The importance of dry matter intake this spring.

Spring is slowly creeping up on us so it makes sense to begin planning for the season ahead by thinking about your grazing situation and feed arrangements. If you are lucky enough you may have been able to rest a paddock or part of a field over the winter. If you have a good-doer, an overweight horse or one that is prone to laminitis it is sensible to strictly control the amount of grass they have access to especially when turned onto a fresh piece of ground that may have a considerable amount of grass present depending on how long it has been rested for.

However, if we strictly limit the amount of grass a horse consumes we must make sure that his Dry Matter (DM) intake is still met. Spring grass could have a DM of only 15% (but high protein levels), so a typical 500kg horse in light work (1-2 hours exercise 3 to 4 times a week) needs around 2-2.5% of forage per day on a DM basis and so would need to consume around 83kg of fresh grass per day.

If his grass is restricted then we have to fill this gap with another forage source. Whilst hay has a higher DM, quality can vary enormously and there can often be much waste along with high levels of dust and fungal spores. Devon Haylage has a high DM of 75% and though it is very hard to estimate exactly how much grass a horse is eating the following calculation can be used to illustrate the amount of haylage needed per day with no access to grass. For a 500kg horse, 2% bodyweight is 10kg. Allowing for a DM of haylage of 75%, then you would need to feed 13.3kg of haylage.

Other than a balancer, no additional hard feed is required as all of his energy and protein requirements can be met by this forage alone. For a very poor-doer or a horse that is in very hard work the forage allowance can be calculated based on 3% of bodyweight. It is important to weigh horses regularly and increase/decrease forage allowance accordingly. We regard Devon Haylage as a ‘feed’ in its own right and if fed appropriately, hard feed rations could be removed altogether, helping to keep your horse and your purse happy!