Do you know the energy and protein levels of your hay? What about the energy and protein requirements of your horse based on their type, condition, and workload?


The energy and protein content of hay depends on what type of hay it is. Hays are categorized into two different types; grass hays and legume hays.

Grass Hays

Energy and Protein Levels of Hay


Compared to legume hay, grass hays have:

o   More fiber (due to increased stalks)

o   Less protein

o   Fewer calories per pound

  • Commonly Used For:

o   “Easy Keepers”

o   Horses doing little/no work

  • Common Examples of Grass Hays:

o   Timothy, brome grass, orchard grass, Coastal Bermuda, and oat hay.

 à Protein & Energy Levels of Grass Hays:

  Energy Content (Mcal/lb) Crude Protein (%)
Grass hay cool season, immature 15.1% .9
Grass hay cool season, mid-mature 11.1% .83
Grass hay cool season, mature 9.1% .78



Legume Hays

          Compared to grass hays, legume hays have:

o   Less fiber

o   More protein

o   More calories per pound

o   Higher calcium to phosphorous ratio


Legume hays have more protein because they have the ability to store nitrogen in specialized roots called nodules. Yet the protein level of both legume and grass hays depends on its maturity level.

  • Commonly Used For:

o   Lactating Mares

o   Growing Horses

o   Horses doing intense work

  • Common Examples of Grass Hays:

o   Alfalfa, clover, and birdsfoot trefoil


à Protein & Energy Levels of Legume Hays:

  Energy Content (Mcal/lb) Crude Protein (%)
Legume hay, immature 17.3% 1.0
Legume hay, mid-mature 17.5% .92
Legume hay, mature 14.9% .84

 To more easily compare the hay’s content to the horse’s requirements, here are a few scenarios.

  1. A mature horse with intense workload requires 1.3 Mcal/lb of energy and 11.4% of crude protein. By using the above charts, it can be concluded that this horse would most likely be fed legume hays.
  2. An aged pony that is retired requires .1 Mcal/lb of energy and 10.2% crude protein would most likely be fed grass hay.
  3. A growing weanling that needed 1.4 Mcal/lb of energy and 14.5% of crude protein would probably be fed legume hay.

These scenarios do not include the vitamins, minerals, and ratios required to make accurate decisions about the type of hay to specifically feed. It is always recommended to consult your vet.


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