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Review article2017Peer reviewedOpen access

Review: Feeding conserved forage to horses: recent advances and recommendations

Harris, P. A.; Ellis, A. D.; Fradinho, M. J.; Jansson, A.; Julliand, V.; Luthersson, N.; Santos, A. S.; Vervuert, I.


The horse is a non-ruminant herbivore adapted to eating plant-fibre or forage-based diets. Some horses are stabled for most or the majority of the day with limited or no access to fresh pasture and are fed preserved forage typically as hay or haylage and sometimes silage. This raises questions with respect to the quality and suitability of these preserved forages (considering production, nutritional content, digestibility as well as hygiene) and required quantities. Especially for performance horses, forage is often replaced with energy dense feedstuffs which can result in a reduction in the proportion of the diet that is forage based. This may adversely affect the health, welfare, behaviour and even performance of the horse. In the past 20 years a large body of research work has contributed to a better and deeper understanding of equine forage needs and the physiological and behavioural consequences if these are not met. Recent nutrient requirement systems have incorporated some, but not all, of this new knowledge into their recommendations. This review paper amalgamates recommendations based on the latest understanding in forage feeding for horses, defining forage types and preservation methods, hygienic quality, feed intake behaviour, typical nutrient composition, digestion and digestibility as well as health and performance implications. Based on this, consensual applied recommendations for feeding preserved forages are provided.


forage; health; hygiene; behaviour; requirements

Published in

2017, Volume: 11, number: 6, pages: 958-967

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Animal and Dairy Science

    Publication identifier


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