Hay will keep your horse warmer than grain because the hay gets digested in the hindgut where it produces a lot of heat. A horse needs more calories in cold weather just to keep warm. Make sure that your horses’ get those calories from fiber instead of grain. Unlike hay, consumption of grain does not produce large amounts of body heat during digestion. Grain functions to keep horses warm by providing energy for muscle contraction that can be used to help the animal shiver. Keep your horses warm with hay and they will not be shivering in the cold.
High-quality hay is vital to your horses’ winter diet. They need dry fresh hay available at all times. The most expensive hay you will ever purchase is the hay your horses won’t eat. Horses know good hay from great hay and they won’t eat bad hay unless they are starving. Older horses, who cannot chew hay well, can get their calories from senior feeds that contain beet pulp. Beet pulp is a highly underrated source of inexpensive fiber for your horse. Alfalfa cubes are another great source of fiber especially if your hay is not the best.
Fiber is digested in the hind gut where the heat produced from digestion helps to keep the horses warm. “When a horse digests long-stem fiber (hay), microbial fermentation occurs and heat is created,” says Brian Nielsen, Ph.D., professor and researcher in equine exercise physiology and nutrition at Michigan State University. “This has a benefit to the horse in times of cold weather because fiber is digested slowly, and heat is sustained for quite a long time.” Although Nielsen says that it’s difficult to pinpoint a precise amount to feed, an extra flake of hay on a cold day is a good rule of thumb.
Cherokee Feed & Seed has all kinds of hay in both round bales and square bales to keep your horses warm. Our hay is high quality horse hay.