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23 februari 2023 Reading time 2 minutes

Roughage quality 2022: protein historically low and sugar content skyrocketing

More and more horse owners are having their roughage tested these days. "A good development," if you ask Rob Krabbenborg, product manager at Pavo. "An adult horse soon eats 10 kilos of hay or silage a day. So to offer a complete and tailored ration, you need to know at least how much energy, protein and sugar your horse gets from this mountain of roughage. The forage quality you ultimately aim for differs from horse to horse. For example, a pregnant mare needs more protein than a recreational horse."

Protein content in roughage historically low and significant differences

The protein levels of the forage samples surveyed show big differences: from very low to also some very high values. But whereas last year 49% of the samples had a low to very low protein value, this year the figure is as high as 66%. Krabbenborg: "This makes protein levels historically low. If roughage falls into the 'very low protein' category, then for most horses it contains a protein content that is lower than the maintenance requirement. In that case, to keep your horse healthy, supplement the roughage with a high-protein concentrate or a special protein supplement, such as Pavo ProteinPlus." 

Sugar content in roughage is skyrocketing

The sugar content in roughage samples also shows a worrying trend. In 2021, 33% of roughage samples had high to very high sugar content. In 2022, this rose to a whopping 44%. "This means that almost half of the hay samples are not suitable for horses that are sensitive to sugar. So in that case, as an owner, you have to look for a more suitable forage lot," advises Krabbenborg. "In addition, you can of course use low-sugar roughage substitutes, such as Pavo SpeediBeet (fastweighing desugared beet pulp), Pavo FibreBeet (mix of fastweighing desugared beet pulp and alfalfa) or Pavo FibreNuggets (spicy grass chunks). You do need to soak these products in water before feeding them to your horse."

Slightly lower energy value

In 2022, 57% of all forage samples surveyed had low to very low energy content. Last year, this was 51%. "So we are seeing slightly more forage batches with lower energy values, with it being especially important for sport horses to supplement this adequately."

Explanation roughage quality

The values in forage have everything to do with weather and harvesting conditions, explains Antoon Jacobs, Product Manager for Forage at Eurofins. "Looking at 2022, spring came late. Due to the relatively cool but sunny weather in April and early May, we already saw extremely high sugar levels in fresh grass this spring. Horse hay made earlier in the season therefore contains high sugar levels and relatively low protein content." Most horse hay was cut in June last year. "In June it was already very dry, which means grass cannot grow well and sugar accumulates in the grass plant. In addition, the grass was relatively long at the time of mowing resulting in a lot of stem and little leaf in the final product. This ratio is the cause of lower protein levels in the hay." 

Pavo Roughage Quickscan

In 2016, Pavo together with Eurofins Agro developed the Pavo Roughage Quickscan: the first 'quick' analysis where horse owners can have their roughage tested for energy, protein and sugar content at cost price. Meanwhile, the standard scan has been extended to include dry matter content and there is also an extended analysis, the Pavo Roughage Quickscan Plus, which also measures the minerals and trace elements present. All these insights are of great importance for a horse's health and performance.