For horse and rider, the start of the grazing season is the best time of the year. To keep it that way, here are a few things to consider.

 
Grazing means changing the feed...

and as with any changes to feed, this must be done gradually so that the horse's intestinal flora can adapt.

In contrast to fibre-rich hay, young grass doesn’t have much crude fibre, but is rich in proteins and carbohydrates (sugar). Crude fibre is digested in the large intestine, while proteins and carbohydrates are broken down in the small intestine. Horses are herbivorous animals, and their digestive systems are made to process crude fibres (cellulose, hemicellulose and pectins). These are digested by bacteria in the large intestine, creating short-chain fatty acids and water-soluble vitamins. The fatty acids are in turn absorbed via the intestinal wall, becoming available to the horse as a source of energy. Feed stays in the small intestine for a relatively short time (approx. 1.5 hours).
If the feed contains too many proteins and carbohydrates, these will be passed into the large intestine only partly digested. There they cause an increase in bacteria which form lactic acid (dysbiosis), leading to a drop in pH level (acidosis) in the large intestine. This in turn causes cellulose-splitting bacteria to die off, which leads to damage to the intestinal mucosa. The result is digestive disorders such as diarrhoea, watery stool and colic. The toxins of the dying bacteria are able to enter the blood through the damage to the intestinal mucosa, causing metabolic ailments like laminitis.

It is therefore important, especially at the start of and during the grazing season, that horses are provided with sufficient roughage in the form of hay or hay substitute. The addition of high-quality AGROBS crude fibre products* will ensure a sufficient supply of crude fibre. The addition of roughage before turnout also reduces hunger cravings. This can prevent watery stool, diarrhoea, colic or even metabolic ailments caused by the horse switching to outdoor grazing. The horse owner should allow at least two weeks for the conversion from only hay to a combination of hay and grass, starting with 10-15 minutes a day. We recommend feeding hay or AGROBS crude fibre products* as a supplement to grass.

Not all grasses are the same...
Most horse owners now know that the danger of laminitis is greatest in spring and autumn. The fructan content in pasture grass is considered to be the main cause of laminitis. Fructans are specially adapted sugars found in certain cool-season forages grazed by horses. The concentrations of fructans and other sugars, minerals, trace elements, and crude fibre depend on several factors, such as vegetation period (the older the grass, the more crude fibre), fertilisation (nitrogen fertilisation reduces the fructan content in grasses), temperature, type of grass, moisture, etc.

In general, fructan content in grass is higher during periods when there is still frost at night (i.e. the grass cannot grow and therefore cannot consume fructans) and ample sunshine during the day (high photosynthesis activity, which results in the storage of fructans).
It’s a bit more complicated that this, however, because fructan concentration varies amongst types of grasses. English ryegrass and Italian ryegrass can have high fructan levels, while cock’s foot, red fescue, timothy, etc., store considerably less.

Fructans are also found in hay. Since grasses continue to show photosynthesis activity for up to 50 hours after mowing, but no longer grow, the produced fructan is stored.

A common method to lower fructan levels for horses susceptible to laminitis is to water the hay, which washes out the fructans. An alternative can be found in high-quality AGROBS crude fibre products*, which contain only certain grasses and are subjects to our drying process, keeping fructan levels low. The grasses are dried with warm air immediately after harvesting, preventing further photosynthesis and further storage of fructans. AGROBS crude fibre products* make optimum supplements to feed during the grazing season.

With so many factors it is hardly possible to create the perfect grazing conditions, therefore a diet that meets the needs of the horse independent of the grass it eats is all the more important for preventing metabolic ailments. A horse with hyperacidity due to improper feeding (e.g. too much concentrated feed, too little roughage etc.) will have a more sensitive reaction to the change to grazing than will a generally healthy horse. To meet the demand for important minerals we recommend Agrobs Naturmineral, AGROBS Seniormineral or, for horses with plenty of fresh grass, AGROBS Weidemineral-Cobs.

*High-quality AGROBS crude fibre products for your horse’s optimum nutritional care.

Pre Alpin® Protein Light Flakes (low in protein and fructan) is a roughage/base feed made from grasses that are particularly low in protein. Its high crude fibre content aids digestion and helps prevent issues such as watery stool or diarrhoea, especially during the grazing season.

Pre Alpin® Wiesencobs, Pre Alpin® Wiesenflakes and Pre Alpin® Aspero are low-fructan roughage products made from over 60 different grasses and herbs as supplements to base feed and pasture grass. Pre Alpin® Compact are handy pressed cubes made of air-dried meadow grasses and herbs and are an ideal crude fibre snack for your horse when you’re out and about.

AGROBS LeichtGenuss is a very low-calorie and low-fructan alternative that’s high in crude fibre, especially suitable for good eaters and overweight horses.

You can also supplement your horse’s base feed with AGROBS Grünhafer. Green oat feed stimulates metabolism, aids digestion and helps to regulate the acid-base balance, making it very suitable as a supplement to pasture grass.

AlpenGrün Mash is a worthwhile supplement during the transition to the grazing season, as it is very easy on the digestive systems of sensitive horses. Using AlpenGrün Mash as a dietary feed is also advantageous as there is no repeated change of feed, as there is with grazing. It is prebiotic and rich in mucilages, which helps prevent digestive disorders in sensitive horses. 


You may contact us for an individual feed consultation through our online feed form or by calling 08171-41 80 48-0 (Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.)







Sources**:    
  • Meyer H., Coenen M.: Pferdefütterung. Enke Verlag Stuttgart, 2014
 
Dr. med. vet. Katharina Boes









 

(** The references refer to the technical content of the text and not to the product recommendations.)