by Dr. Clair Thunes PhD, Nutritionist for EnviroEquine & PET ~

As we head in to Autumn those who purchase enough hay and straw to last through the winter will be feeling content that their barns are full. However, some years are not so bountiful and instead of contentment as sense of angst has set in. Either the weather did not cooperate at some point in the growing cycle and yields are reduced or maybe the problems occurred during harvest. Either way quality and the quantity available can be less than desired. This can push prices upwards leaving horse owners struggling to find enough hay of a suitable quality to get them through to the next year’s harvest.

Certainly, when these less than optimal conditions strike buying as much as you can early in the season is beneficial because availability will only get worse as the winter progresses meaning that prices will continue to climb. However, not all horse owners are lucky enough to be able to buy in bulk. So, when hay and straw are in short supply or less than ideal quality, what can you do to make your hay last as long as possible and ride out these less than optimal conditions?

A number of alternatives exist that can be used to meet some or all of your horse’s forage and bedding needs and here at EnviroEquine we have a couple of great options that you may not be familiar with.

When it comes to stretching hay we need alternatives that will provide fiber as this is vitally important for maintaining hindgut function. Traditional hay replacers and stretchers include hay pellets and cubes as well as beet pulp. A newer option that is gaining in popularity are hemp hulls. With the increasing size of the hemp growing industry and the enthusiasm for hemp seeds as a protein source in human and animal diets, large quantities of hulls result. Hemp hulls make up 100 percent of EnviroEquine’s Evolve supplement.

Hulls are the outer shell that surrounds and protects the seeds which are removed during seed processing. Hulls are palatable, high in fiber, up to 40 percent, which is readily digestible and also have a good amount of fat. The fat in Evolve is balanced with omega 3 and 6 fats. This results in a calorie content per pound of about 1.2 Mcals of digestible energy. This is higher than hay, although lower than most grains. The non-structural carbohydrate level of Evolve is below 10 percent. These combined features make Evolve a good option for a broad range of horses.

One unique quality of Evolve hemp hulls is that they are a good source of terpenes. These organic compounds found in plants are often aromatic in nature and have been shown to have various benefits. The terpenes found in Evolve are known to help support a healthy inflammatory response and to support gastric mucosal tissue.

Several pounds of hemp hulls can fed to an average sized horse. Feeding 3 pounds of hemp hulls could be used to replace about 4.5 pounds of grass hay.

In many barns, straw is still a popular bedding and is preferred over pine shavings. However, in drought years or when the harvest has been subjected to other less than favorable weather conditions, supply can be low. Yet again the hemp industry comes to the rescue. This time in the form of Aubiose Hemp Bedding. This bedding, a stalwart of barns in Europe for over 30 years, is made from the chopped-up stems of hemp plants.

Unlike other forms of hemp bedding on the market in the US, Aubiose has a long and proven history. Known for its product consistency, it is always a crisp cream color, highly absorbable, virtually dust free and hypo-allergenic. This makes it a much better choice for many horses compared to other straw alternatives such as pine shavings. When mucked out correctly, as few as 2 bales of Aubiose may be needed in a stall per month resulting in very low waste. What waste does occur, it is highly degradable and composts beautifully making it a hot commodity with gardeners everywhere.

If you are facing a shortage of hay or straw this winter or are just looking for some alternatives check out Evolve and Aubiose and see what hemp can do for you.

Hemp Explained: