Switching to a Hay Cube Diet
There are many reasons why people switch to hay cubes for horses. Sometimes there’s a health condition that necessitates it, such as bad teeth that make chewing impossible or a metabolic disease that requires certain nutrition factors. Other times it’s about convenience, reduced waste, and more precise feeding.
Regardless of why, switching to hay cubes for horses takes a little bit of finesse. A horse’s digestive system can be particular, so here are a few tips to make switching to hay cubes as painless as possible.
Make the Switch Slowly
The key to keeping horses’ tummies comfortable while switching their feed is to do so slowly, giving their systems a chance to adapt. This means starting out by replacing a small percentage, about 25 percent, of their old feed with the new. Every few days, increase it some more, until you’re feeding 100 percent new feed. Doing this slowly will prevent your horse from getting digestive issues, which could even lead to a colic scare or a vet call.
Find the Consistency Your Horse Prefers
It’s common to feed hay cubes to horses, but if yours has never had them, you may not know how he best likes them. Some horses eat everything in sight, but others can be picky, especially if they don’t feel well or their teeth hurt. Experiment a little to see whether your horse likes his cubes soaked in a lot of water, less water, sprayed down lightly, or even completely dry. Don’t soak them with more water than your horse likes, as you don’t want them to leave behind a lot of water with all the nutrients from the pellets. Note: This doesn’t apply to horses with metabolic disease, as their hay cubes have to be soaked for a couple of hours and then drained to rid the feed of excess sugar.
Tips to Slow Them Down
One of the challenges owners face when feeding hay cubes to horses is that the horses tend to eat them too fast. Hay cubes are made of finely chopped hay, which makes them much easier and faster to eat than regular forage. Eating too fast can cause problems with choking or digestive upset, plus it also leaves the horse with nothing to do for hours until the next feeding time. Since horses evolved to eat for as many as 16 hours out of every 24, they will instinctively look for other things to eat, which could be anything from poop to your wooden fence posts.
With hay, you can feed in a slow feeder net with small openings to prevent horses from grabbing huge mouthfuls at once, but that’s harder to do with hay cubes. One method of preventing horses from “bolting” their cubes is to feed in a tub with several large rocks that the horse has to push around in order to get all of their feed. If that doesn’t work and your horse is headed toward an emergency vet call, consider feeding more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day to keep food moving through your horse’s digestive system at all times, just like grazing would. If feeding more frequent meals is tough for you, you could consider installing an automatic feeder, which you program to release a smaller amount of feed frequently throughout the day.
Consult With the Experts
Any time you’re changing your horse’s feed, don’t forget to involve the experts. Your vet can provide additional suggestions to help you navigate any diet changes. For more information about our hay cubes for horses and the complete pelleted feeds we offer, contact Sacate Pellet Mills.