T. C. Stovall, L. C. Gagnon, A. Perlinisky, B. Hippie, H. Sherwood and P. Simmons.


"This trial suggests dry matter output is greater for cubed hay rations than long-stemmed rations."



A comparison between long-stemmed hay and complete cubed ration on water intake, fecal moisture and out put was conducted using eight geldings at Montana State University-Bozeman. The geldings were randomly assigned to the trial and placed into stalls where they were fed individually. Animals were fed to 1.5% of its body weight for the ten day trial. Body weights were recorded on days one, five, and ten during the trial. On days two and nine fecal grab samples were taken and total fecal output was collected on day five of the trial. Animals were given 120 minutes to consume their ration and then the refusals were collected and recorded. Water was available through out the trial period and water intake was recorded. Mean results indicate that horses on complete cubed rations refused less than horses on long-stemmed hay rations. Water intake of horses on long-stemmed hay ration was significantly greater than (P < 0.05) those on complete cubed ration. Fecal moisture of long-stemmed hay ration was greater than complete cubed ration at (P < 0.05). There was no significant difference in total fecal output between the rations.


Producers have often hypothesized that water intake is greater for horses consuming cubed rations than horses fed long-stemmed hay rations. Pagan and Jackson, (1991) showed that horses excrete and drink more water on long-stemmed hay rations than on pelleted rations. Coenen and Meyer, (1987) also found that horses on roughage diets have a higher fecal output of water than horses fed a more concentrated diet. Supporting the Coenen and Meyer study, Edwards, (1973) showed that horses on high roughage diets had higher amounts of water in the large intestine due to a higher binding ability of undigested material than was present in a more concentrated diet. It has also been suggested that horses on long-stemmed hay have a higher fecal output than horses on cubed rations. Pagan and Jackson, (1991) believe this is due to increased fecal water content of horses fed long-stemmed hay rations than horses consuming pelleted hay rations. Coenen and Meyer, 1987 found that there is a higher water content in the gut of horses fed long-stemmed hay and is due to increased endogenous secretions and/or lower absorption rates.

Few studies have been conducted showing the effects of changing the physical form of long-stemmed hay. A previous trial by Gagnon and Barbisan, (1996) comparing long-stemmed hay and cubed hay on water intake showed that the horses fed a cubed ration consumed more water than those fed a long-stemmed hay ration which is not in argument with other studies (REF) on long ­stemmed hay. Because of these inconsistencies in results this trial was designed to compare water intake, fecal moisture, and fecal output between long-stemmed hay and cubed hay rations in horses.

Methods and Materials

Eight mature geldings were randomly assigned to two treatments: 1) Long-stemmed alfalfa hay, or 2) Cubed alfalfa hay. Both forms of hay had the same nutritional value Table 1. Horses were kept in stalls and individually fed 1.5% of body weight. Individual body weight were recorded on day 1 of the collection period and again on day 10 to monitor body weight and body condition. A seven day adaptation period preceded the ten day collection period. Animals were fed one half ration both in the AM. and PM. and given a 120 minute feeding time each bout. Horses were haltered and tied long enough that they could reach the floor to consume any dropped feed. All feed refusals were weighed after each feeding period and recorded. Water was supplied ad libitum to all animals in calibrated buckets, during each feeding period. The consumption of the water was measured and recorded for each treatment. All animals were dry lotted and exercised between the AM and PM feeding except during day 5 of the trial when a 24 hour fecal collection was taken.

Lab analysis of each feed was completed and presented in Table 1. Fecal grab samples were taken twice during the trial and dry matter determined. Data was analyzed by GLM Analysis of Variances (SAS 1998).


Feed refusal, fecal dry matter, and water consumption are presented in Figures 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 respectively. As shown in Figure 1, there was a significant difference in feed refused between the cubed hay ration and the long-stemmed hay ration with the long-stemmed hay being consistently greater (P<0.05). However, there was no significant differences in refusals between AM and PM feeding. When a comparison is made of the individual horses and feed (Figure 2) it appeared that individual horses refused their feed more than others regardless of feed type (P<0.05). Horses fed long-stemmed hay drank significantly more water (PczO.05) than those fed cubed hay (Figure 3). There is some difference (P<0.05) between water consumption of individual horses regardless of feed type. The mean water intake of horses on long-stemmed hay ration was 14.218 liters, where the mean water intake of horses on cubed hay ration was 10.004 liters. Fecal dry matter (Figure 4) was significantly higher (P<0.05) on the cubed ration than the long-stemmed hay ration. There was no significant difference (P>0.05) between treatments with individual horses on fecal dry matters (Figure 5). All horses fed long-stemmed hay had higher fecal water content then those fed cubed hay, resulting from the higher water intake on long-stemmed hay than the cubed hay. The health and condition of the horses remained excellent during the trial. There were no horses that required special treatment or veterinary care.


Intake of feed by horses is always a concern for horseman. This trial showed that horses refused significantly more feed when fed long stemmed hay than when fed cubed rations. This difference is probably due to the wastage by horses on the long-stemmed hay rations in this study. This trial suggests that fecal moisture is higher for horses on long-stemmed hay than cubed rations and is consistent with those suggested by Pagan and Jackson (1991). Coenen and Meyer (1987) reported observing that as particle size of the feed swallowed increases then fecal moisture increases. This trial suggests dry matter output is greater for cubed hay rations than long-stemmed rations. Previous trials conducted suggested dry matter output to be the same for both cubed rations and long-stemmed rations. The difference shown in this trial is probably due to the significant amount of refusals or wastage by horses on long-stemmed hay rations. However horses became more efficient as the trial progressed suggesting that feeding excess rations influences wastage and intake.

Literature Cited

Coenen, M. and H. Meyer. 1987. Water and Electrolyte Content of the Equine Gastrointestinal Tract in Dependence on Ration Type. Proc. 10th Equine Nutr. Physiol. Symp. 531.

Coleman, R.J. J.D. Milligan and L.D. Burwash. 1989. The Effect on Daily Gain in Horses From Feeding Hay on the Ground. Proc. 11th Equine Nutr. Physiol. Symp. 164.

Eastwood, M.A. 1973. Vegetable Fibre: Its Physical Properties. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 32:137.

Jackson, S.A., V.A. Rich, S.L. Ralston and E.W. Anderson. 1985.  Feeding Behavior and Feed Efficiency of Horses as Affected by Feeding Frequency and Physical Form of Hay. Proc. 9th Equine Nutr. Physiol. Symp. 78.

Pagan, J.D. and S.G. Jackson. 1991. Digestibility of Long-Stem Alfalfa, Pelleted Alfalfa or An Alfalfa/Bermuda Straw Blend Pellet in Horses. Proc. 12th Equine Nutr. Physiol. Symp. 29.

A special thank you to Montana Pride for donating the rations for this trial.