Forage options for horses described and compared in the guide

By Peggy Auwerda – Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Compare forage options to see what will work best for your horses using a new publication from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

AMES, Iowa — Equine owners have many choices when it comes to forages to feed their horses. To help make the decision easier, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has released a new publication called “Forages for Horses in Iowa.”

A dozen different species of legumes and grasses are covered, along with information on how to sow each species and maximize yield potential.

“A non-hardworking adult horse will eat 1.5 to 2 pounds of air-dried feed per 100 pounds of body weight,” said Peggy Auwerda, associate professor of animal science and equine extension specialist. “That would be 15 to 20 pounds of hay a day for a 1,000 pound horse. In Iowa, horses will need about 2 tons of hay per head per year, plus summer pasture.

Pasture is ideal forage for horses in the spring, summer and fall, but during the winter months high quality hay is essential.

The post explains how to identify each plant, its flower and seed, and its best uses. The publication also gives advice on how to sow new forages and how to manage established grasses and legumes so that they grow to their full potential.

“This information will help Iowa horse owners make decisions for managing land used for grazing or hay production,” Auwerda said. “Descriptions of cool-season legumes and grasses provide basic information to help equine owners understand the types of forages used in horse pastures.”

Although horses can eat almost any forage, they should not have access to sorghum and southern grass, which can cause poisoning. They can eat clover, but clover makes horses drool and may not be ideal for show animals.

The nutritional needs of the horse will depend on its age and use. Information for pregnant and lactating mares is covered in depth in a second ISU Extension and Outreach publication, titled “Nutrition for the Gestating and Lactating Mare”.

For more information, Auwerda can be contacted at [email protected] or 515-294-5260.

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