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Alternative feedstuffs for horses

Quick facts

You may consider alternative feedstuffs due to high hay costs or poor hay availability. When selecting an alternative feed, evaluate the pros and cons, and always work with your veterinarian or nutritionist.

You may pursue an alternative feedstuff for your horse for one of the following reasons.

  • High costs or low availability of hay.

  • Presence of mold, dust, insects, trash etc. in hay.

  • Lack of storage space for hay.

  • Poor consistency of hay.

When possible, quality hay should make up a large portion of a horse’s diet. However, the following alternatives can replace hay in partial or in whole when needed. Always consider the pros and cons when selecting an appropriate alternative feedstuff for your horse.

Before feeding an alternative feedstuff, consult your veterinarian and equine nutritionist.

Last year’s hay stored properly


Hay cubes

Hay cubes are generally alfalfa or a mix of alfalfa and grass. You can purchase hay cubes from your local farm supply or feed store.


Alfalfa pellets


Beet pulp


Vacuum-packed, chopped alfalfa


Complete feeds

Complete feeds are commercially produced feeds that contain a mixture of grains and roughages.


Rice bran


Other feedstuffs

You can feed straw or corn stalks to horses but we don’t recommend it. These feedstuffs have little nutritional value for the horse and can be harmful to their health.

Haylage is another feedstuff you may use in place of hay. However, you must exercise caution to avoid mold and botulism contamination which could be very harmful or deadly.

Feeding whole roasted soybeans would likely result in excess protein in the diet and may not be very palatable.

Author: Marcia Hathaway, professor of Animal Science, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences

Reviewed in 2021

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