Grain Feeding for Horses

Feeding Grain

Horses should be provided the grain meal at the same time as feeding forages. Like hay, grain should be fed from a feeder instead of on the ground to decrease feed losses and contamination by urine and feces. Feeding grain on the ground also increases the horse’s consumption of dirt, which may accumulate in the large intestine and eventually cause sand colic or intestinal impactions. Grain can be provided in wooden, plastic, or rubber feed buckets, feed bags, or feed troughs. Lipped feed buckets or troughs with rings mounted on top help keep horses from rooting out the grain to the ground.

Watch this video to learn more on Feeding Commercial Feeds

Feed by Weight

In the horse industry, it is common practice to feed grain by volume (for example, one coffee can of oats, one scoop of pellets) rather than by weight. For every feedstuff, the weight per volume differs (Table 10-6), and each provides a different concentration of nutrients. Therefore, the feed amount should be weighed in the container being fed to ensure that the horse is receiving an accurate feed amount.


Feed Weight
Food Weight of 1 quart coffee can (lbs)
Whole Barley 1.5
Dried Beet Pulp 0.6
Whole Corn, Dent 1.7
Oats 1.0
Whole Wheat 1.9


The same is true for feeding hay. Most people feed by “flakes” rather than by weight. As with grain, some hays are denser than others. For example, one flake of alfalfa hay is heavier than one flake of timothy. Therefore, the approximate weight of each flake of hay should be estimated by weighing the entire bale to ensure that the horse is receiving the exact amount of forage for maximum performance.

Craig Wood, University of Kentucky