Study: Add Chopped Forage to Feed to Prolong Horses’ Meals

Blending at least 15% chaff with a horse’s feed can increase consumption times and reduce health risks such as colic and choke.
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Chaff is often marketed as a healthy forage solution for senior horses because it requires less chewing than long hay. It can also help prolong consumption times of grain-based or pelleted diets that horses would otherwise eat very quickly. | Photo: iStock
If you’ve got a horse that gobbles up his feed, you might be able to slow him down—improving his physical and mental health in the process—by adding chopped forage, or chaff, to his meals. The key, says a team of international researchers, is adding enough chaff to make a difference.

In a recent Australian-U.K. study, blends including at least 15% chaff significantly increased horses’ feed consumption times. Why is this important? Because “guzzling” meals, especially concentrated cereal-based feeds, can put horses at risk of gastrointestinal, metabolic, and behavioral problems such as choke and colic, the researchers said.

“Using the appropriate type and levels of chaff addition can be a valuable management tool for owners and should be considered to help slow intake rate and potentially extend the time spent foraging,” said Patricia Harris, MA, VetMB, PhD, Dipl. ECVCN, MRCVS, head of the Equine Studies Group at the WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute in Waltham on the Wolds, U.K.

Chaff’s Effect on Consumption Rates

Chaff is often marketed as a healthy forage solution for senior horses because it requires less chewing than long hay. However, it can help prolong consumption times of grain-based or pelleted diets that horses would otherwise eat very quickly

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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