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wireweiners

How Much Hay

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I know horses need fiber to keep their digestive process moving along but what is the minimum daily requirement? Right now, I have 3 ponies, 2 haflingers and a POA basically dry lotted. I was giving them a flake of good bermuda hay twice a day plus a small scoop of Safe Choice twice a day. All 3 are easy keepers and aren't doing any work right now. They are all fat and healthy looking. But they are chewing the bark off the trees in their pen. I worry about that not being good for them. I'd like to find a round bale for them but hay is scarce around here. Is a flake per horse twice a day enough fiber for them? Plus I think Safe Choice is pretty high fiber.

I also have a coming 2 year old colt that I am having to dry lot until I can get him gelded. He's been getting sweet feed, two flakes of hay twice a day and if the old Belgian doesn't eat all her alfalfa/beet pulp mix, I let him clean up after her. Is that enough fiber for him?

Also, what about the "complete" feeds that are supposed to supply everything so you don't need to feed hay? My feed store carries a feed called All in One (I think) that's supposed to be a complete feed. Have any of y'all heard of it?

I'm just trying to do what's best until the spring grass comes in. I don't have a lot of storage for hay plus I usually don't have this many horses dry lotted. Normally I'm able to buy round bales or small amounts of square bales right along but this year we've had crummy weather and I'm caught short. I'm looking at one of those tent things for hay storage for next year and buying hay up front.

Thanks

Mary Helen, praying for warmer, dryer weather

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Complete feeds may be complete nutrition wise, but they provide no long fiber. A horse's gut NEEDS that fiber to keep functioning normally. An average horse needs about 20 pounds of hay a day, smaller horses a bit less. If you can't find enough hay, there are always hay cubes in the bags. NOT pellets....CUBES. If cost is a problem, drop the Safe Choice and get the cubes instead. If they aren't working, or growing, they can do without the grain, but they NEED the hay.

You could always make a weekend trip up here for a load of GOOD hay. My supplier has plenty.

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I may have to take you up on that Oz. I'm still trying to find something a little closer to home. I'm fixing to go buy some bermuda for about $11/bale, limit 5 bales. I'll look for plain hay cubes. I've been buying bagged chopped alfalfa hay and mixing it with beet pulp for the old guys who can't eat hay. I like the chopped alfalfa better than the cubed because it doesn't require as much soaking.

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Are you feeding minerals too? My mom's horses chewed the bark off of the trees every winter until she started feeding free choice minerals at the suggestion of the vet. Don't know if that's common or not (I'm sure others have more knowledge of this than I do), but it may be something to consider as well as feeding more hay.

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WW, the chopped is fine. I just don't think of it because no one around here carries it any more. And $11 a bale for Bermuda is a CRIME!

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There is a theory out there that says horses need chew time. It's not so much that their stomachs are full, it's the amount of time they can chew something, that tells them they've had enough.

So, even though a horse may have his hay, he may not have enough chew time. He eats all his hay, may not even be hungry anymore, but still wants to chew. So, he chews trees, fence rails, and your barn!

Lack of minerals, though, is also a reason for chewing trees.

Have you tried one of the slow feeders that people are talking about on Horse Hoof? It slows them down so that they don't eat all the hay at once, and lets them get more time in chewing.

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"How much to feed? As a rough guideline, horses should consume 1% to 2% of their bodyweight each day in forage products--at least 50% of their total diets under all but the most extreme exercise programs. Though all of us prefer to feed by "eyeballing" amounts, the weight and size of a flake of hay can vary so much that it is worth weighing the flakes to determine how close you are to these guidelines. This can be done very simply by standing on a bathroom scale, with and without the flake of hay, and subtracting the difference".

"When feeding hay, remember that, at heart, horses are grazing animals, programmed to chew on stemmy, fibrous plants for at least 12 hours a day. That urge to chew can be almost as compelling as a rodent's, so hay fulfills two functions in your barn: It provides nutrients (and keeps the digestive system in good health), but it also keeps horses busy (and thus not chewing the wood fences, stall doors, or their neighbors' tails!). An almost constant supply of small amounts of hay is far more beneficial than one or two large feedings a day because it mimics the horse's natural grazing habits. Make lots of good-quality hay the basis of your horses' diets, and you'll reap the benefits in terms of both health and contentment".

