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First Posted: Jan 10, 2011
Jan 10, 2011

Feeding Horses Hay Cubes

by Debora Johnson

  
Alfalfa Hay Cubes (left) and Timothy Hay Cubes (right)

What are hay cubes? Are they a good source of forage for your horse? What type of hay cubes are available? What are the advantages and disadvantages of feeding hay cubes? Lets take a look.

What Are Hay Cubes?

Hay cubes are simply hay that has been harvested, cut into small pieces and compressed. "The most popular types of forage cubes are made from coarsely chopped alfalfa hay, timothy hay, alfalfa/grass hay, whole corn plants, and alfalfa hay/whole corn plants." (Kentucky Equine Research nutritionist Kathleen Crandell, PhD) Manufacturers add different supplements such as protein, important minerals, oils and molasses. Check the label to find out what has been added. Caloric content should also be available on the label. By visual inspection you can determine the quality of the hay cubes just as you do with hay bales. You smell them, look at the color and texture.

Are Hay Cubes A Good Source of Forage?

Hay cubes are a good source of forage and are appropriate for horses of all ages. Hay cubes are even suitable for broodmares and young horses because of the high nutrient values for energy, protein, and calcium, however, you must be careful to check on the type of hay used in the cube. As with any addition to your horse's diet you must start slowly. Cubes can be used to supplement your horse's hay or replace it. It can be used to stretch a limited supply of good hay. Eventually you can feed 75% to 80% as much cubes as hay by weight, as a rule of thumb. Again, caution, you must start slowly.

Some Advantages of Hay Cubes

  • Usually cut at nutritional peak
  • Lower dust and mold spores
  • Low moisture content
  • Longer shelf life than hay
  • Hold nutritional value longer
  • Easier to chew for older horses
  • Easier to digest
  • Less waste than hay
  • Easier to store
  • Easier to food source for travelling with horses
  • More uniform nutrient values
  • More consistent in texture, etc.
  • Better portion control
  • "Cubes made from coarsely chopped (>.5 in.) hay appear to provide adequate particle size to eliminate wood chewing." (Mark A. Russell, Department of Animal Sciences and Keith D. Johnson, Department of Agronomy, Cooperative Extension Service, Purdue University)

Some Disadvantage of Hay Cubes

  • More expensive than hay
  • Chew time is less
  • Horses with choke or esophageal problems should have their cubes soaked
  • Must be extremely careful about portion control to avoid weight gain or loss and colic.
  • Some horses do not like the texture of cubes.

Every horse is different. It is always necessary to contact your vet when making any changes to your horse's food intake.

For More Information:

Selecting Quality Hay for Horses/Purdue University
Alfalfa Cubes for Horses

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