This text is directed to owners/caretakers of horses in crisis due to the war in Ukraine February 2022. It has been written on 2022-02-28 by PhD Cecilia Müller, Associate Professor in Equine Feed Science, Senior lecturer in equine nutrition and management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
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To all owners or caretakers of horses in need due to the current crisis in Ukraine -
finding feeding options:
If no grass-based forage such as hay, haylage, silage or pasture grass of any type is available, it is possible to use maize silage or whole-crop cereal silage as well for horses. If none of these are available, feed your horses straw. Grass seed straw and legume straw can be used and regarded as hay with low nutritional value. Wheat, oat or barley straw are preferable among cereal straws, but rye and triticale straw can also be used. Sugar beet pulp of any type is also comparably rich in fibre and can replace part of the forage in the daily ration. It is also possible to use standing reed as a roughage source even if it is not green, but horses may refuse to eat it. If the roughage smells or looks mouldy, don’t use it, try to find other resources. Leafy tree branches can also be used as one roughage source to provide some fibre, but make sure it is not oak, sycamore or other poisonous species. Only use branches where you are certain about the species. Heather and moss can also be included in the daily diet for the horse to some extent. If at all possible, try to include all new feeds gradually in the diet to avoid digestive upsets in the horse.
If cereal straw constitutes more than half the daily amount of roughage, try to include some protein rich feed in the diet. Alfalfa, linseed cake, rapeseed cake, sunflower cake, brewers grains, distillers grains, brewers yeast are examples of protein rich feeds that are not used for human consumption (and may therefore be easier to come by) but can be used for horses. If these feeds are used, and your horse is not accustomed to them, include them gradually in the diet over one to two weeks and only in small amounts (with gradual introduction) to avoid digestive upsets in the horses. Alfalfa is also a roughage and can be fed as the only roughage to horses.
If you use feeds such as oats, barley, maize, wheat, rye and triticale, and your horse is not used to them, use them restrictively as a sudden inclusion of starch-rich feeds (as these are) increases the risk of colic problems in horses. If the horse is in OK or a little skinny body condition, it is less risky for the horse to loose a little body weight compared to consuming large amounts of grain suddenly. If the grains looks or smells mouldy, don’t use it, try to find other resources.
Try to find clean water and provide it to your horse when you are feeding him/her. Horses drink most water when they are eating