Is Rye Grass Hay Good For Horses? (3-Minute Read)

By Zunnun Ahmed •  Updated: 08/09/22 •  7 min read

Feeding a horse is the prime cost of ownership for many horse owners. 

Admit it.

This is because, generally, horses consume 1.5-2% of their body weight daily. 

So, we gotta look for other options like Alfalfa or peanut hay, oats, corn, etc., which are some traditional feed for horses. But what about rye hay? Is rye grass hay good for horses?

There are 3 types of Ryegrass – annual, perennial, or modified. A small amount of Annual ryegrass hay can be ok to feed horses in an emergency, but it is not good fodder for a horse to add to a diet for the longer term. It contains a high amount of silica. Silica can form crystals in the horse’s stomach and intestines, blocking food from being properly digested and leading to digestive problems.

In this comprehensive guide, I will share whether grass hay is suitable for your horse and its nutritional value. Keep on reading to learn more.

Is rye grass good for horses?

Many horse owners think rye and Ryegrass are part of the same plant. 

But this is not true at all.

Rye is grown as a grain crop, having hard and small kernels. Moreover, rye is pretty similar to wheat or milo. On the other hand, ryegrasses are various tufted grasses.

Generally, rye is not harvested as a cattle grain; its protein content is high and has the nutritional value of corn. As a result, rye is ok for horses and can be a healthy option to feed your horse.

Consider the below points,

Meanwhile, annual ryegrasses are good for horses, especially during the summer or fall season when emergency food is needed.

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Ryegrass hay nutritional value

Ryegrass hay nutritional value

For some horses, Ryegrass is unsuitable. They shouldn’t be fed to horses prone to laminitis since Ryegrass contains high fructan. Here is a chart of the nutritional value of Ryegrass. 

NutrientsPer 1000 Mcal or g
Digestible Energy1.93 Mcal
Crude Protein115.99 g
Lysine5.63 g
Calcium3.91 g
Phosphorus3.82 g
Magnesium1.46 g
Potassium30.39 g
Sulfur1.82 g
Sodium0.46 g
Chlorine8.19 g
Iron339.43 mg
Zinc29.12 mg
Copper8.19 mg
Manganese67.34 mg
Crude Protein115.99 g
Soluble Protein37.81 g
Non-protein Nitrogen36.3 g
Acid Detergent Insoluble Protein10.35 g
Neutral Detergent Insoluble Protein (NDIP)37.29 g
Lysine5.63 g
Methionine1.9 g
Arginine4.76 g
Threonine4.76 g
Leucine8.57 g
Isoleucine4.59 g
Valine6.05 g
Histidine2.25 g
Phenylalanine5.54 g
Tryptophan2.45 g
Starch44.15 g
Sugar54.74 g
Linoleic Acid1.4 g

Is it bad to eat rye grass hay every day?

Ryegrass hay is a species of grass containing a high amount of fructans. In the USA, dairy cattle are fed ryegrass hay daily since it helps produce higher milk yields. 

Ryegrass hay is not a toxic plant, but it can be fatal if a certain bacterium enters the seed heads. Ryegrass hay is a good forage source for horses; however, it should only be fed in moderation to avoid toxicity.

But, you can’t give it to most horses while others can consume rye grass hay without trouble. Some horses fail to digest fructans, causing different health problems. This food can be served as supplementary food to your horse.

How much ryegrass can a horse eat?

Horses are fond of natural grazers and herbivores, other weeds, and plants. 

As stated earlier, horses eat 1.5%-2% of their body weight. For example, a 450kg adult horse will consume 6.75kg – 9kg of Ryegrass.

If you give rye grass to your horse as a part of their diet, at least 50% of his daily feed is consumed by weight.

Here is what I suggest……

Mix the rye grass with other grasses and give in to your horse’s palate. Also, ensure that your horses have full access to fresh water.

Always keep enough Ryegrass and fresh water to help your horse avoid health problems such as stomach ulcers and colic. It will also make your horse happy. 

Follow your horse’s normal diet habits by supplying Ryegrass in front of them during the day unless they are unstable and spending much time grazing.

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How does rye grass affect horses?

Ryegrass is not categorized as a toxic plant. 

The seed head of Ryegrass is easily affected by the bacterium Rathayibacter and becomes toxic. These bacteria produce harmful chemicals named corynetoxin in the rye grass seed head. When a horse consumes contaminated Ryegrass, the chemical affects the central nervous system of the horse.

Sadly, the harmful chemical remains effective after the Ryegrass is dried.

……..even for several years! 

For this reason, ryegrass toxicity not only affects horses but also other animals, including cattle, pigs, goats, and sheep can be affected too.

Generally, symptoms of ryegrass toxicity are visible after 4-5 days of consuming it. Symptoms are as below,

Now you might be wondering how to get rid of contaminated Ryegrass. Here are a few points that need to be considered,

One thing you need to remember is that your horse’s good health significantly relies on proper pasture management.

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What does rye grass hay look like?

Ryegrass hay is light green in color and has a pleasant aroma. It grows in long, thin strands and can be fed to animals. The rye grass leaves are narrow and have a pointed tip. It also yields small, round seeds, which are frequently used to make flour or bread.

Can horses eat winter rye grass?

Yes, horses can eat winter rye grass. Winter ryegrass is a cold-season forage that provides essential nutrients to horses.

Can horses eat perennial ryegrass?

Yes, horses can eat perennial ryegrass. It is a popular forage option for horses due to its high nutritional value and palatability. However, caution should be exercised as excessive consumption can lead to weight gain and potential health issues.

Is Italian ryegrass good for horses?

Italian ryegrass is a beneficial choice for horses due to its high nutritional value and adaptability. Known for promoting healthy digestion, it provides a good source of essential vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, its ability to withstand grazing and trampling makes it an ideal option for horse pastures.

My final thought…….

Though horses are not fond of ryegrass hay, this is an alternative fodder for some horses during an emergency. 

Before feeding ryegrass hay, ensure it is free from contamination and buy from trusted brands. This way, your horse will remain healthy and fit. 

Yeah, Ryegrass is an ideal food for cows as it helps increase milk production. 

But this can be lethal for some horses. Fructans and mycotoxins are harmful to some horses and can cause different diseases. So, be careful about it.

Zunnun Ahmed

We are a group of horse enthusiasts. We want to provide information and tips to help others learn more about horses, how to care for them, and how to enjoy them.

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