Equine Nutrition Tip #16

Chestnut horse with a blaze eating his dinner in a black rubber feeder

HAY BEFORE GRAIN, OR VICE VERSA?

Many people worry about  which they should be feed first – hay or grain?

If you feed starchy cereal grains (oats, corn, barley, etc.) on an empty stomach, the horse will produce more acid than normal potentially leading to ulcers.  Plus, the grain will leave the stomach quickly and head to the small intestine where it will not be fully digested.

If this undigested grain ends up in the hindgut where starch would be fermented by the bacterial population, then this can increase the risk of laminitis.

Your horse should have access to forage (hay and/or pasture) at will, therefore, when you feed your grain, the horse’s digestive tract should already have hay flowing through it.

If hay is present in the stomach first, it creates a physical barrier for the grain to move out of the stomach as quickly.  When is hay present, the fiber in the hay mixes with the starch from the grain and then this enters the small intestine. Fiber’s presence slows down the process of digestion.

So the answer is to trickle feed forage all day using a slow feeder if necessary to avoid grain on an empty stomach.  For more about the digestive tract click here.  For more about slow feeders click here.

Peace and good feed,

The Nerd

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