The Scoop on Hay Cubes for Horses
Are you curious about hay cubes? Maybe you’ve had these questions come up, whether you’re a beginner horse owner or veteran, lifelong owner of horses:
- What are hay cubes?
- How are hay cubes made?
- How do you feed hay cubes?
- What horses may benefit from consuming hay cubes?
The following is the scoop on Standlee cubes, made with premium western quality forage.
The Making of a Cube
Hay cubes consist of dried forage, such as alfalfa, that is formed into 1.25” wide x 2.5” long rectangular pieces. To make a cube, Standlee Premium Products first grows the forage plant to the proper stage of maturity, and then cuts, dries and bales the forage into conventional bales for storage. Throughout the year, this baled forage is then coarsely chopped to a fiber length of approximately 2 – 2.5”, mixed with water and bentonite (a natural clay binder). Bentonite is an approved horse feed ingredient that is used to prevent the crumbling of cubes prior to feeding (NRC, 2007). The moistened forage is then pushed through a dye with pressure to form the cube. Once made, the forage cubes are dried to a moisture level that allows for proper storage. Standlee Premium Western Forage currently manufactures certified alfalfa cubes, premium alfalfa cubes, alfalfa/timothy grass cubes and alfalfa/oat grass cubes.
The mechanical process of making a forage cube does not change the digestibility of the forage. Therefore, the digestibility of a bale of high-quality alfalfa is the same as a cube made with the same high-quality alfalfa. When replacing long-stem baled hay with forage cubes, you would replace one pound of hay with one pound of forage cubes.
To swallow and digest a forage cube, the horse must properly chew the cube. If the cube is not properly chewed, the horse can potentially choke. Most horses will properly chew forage cubes. However, for any horse that is new or naïve to forage cubes, tends to bolt their feed, or with poor dentition, it is recommended to soak the cubes in water prior to feeding them. To properly soak forage cubes, the cubes should be totally submerged in water for approximately 30-60 minutes prior to feeding. This will soften the cubes until they dissolve into short pieces of forage fiber.
Types of Horses that Benefit from Forage Cubes
High-quality forage cubes can be beneficial for many different types of horses.
- Poor dentition - First, any horse that is having difficulty chewing due to poor or missing teeth can benefit from soaked forage cubes. The soaked forage cube provides fiber that is shorter in length and easy to swallow for horses with dental issues.
- Underweight Horses - Horses that are underweight are also good candidates for forage cubes. The high-quality forage utilized to make Standlee Premium Western Forage Cubes will provide an elevated calorie intake compared to most local hay sources.
- Performance Horses – For horses with a higher activity level, alfalfa cubes are a good choice since they provide the protein needed for muscle and bone development and repair.
- Horses with Gastric Ulcers – The calcium in alfalfa cubes buffers stomach acid, potentially reducing the occurrence of gastric ulcers in performance horses.
- Certified Noxious Weed Free – Federal and State authorities require certified noxious weed free forage to be fed in protected national lands. Certified Standlee products are ideal for horses used for trail riding or guided pack trips.
Finally, forage cubes can be fed to all types of horses when baled hay is in short supply or when the quality of local hay is marginal. Replacing all or part of baled hay with forage cubes will provide high-quality nutrient-rich forage for you horses. Simply replacing 1 pound of baled hay with 1 pound of forage cubes will boost forage quality and nutrient intake.
See our nutritional paper, “Why Feed Forage Pellets or Cubes?” for more tips on feeding forage cubes and how they can be beneficial for horses and horse owners looking for a convenient forage option.
If you have questions, please contact the nutritionists at Standlee Premium Western Forage, or consult with your veterinarian.
By Dr. Stephen Duren
Standlee Nutritional Expert - Performance Horse Nutrition
NRC, 2007. Nutrient Requirements of Horses, Sixth Revised Edition. National Research Council.
Lybbert TC. Gastric ulcer syndrome in exercising horses fed different types of hay [master thesis]. Texas A&M University, 2007.