How to Safely Transition Feed in Your Horse’s Diet

switching horse feed, transitioning horse feed, new horse hay, safely change horse hay, safely change horse feed

switching horse feed, transitioning horse feed, new horse hay, safely change horse hay, safely change horse feed

When transitioning your horse to new feedstuff – either to a new batch of hay, new pasture or new concentrates – you need to do so slowly to give bacteria in the horse’s digestive tract a chance to adapt to the new feed.

Bacterial populations change according to what the horse is eating, and time is required for different bacterial species to colonize the horse’s digestive tract in this new environment. If there is not enough time for the population to adapt, it can cause digestive disturbances, which can lead to colic.

Using an adaptation period of 10 to 14 days to transition new feeds into your horse’s diet is recommended. Below is an example of an adaptation period:

switching horse feed, transitioning horse feed, new horse hay, safely change horse hay, safely change horse feed

Forage makes up the largest portion of the horse’s diet and using an adaptation period is of utmost importance when introducing a new forage source. A change in hay or pasture has been associated with the highest risk of colic (Hillyer et al., 2002).

switching horse feed, transitioning horse feed, new horse hay, safely change horse hay, safely change horse feed

Reference: Hillyer, M.H.F.G.R. Taylor, C.J. Proudman, G.B. Edwards, J.E. Smith and N.P. French, 2002. “Case control study to identify risk factors for simple colonic obstruction and distension colic in horses.” Equine Veterinary Journal 34 (5): 455-463.

Reprinted with the kind permission of Equine Guelph.

This article was originally published in the Equine Consumers’ Guide 2016 – a publication of Canadian Horse Journal.

Photo: Pete Markham/Flickr

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