket from the farmer to feed their horse. Cut corn contains a lot of energy, a fair amount of fiber and little or no protein.

What are the advantages?
Many people use cut maize to make chunky horses thicker, but opinions as to whether they are healthy are divided. Cutting corn can indeed be a fattener and the fibers are good for a horse, but there are also disadvantages.

What are the disadvantages?
The starch in maize is much less digestible for horses than for example for pigs and cows. Sometimes you see that horses get a colic from them. Some horses can not get used to the sour taste of silage maize.

Straw

What is it?
Dried stalks of cereals, oilseed rape or flax. With us, wheat straw is most commonly used in the barn. Wheat straw is not a delicacy for most horses, but they like it. The straw is quite soft and therefore forms a comfortable bed.

How is it made?
After harvesting cereals, for example, the stalks with the empty ears remain on the land. These dried plant stems are rolled up or compressed and sometimes chopped to be used as bedding litter. Straw must have had ample time to die on the field and must be completely sun-dried before it is further processed.

What does it do?
It forms a comfortable bed in the stable and horses can also nibble.

What are the advantages?
If you provide enough other roughage, it can be nice and healthy for horses to eat some straw. The coarse fibers are healthy for your horse and he is less bored when he is standing in the stable.

What are the disadvantages?
A horse that gets little hay and grass and (often because of this) eats large amounts of straw, can get blockages in its gastrointestinal system. In addition, an average bale of wheat straw contains quite some dust and that can be called a drawback for horses who are sensitive to it.

Lucerne

What is it?
Lucerne is a leguminous crop that is fed dried and chopped to horses. It is our most sold product and we sell it worldwide. That is why our company name Hartog Lucerne, with a 'c' from the English form. Lucerne, however, is written in Dutch with a 'z'.

Luzerne

How is it made?
The Lucerne plant is mown and dried on the land for a short half a day. Then they are chopped on the land and brought to our factory. There the lucerne is dried artificially. We add vegetable oil and molasses to our Lucerne mix for horses, which bound the fine green leaves. As a result, the product contains both coarse-fiber stalks and nutrient-rich leaves.

What does it do?
The Lucerne grows best on clay soil. That clay is rich in minerals and that is reflected in the plant. Because of the fast drying process, you retain the nutritional value, but the structure of the protein in the plant changes. This makes it easier to digest for horses. Lucerne contains little sugar but many building materials such as and many vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Because the digestibility of the proteins is so high, your horse will fertilize much less when he gets lucerne. With the cultivation of Hartog Lucerne no nitrogen fertilizer fertilization is used. Root tuber bacteria bind the nitrogen from the air, resulting in fully digestible proteins in the plant. Hay is a good basis, horses can chew on it and it fills stomach and intestines. For example, if you add two buckets of Lucerne mix, you can make huge savings on concentrate feed. You no longer need concentrate as a basis, but only for the last piece of performance.

What are the advantages?
The proteins in lucerne provide good support in building muscle. That's why it was initially used a lot for sport horses. But also for horses that are ridden recreational, it is better to give roughage than concentrate. Due to the low sugar and starch content and the high feed value, it is an excellent concentrate feed replacement.

What are the disadvantages?
Lucerne alone is not good for a horse, the best is to give it with hay. In pure lucerne the calcium-phosphorus ratio is not optimal. Because Hartog mixes the lucerne with green harvested cutting oats (that is the oat plant without grain) that problem is solved. If you would give large quantities (more than 2 kg) of pure lucerne, the calcium content in the feed would be too high. But when you give our ready-made Lucerne mix and the whole ration of your horse does not consist of alfalfa, there is no danger whatsoever.

In fact, it is very healthy for your horse.

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