Is it okay for horses to eat straw?

Sent via email by Caitlin

While quality hay and pasture grass are the ideal sources of forage for most horses, there are some cases in which eating straw is a suitable alternative or supplement.

“Yes, horses can eat straw,” said equine nutritionist, Shannon Pratt-Phillips, PhD. “But, because it isn’t terribly digestible, its nutritional value is very low (low energy per unit weight, low protein, low minerals, etc.), so it shouldn’t replace hay.”

Feeding straw can be a good solution for over-weight horses, in order to control calories and satisfy their need to forage. “I’ve recommended straw as an alternative for some horses that need to be on a diet, when hay is being fed in limited amounts,” said Pratt-Phillips.

“As long as the horse has good teeth and can handle its coarseness, and has access to water at all times, straw should be okay,” she said.

“If you notice your horse eating its straw bedding, that’s also fine,” she added, “though may be a sign you don’t feed enough hay.”

Further, Pratt-Phillips pointed out that “because straw is so indigestible, it’s a good source of heat in the winter.”