Horse's need a continuous source of forage for their sustenance. The optimal forage source is quality natural pasture, unfortunately, good quality pasture is not always easy to maintain.
When pasture is not providing enough daily forage and nutrients or your horse isn't able to graze the recommended 17 hrs. each day (a minimum of 8 to 10 hrs. at pasture would be needed to achieve a DM intake of at least 1% of body weight), hay is the common alternative when natural forage cannot fulfill the horse's needs.
However, their are many factors when considering a good hay substitution.
- Optimal harvest
- Mold and dust
And that's not all, the most difficult challenge with a forage substitute is to ensure adequate fiber and roughage. Fiber is needed to maintain a healthy digestive system. It provides energy, fills the gut and soaks up water in the gut. The absence of fiber leads to many major problems, including boredom, colic, dehydration, diarrhea, energy deficiency, gastric ulcers and hunger.
Hay cubes on the other hand are the ultimate forage substitution. The fiber length of at least 1 1/4" is essential for supplementation. Cubes have a lower moisture content, less chance for mold spores and dust to develop. They stay fresher longer and retain their nutritional profile. Cubes are easier to store, travel with and generate less waste than hay. The nutritional profile is more uniform and the values are displayed on each bag.
Cubes can be used as a full or partial replacement and offer a more efficient source of protein, mineral, and vitamins than even the best quality hay.
MAAAX Equine Feed LONGfibe forage cubes offer a minimum fiber length of 1.77" which mimics a more natural feeding behavior. The longer the cube the longer the chew time to allow for better saliva production to enhance the fermentation process and aid in the overall health of the horse's sensitive and complex digestive system. Saliva flow will also aid in maintaining stable pH levels within the gastrointestinal tract and helps buffer gastric acid.
So, it is up to us to take in consideration all of these factors when making sure our horse's are consuming the recommended daily fiber. Whether it be pasture, hay or hay cubes it is important to understand the pros and cons for each as well as how it will suit the horse we are feeding.