Its almost that time of year again... not much rain in the past month, so grass is dead.
Is it ok to give horses fescue round bales (stored inside)? Or do they need something like orchard grass? Or would you only feed squares?
pure alfalfa is not good for most horses. it's too rich and can be hard on their kidneys.
any good, clean grass hay that was baled dry is good. unless you have a horse that's hard to put weight on, in that case, a good supplemental grain ration is in order.
i know people who feed big round bales to horses but i never see those horses looking very fit. round bales, unless they are fed inside a big barn or have some sort of covering over them to protect them from the weather, will become moldy and nasty in a very short period of time.
i was really lucky to get some nice grass hay this year at a very decent price. i bought way more than i needed for 1 horse, 1 goat and 2 llamas but i wanted to be sure i didn't run short this winter. i suspect long about january, hay around these parts will be upwards of 4-5$ bale.
The type of hay you should feed depends on the nutritional requirements of your horse--their body type, metabolism, age, and job description should dictate if they need a high-protein hay like alfalfa, a mid-quality such as Timothy or orchard grass, or a low-value such as round bales from a pasture.
The place where I board my pony (which is primarily Saddlebreds, with several different breeds of lesson horses, too) feeds round bales in the winter. They are stored inside, and are baled from their own pastures during the summer. The main thing about round bales are that they are much more prone to being moldy, and you do not want to be feeding moldy hay to your horses. It also takes them longer to eat the round bale, there will be more waste from it, and it's harder to spread it out to avoid crowding when the horses are eating. If you only have a couple of horses, I think you'd get more value for you money finding some orchard grass hay for them. If they are not breeding/growing/or working hard, they do not need alfalfa. The horses out where I board stay in good condition from eating the round bales, but honestly, it's not what I would choose if I were the one in control of the hay purchasing. Of course, my pony just looks at the hay and gets fatter, so I really don't have to worry much about her getting enough nutrition!
The place where I work is all Thoroughbreds, either growing foals/yearlings or pregnant/lactating mares. We sometimes feed alfalfa, but it is usually because that's all we can get our hands on, not because the horses need it. We prefer orchard grass or timothy for them. Feeding a horse too much protein--which alfalfa has a lot of--does no extra good for the horse. They excrete any protein their bodies can't use as ammonia in their urine, so effectively you're just making their pee smell worse and wasting your money.
The reason I don't keep the pony at the T-bred farm is because of the difference in nutritional requirements. If my pony were eating the alfalfa and grain and good pasture that the T-breds are getting, she would founder in a heartbeat.
Most fescue contains an endophyte that is mildly toxic to horses and is ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN for pregnant or nursing mares.
The endophyte causes abortion and still births in pregnant mares and loss of milk in nursing mares.
It is much less toxic to other horses and many people do feed it to their non-breeding stock. I would PREFER non-fescue hay if it is available but I would probably not loose very much sleep if I had to use it.
Large round bales are OK to feed IF and ONLY IF your horses can clean up a bale in a week or 10 days. Much longer than that, and you will have mold problems which can be deadly.
If these bales have been field stored out in the sun and rain, the quality of the hay will suffer drastically and again, mold may be a problem. You state that the bales in question have been stored inside, so they should be ok on that account.
Nutritionally, I think fescue is roughly on a par with timothy.
Good quality Coastal hay is what we feed.
Around here orchard and fescue are the most common. Our horses are ages 3, 5, and 8. They are all idle pasture ornaments right now. Theyre easy keepers, (one might be considered an average keeper). We do have a covered area for the round bale while they eat it. Im not sure how long it will take the 3 horses to eat 1 bale. Im sure theyll be able to eat it in 2wks if not 1 (especially in the dead of winter)... Weve bought both fescue & orchard in the past (orchard costs twice as much) so I just wanted to make sure fescue could be ok to give them. Would it be ok for the 3yo?