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Hay Stretcher or Hay Replacer?

Updated on June 11, 2014
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Donna Campbell Smith is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. She has an AAS degree in equine tech and is a certified instructor.

Pros and Cons

Several feed companies offer hay pellets or cubes, or what they call hay stretchers, a combination of hay and grain byproducts.

Feeding hay pellets is a way to extend the winter hay supply. Fed in combination with or in place of hay the pellets provide the horse with added fiber and nutrients. Pellets generally are less wasteful than baled or loose hay which some horses scatter on the ground then walk on it. Hay pellets or cubes are useful to provide forage to older horses that have trouble chewing. Pellets and cubes also have less dust or mold than baled hay.

On the on con side of feeding pellets is they are usually more expensive, and they do not have as much water content as regular hay. For that reason it is important that horses being fed hay pellets or cubes have access to plenty of drinking water.

Replace It, or Stretch It?
Replace It, or Stretch It?

Stretcher or Replacer

Hay stretchers are not to be confused with hay pellets. Stretchers or extenders often do not contain any hay at all, but other types of fiber such as grain hulls and peanut shells. Thee products should not be used in place of hay, but can replace up to 50% of the hay ration.

Blue Seal offers Hay Stretcher, a large pellet designed to replace half the hay ration. Ingredients are Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Wheat Middlings, Oat Mill By-Product, Soybean Hulls, Cane Molasses, and Calcium Carbonate. It is not fortified with vitamins or minerals so should not be used a grain substitute. It is sold in fifty-pound bags.

Purina Mills sells horse Chow 100 and 200, which are complete feeds with grain and hay all in one pellet.

Southern States offers Triple Crown Safe Starch Forage, a complete feed made of grass hay with vitamins and minerals. This product is specially selected for low NSC levels and has no molasses or grain.

On the other hand, Southern State’s Triple Crown Premium Chopped Alfalfa Forage is made from alfalfa, cane molasses, vegetable Oil, and proprionic acid, and Triple Crown Premium Chopped Timothy Forage contains timothy and orchard grass hay, Triple Crown Premium Forage Cubes Alfalfa or Triple Crown Alfalfa / Timothy mix all can replace 100% of hay ration.

Whatever feed company you choose be sure to read the nutrition tag and text on the bag to learn if the content is a hay replacer or hay stretcher. Please share with us in the comments box your experience using hay pellets, cubes or hay stretchers.


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      5 years ago

      I used hay replacer with beet pulp, calf manna, a bit of grain (pelleted) and veggie oil last year on my ~45 year old no teeth pony. It worked great.

      This year my hubby mistakenly bought hay stretcher a week ago and my poor guy is out in the pasture laying down for the second day in a row.

      We are going to switch back to hay replacer - ASAP!

      I really dislike the senior feeds. Very expensive and another of my old ponies lost a lot of weight within a week.

    • DonnaCSmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      9 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Rita, thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      My 2 old girls had bad diarrhea for the past two years as soon as the winter comes & they go on hay. I had test done & tried everything to bind them & nothing worked including Restore at $100.00 a bucket. When I called Triple Crown corp. to speak with their Vet.he suggested alfalfa cubes soaked. I tried them and it worked great!! But a week later she almost collicked,so then I went to alfalfa/timothy mixed cubes soaked & it has been great for over 3 months now. I also cut their feed ration in half & although it states you can do without feed completely, I have found a reasonable combination & it has not cost much more then hay which is $6.00 a bale here. I pay $16.00 a bag for both the senior feed and the cubes & they last about as long, if not longer then the hay bales...I know they miss foraging but they are not able to digest it properly because of their teeth so this has worked great. I feed about 5 lbs (dry) then add water until mushy plus about 2lbs of grain. Problem now is they are actually putting on too much weight because there is less waste and more nutrition. their coats are great & I am trying now to find the correct amount that will maintain the weight, not add more. they are both easy keepers which helps. hope it helps someone else.

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      10 years ago

      I have been supplementing my underweight TB with hay stretcher (blue seal) and beet pulp, soaked together. He is filling out and keeping warm. Both were vet recommended and are doing the job just fine. He also gets regular grain plus "at will" hay. It is not economical but certainly seems to work for him.


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