FOR HORSES 

Optimal straw fodder for the paddock

The horse’s body depends on the intake of good straw fodder, all year round. This also applies to the many hours during which the horse will, hopefully, spend frolicking in its paddock. In winter, however, with the sparse blades of grass left from the summer being covered by mud or snow, it will thus be our duty to provide an alternative of equally good quality for our horses to munch.

For answers to the question about the kind of straw fodder that will be best and why this is of such great importance, we have turned to two experts: Kathrine Gaarde Madsen, M.Sc. in animal science (agronomist) and professional consultant at Denmark’s leading horse feed manufacturer – Equsana. She knows precisely what will happen when right as well as wrong roughage ends up in a horse’s stomach. Another authority and straw-fodder expert is Tronagergaard Straw’s Karl-Erik Leander Larsen, who has many years’ experience in the production of high-quality hay for the entire world. They both know how crucial straw fodder of the right quality and type will be to a well-functioning horse. Besides, they are in complete agreement about what to do if the horses in the paddock have different needs.

Why straw fodder is important in the paddock​

“Horses require fibre from the roughage for the purposes of meeting their energy intake requirements and maintaining a healthy digestion.” In short, this is why straw of the right species and quality is so important to our horses, Equsana’s agronomist, Kathrine, explains. The equine digestive system is best protected on the provision that the horses will not be without roughage for more than four hours at a time, she elaborates. And this is precisely why the straw fodder is an important companion in the winter paddock where the grass has been bitten off – or where mud and snow have the upper hand. There are several other good reasons, however. The following comprise four of those reasons:

Fibre boosts the digestion​

Roughage is structure fodder, which means that it is rich in fibre. And precisely the fibre content represents one of the most important elements in good straw, Kathrine explains. “Fibre contributes to the stimulation of a healthy digestion. Fibre for instance contributes to maintain good peristalsis of the intestine, and thus it contributes to pushing the fodder on its way through the equine digestive tract”. In other words, the straw fodder contributes to the prevention of constipation, and it also ensures a constant movement of the system.

Saliva creates balance in the stomach

A healthy digestion also requires a healthy environment of the stomach. Here, roughage contributes to the horse’s own production of the neutralising lubricant – the saliva – which is needed for the maintenance of a correct pH balance. “When horses chew on roughage, they will produce a lot of the saliva that plays such a decisive part in the health of the equine stomach.” Saliva being alkaline, it contributes to establish the establishment of balance in the horse’s stomach, thus neutralising the acid environment,” Kathrine explains. This process for instance contributes to the prevention of gastric ulcers. “The more roughage given, and in particular the more frequently it is given, the greater the effect in the prevention of gastric ulcers,” she emphasises. 

The basis for staying warm​

When the temperature drops, the straw fodder will have an even more important function – a function with which not even the thickest of horse blankets compares. The roughage will namely help the horse to stay warm from within. According to Kathrine, this is because the horse is an expert in energy uptake.
It may be difficult to understand that there can be that many calories in such a bunch of dry green fodder – isn’t it simply comparable to eating lettuce? But no, this is definitely not the case. Here, Kathrine adds that the horse has an unsurpassed uptake ability with respect to the fibre in the hindgut: “The Horse is an expert in digesting fibre and take up energy. When the horse digests fibre in the hindgut, this takes place by means of microorganisms that will convert the cell-wall substances of the fibre into short-chained fatty acids, which represent energy to the horse. The horse can for instance use such energy to stay warm. Because they can convert fibre into fat, the vast majority of horses will be able to stay warm solely by means of getting plenty of roughage.

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Activating the brain 

Given that it is natural for a horse to eat at least 12 hours a day – preferably 16-18 hours – it is not only the body’s physical condition that will be depending on the straw. Eating also has an impact on the mental state of the horse. Ruined halters, blankets that are torn to pieces and lost shoes will frequently be the result of a couple of horses spending a few of hours in the paddock being a bit too bored. A result that to a large extent might have been avoided if, instead, the horses had been kept busy eating. The more it is possible to spread the process of straw feeding over the day, the better the result for the horse’s stomach and its brain. 

