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Eddie Baggs: Horses need their own hay

Have you ever heard the term "horse-quality hay"? Whether you're a buyer or seller, the term is tossed around as if there is a real meaning - kind of like the Texan word "fixin'."

Exactly what does "horse quality" mean?

To start with, why does a horse need higher-quality hay? Colic is the No. 1 killer of horses and is nutrition-related; nutrition is the largest expense for horse owners, and the most neglected aspect of horse care. Horses without access to a good grazing pastures should receive daily roughage in amounts equal to one percent of their body weight. This amount usually will satisfy a horse's need for adequate gut fill and chewing, helping to minimize wood chewing or cribbing.

The digestive system of a horse works best when supplied with small quantities of roughage over an extended period of time, such as with grazing in a pasture. This is hard to accomplish if the horse is stalled or does not have access to pasture lands. Therefore, supplemental feeds and hay are fed by the owner on their schedule, which can lead to an upset stomach.

A horse does not have the capability of vomiting to relieve this digestive problem, which can lead to colic (twisted gut) and can be fatal. Also, horses do not have a gall bladder or the capability of emulsifying fats, along with the ability to break down structural carbohydrates. With all of these digestive parts missing or not working properly, the horse must have high-quality feeds and roughage to maintain a sound digestive system and good health.

Next time the term "horse quality" is used when buying or selling hay, remember it does have a meaning. A horse needs higher-quality hay and feed due to the complicated way its digestive system is designed and operates.

Next time we will try to define the meaning of "fixin'."

EDDIE BAGGS, extension agent with the Texas AgriLife Extension office in Denton County, can be reached at 940-349-2880.