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How to keep horses warm during winter
Clark MacCallister
All livestock require more energy during the cold winter temperatures to keep warm. Horses, especially, have an amazing ability to survive in the cold. Lucy Ray, University of Georgia Extension Agent from Morgan County, recently shared some of her tips for caring for horses during the winter months. A horse’s best defense against cold weather comes from the heat naturally produced during digestion. The greatest amount of heat is released when microbes in the digestive tract breakdown high-fiber forage material, such as grass or hay. If you use a grain feed or concentrate during the winter, a high-fiber feed will produce more heat when digested. While grains are relatively low in fiber, oats have a fibrous outer hull that can produce more digestive heat. The best way to increase your horse’s internal body heat and maintain consistent energy uptake is to increase the amount of high quality hay. The ‘critical temperature’ for horses with a thick winter coat is 30 degrees. For each 10 degree drop in temperature below this threshold, a horse will require an extra two pounds per day of high quality hay.