Horse feed

Important facts on fibre and forage

We are a family-run establishment focusing on supplying top tier agricultural items. Here, you can find animal feed products, clothing, toys, and more. Our business likes to have a healthy stock that satisfies a myriad of needs. So, whatever it is you’re after, we’ll do our best to get it into your hands.

Not all fibre is equal

Digestibility is an essential element of figuring out a fibre source’s quality. In principle, the more digestible it is, the more nutrients and energy animals get.

Pectin is one of the more digestible forms of fibre. You can find it in higher levels within sugar beet. However, cellulose is far harder to digest.

High quantities of lignin substantially lower the digestibility of a forage. This is an indigestible material that provides a plant with structure. The taller and older a plant becomes, the more lignin that’s present.

Let’s have a look at the digestibility of fibre spectrum so you can see the differences in animal feed.


This offers a relatively high degree of energy with low sugar and starch levels. Alfalfa is also high temperature dried, making it extremely clean. It is preferable for horses with RAO or performance animals. Another fact is that it is naturally abundant in calcium. It is good for hooves and works as a natural buffer to acidity in the gut.


This has higher sugar levels compared to alfalfa. It aids in making it palatable but not as appropriate for animals needing low sugar diets. It is another high temperature dried option too, making it very clean. There’s less calcium though, making it a less efficient buffer.


Here we have forage that is low in sugar and starch but also low in energy. Thus, it’s great for good doers. As a sun-dried food, it is better for leisure horses. Calcium and other minerals are also at much lower levels here. You need to factor this in and may need other products to add to the animal feed rations.

Essential details on forage

Now, let’s talk more about forage. This is a term typically used to describe the areas of plants that lie above the ground. They hold a massive amount of fibre. For horses, the most common sources are grass, cereal straw, and legumes.

It is critical to consider that forages aren’t solely fibre. They hold other essential nutrients too, like sugar, minerals and protein. Due to the UK’s climate, it’s a requirement to have conserved forages at specific points in the year. Availability of forage reduces at certain times. You could harvest as young plants. This is usually the case for alfalfa in the UK and some grass. Or, you can let them mature to create haylage, hay, or silage.

Almost every article on animal feed will have a mention of fibre’s significance for horses. They are herbivores. Thus, their digestive system works well when on a nearly continuous supply of fibrous material. Having too little fibre in their diet can produce certain effects. For instance, there is an increase of acidity in the stomach. The saliva created by chewing forage neutralises it.

Gastric ulcers also seem to get exacerbated by exercising on empty stomachs. A few handfuls of fibre prior to exercise could aid in stopping the acid from splashing and producing ulcers.

Then there is colic. Like with humans, fibre in diets aids in promoting regular bowel movements. These push material and gas through, and out of, our guts. When there is a lack of fibre, there can be gas build-ups or impactions. Both spell bad news for horses.

Criteria for forage quality

Two main criteria exist that dictate a forage’s quality. There’s cleanliness and nutritional value. These two don’t always go together either. Your first priority should be to get the forage clean. Regardless of the number of nutrients it holds, when it is mouldy or dusty, it can lead to respiratory issues.

Give our animal feed products a go

At JS Hubbuck Ltd, we have a number of feed products on offer. Our merchandise is high in quality and available for reasonable prices. You can rely on it to keep your animals fed. So, talk to us if you need anything.