We live in northern Arkansas, an area often hard-hit by drought. Sometimes hay trucked in from other states is available, sometimes it isn’t. We’ve learned it’s easier and more economical to feed alternatives when long-stem, traditional hay brings astronomical prices.
• Bagged, dehydrated alfalfa or grass hay is usually packaged in 40-pound, plastic-wrapped squares of compressed, chopped hay. To prevent waste, pour enough water over the hay to dampen it. U.S. Alfalfa is the brand we’ve used. It’s good stuff.
• Bagged haylage such as Chaffhaye is semi-wilted grass or alfalfa dried to 55 % to 65 % dry matter as compared to 82 % to 85 % in hay. It’s compressed and sealed in extremely tough plastic wrapping. It’s important to remember that once bagged haylage is opened or the wrapping is accidentally broken, mold spores begin taking over, so after a few days (read the label for specifics), any uneaten feed should be discarded. Due to its palatability and ease of chewing, we feed Chaffhaye (and 14% protein goat pellets) to our toothless 31-year-old Standardbred, Snafu’s Choice.
• Alfalfa pellets are fairly finely-ground hay mixed with binders and pressed into ¼ to ½ inch pellets. They’re economical because there’s no waste but they don’t provide enough roughage and should be fed with some long-stem hay.
• Hay cubes, also called range cubes, are made of rough-ground hay with enough binder to allow it to be pressed into cubes. They’re considerably bigger than alfalfa pellets, readily available, and can be used to partially or totally replace baled hay. However, horses sometimes choke on cubes; we’ve had it happen twice, so we don’t feed them any longer. If you use hay cubes, soak them for an hour or so before feeding to reduce them to mush.
• Complete feeds are commercial pelleted feeds formulated to provide both grain and hay in a single feeding. All major feed companies carry a variety of complete feeds for horses. While they sometimes (but not always) provide enough fiber to maintain gut health, horses tend to wolf them down so fast that their urge to chew isn’t met. So, they look for other ways to satisfy that urge like debarking trees or chewing up their stalls. This is neither a healthy situation nor an economical one, factoring in the cost of replacing chewed boards.
– An excerpt from Horse Tips & Tricks; More Than 400 Ways to Care for Your Horse Better, Safer, Faster, Cheaper, by Sue Weaver