Submitted to: Natural Resource Agriculture and Engineering Service
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/1/2004
Publication Date: 12/12/2008
Citation: Bamka, W.J., Kluchinski, D., Singer, J.W. 2008. Horse Nutrition and Management. In: E.B. Rayburn, editor. Animal Production Systems for Pasture-based Livestock Production. Ithaca, NY: Natural Resource Agriculture and Engineering Service (NRAES-171). p. 188-208. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Horses are used in a variety of activities with over 5.32 million animals reported in the US. Many of these horses are owned and managed for profit and a significant number are for recreation and sport. Regardless of the use, proper nutrition is essential for maximizing animal growth and productivity, and pastures play an important role in feeding and exercising horses. Although nutritional needs vary considerably among horses, depending on breed, age, weight, and activity level, forages can and should be a primary component of the equine diet. To fully take advantage of the pasture resource, producers must practice sound pasture and grazing management. Well managed pasture during the growing season can reduce horse feed costs and completely replace all supplementation for mature, idle, and recuperating horses, as well as those in the early stages of gestation, with the exception of water and salt. In fact, good quality pasture can provide the maintenance needs of most mature horses. The northeast US has tremendous pasture potential that can be capitalized on by the horse owner due to the adaptation of numerous forage species, favorable climate and length of growing season. Many pasture managers, however, do not utilize sound grazing and forage management practices to reach full pasture production potential, or are constrained by the amount of pasture acreage available. In addition, unlike other livestock, horses have never been selected for feed efficiency or uniformity; therefore the equine manager must maintain awareness of each animal’s individual needs. An understanding of pasture management principles and nutritional requirements of horses is essential and the two must be dovetailed so both resources are maintained and optimally utilized. This chapter will focus on the methods to determine horse nutritional needs and effective pasture and grazing management techniques to supply quality forage and nutrients.