Although horse owners may think they're doing their animals a favor by adding corn to the diet in cold weather, hay is actually a better feedstuff for keeping horses warm. That’s according to South Dakota State University Extension equine specialist Mark Ullerich, who says there's a common misconception that corn or some other high-energy concentrate can help horses generate heat.

"In reality, allowing that horse high-quality, long-stemmed forages is a better way to help that animal maintain its core body temperature," Ullerich says. "Just keep in mind they will naturally consume more because their maintenance requirement will have increased due to the lower temperature."

Ullerich says horses benefit from the heat given off by microbes in the fermentation process that breaks down roughage such as hay. A feedstuff as corn, in contrast, might provide a quick shot of energy, but doesn't help the animal deal with the cold as well, Ullerich says. It is digested very rapidly and the associated heat generated is minimal.

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