Straw is not just straw

And which straw fodder will then be the best to feed the horses in the paddock? As is common knowledge, straw is not just straw, and as every type will have its advantages and disadvantages, our choice of fodder differs widely. As with so many other things relating to horses, the selection of roughage is something of a science. Well, to some it is practically a religion – where some will swear by one type of straw fodder, others will swear by another.

As a rule, wrap provides the most energy and nourishment. This is because the straw is wrapped while still moist. The wrapping facilitates easy storage, as the product can be stored outdoors. On the other hand, it is expensive and has a relatively short shelf life – in particular after the wrapping has been broken.
Being dry, hay will keep longer, but it also has a slightly lower nutritional content. In addition, hay requires a dry storage space, thus making demands on the space available in stable, barn or other enclosure.

Many are of the opinion that seed grass and straw are not at all suitable as horse fodder. And, naturally, there is no doubt that it should certainly never be used as the primary source of fodder. There are those who opt for this fodder because it gives munching time without providing much energy. According to our experts there is a solution, however, that is far better than this – a solution involving dry hay and wrap.

When needs differ

It goes without saying that a small, round Shetland pony cannot cope with being fed the same amount of energy as a large, fiery warmblood horse. So, what to do if the two are in the same paddock? You feed them roughage of as low a sugar and protein content as possible. According to Karl-Erik, who has more than 25 years’ experience in the production of quality straw fodder at Tronagergaard Straw, you obtain this from good, dry hay or wrap. He further states that, since dry straw fodder is well suited for herds with different requirements, the demand is considerable.

“Dry hay is a lean product which is excellent for ad libitum feeding,” Karl-Erik explains. Owing to the low sugar and protein content, practically any horse tolerates eating its fill in the paddock without its owner needs fear that the result will be a horse with an inflammatory condition or an overly pudgy horse. Thus, it is the absolutely optimal fodder for a paddock with different types of horses.

Kathrine is of the same opinion. More precisely, she emphasises that you should use a coarser type of roughage with moderate to low energy content. “This way you provide for the undemanding horses in a mixed group of horses. On the other hand, you should opt for an energy-rich roughage for e.g. the warmblood horse when it arrives in the horse pen, in order that it will have satisfactory energy for condition purposes and, perhaps, for practising” she adds. And, in fact, Karl-Erik absolutely agrees. “It is easier to add than remove energy,” he points out.

The optimal fodder for the paddock 

For the same reason, Karl-Erik and Tronagergaard Straw have specialised in the production of high-quality straw fodder with differing energy content. Actually, they have an absolutely unique product which goes like hand in glove with herds consisting of both undemanding and energy-requiring horses. They have dubbed this “Kentucky-hay” since it is, practically, as dry as the hay you get in Kentucky. Thus, it is a lean straw fodder with a long shelf life – and it is even available as packed as well as just ordinary bales.

According to Karl-Erik, the clever thing about the packed solution is that it is easily given in the paddock without any wastage. And, contrary to wrap, the hay is dry and will not ferment in the packaging and, hence, it will keep a long time after opening. This facilitates feeding in the paddock from an entire minibig, even if your herd is rather small. If you cut off a few ‘muzzle-size’ openings in every corner of the packaging, the horses can munch off the hay for several hours without the risk that they will lay down in the hay, step in it – or worse.

Finally, Karl-Erik adds that you need not fear the dust that is naturally present in dry hay. First, because this dust is not dangerous and, secondly, the atmospheric humidity during winter is so high that it will curb the particles. If you are not satisfied with this, he suggest that you, quite classically, expose the hay to a quick hose over with the water hose. Without a doubt, you will then end up with the most optimal straw fodder for your paddock. Moreover, this hay is equally well suited for the warmblood horse, the Norwegian pony, the Arab, the Iceland pony or whichever kinds of horses you may have in your paddock.

3 REASONS FOR CHOOSING 

TRONAGERGAARD

01​

Delivery all across the country. We have weekly transports! We deliver quality at favourable prices – swiftly, easily and cheaply!

02

We buy as well as sell excellent straw for fodder and litter. And having satisfied customers has always been our major objective. 

03

Should you desire a swift and non-binding offer from us, simply give us a call.

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Tronagergaard Straw
Tronagergaard

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karl@tronagergaard.dk