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Hay Alternatives for Horses

by: Press Release

"Adverse summer grass growing or harvesting conditions or excessively long, cold winter weather can make it difficult to find or afford horse hay. These problems might tempt horse owners to feed their horses an all-concentrate diet. However, horse owners should remember a diet without roughage can be detrimental to the horse. A constant fiber source is needed to maintain the "good" bacteria in the horse's hindgut which break down plant fibers to provide energy for the horse".

"The bulk provided by fiber keeps the horse's digestive tract functioning smoothly, decreasing incidence of colic. Horses with adequate fiber exhibit less behavioral problems, such as wood chewing and stall walking, than horses without enough fiber in the diet. The minimum daily amount of long roughage (hay or pasture) needed by the horse is 1 pound of roughage per one hundred pounds of body weight".

"There are feeds other than hay or pasture that can provide roughage for the horse. These feeds are not always more cost-effective than hays, but they usually can be purchased when hay is not readily available. Although many of these feeds can substitute for hay, it is more beneficial to maintain the minimum roughage requirement with hay or pasture and use these feeds to boost the amount of roughage in the horse's diet".

"Complete feeds are pelleted feeds that have ground hay (usually alfalfa) combined in the pellet. They increase the fiber content of the diet but do not provide the bulk necessary to keep the horse's digestive tract functioning smoothly".

"Alfalfa pellets are similar to complete feeds. They provide fiber but do not provide the needed bulk. However, alfalfa cubes are long fiber hay pressed into cubes. Cubes will give the horse needed bulk in its intestines. There have been infrequent reports of horses choking on the large cubes, but there is probably no danger for the normal horse".

"Silage and haylage can be fed to horses, and they provide fiber and bulk. However, these feeds can result in digestive problems because of the possible presence of molds and other toxic substances. Only high quality silage or haylage should be fed to horses. It might take horses some time to become accustomed to the taste of silage or haylage. Up to one half of the horse's hay ration can be replaced with silage. Usually one pound of hay is equivalent to three pounds of silage on a dry matter basis".

"HorseHage is a patented procedure for vacuum packaging high-moisture hay. The product was developed in England and is very popular with horse owners there. It is being marketed in the United States and provides bulk to the diet. It also can be directly substituted for hay in the diet".

"Shredded sugar beet pulp is a by-product of the sugar beet industry and is a very popular horse feed in some areas of the United States. It is palatable, relatively high in digestible energy and a good source of fiber and bulk. Beet pulp comes in a dry flake form. When wet, it absorbs tremendous amounts of water, swelling to three to four times its original bulk. Therefore, to prevent serious colic, bulk beet pulp should be soaked in water for 8 to 12 hours before feeding it to horses. It also should be limited to 25% of the ration".

"Citrus pulp is the pulp and residue of fruit processed for juice. The palatability and feeding value varies with the processing conditions, but it can provide bulk to the diet. It is recommended that citrus pulp be limited to 25% of the ration".

"Grain hulls, such as cottonseed hulls, peanut hulls, oat hulls and rice mill feed, can increase bulk in the horse's diet. Generally, these feed by-products are not extremely palatable to horses and are low in nutritive value. Peanut hulls especially are susceptible to aflatoxins, which may be poisonous to horses. Hulls should be limited to 10% of the total ration".

"Soybean hulls are the filmy skin covering the bean. Unlike the true grain hulls mentioned above, soy hulls are slightly lower than oats in terms of nutritional value. Also, because of their small size, they may not provide the bulk needed by the horse's digestive tract. Soy hulls often are pelleted and the unpelleted, loose soy hulls are not recommended because they are hard for most horse owners to handle and tend to blow around in the feeder. Soy hulls are not very palatable to horses, but most horses will eat them mixed with a sweet feed. Limit them to about 50% of the diet, and remember that mixing them into a balanced sweet feed destroys the nutritional balance of the sweet feed. This should not be a serious problem for a mature horse at maintenance if you are just feeding it for a short time, such as to meet its energy needs during winter".

"Ground corn cobs are low in nutritive value but provide a good source of bulk in the horse's diet when fed coarsely ground".

"Straw from cereal grains are lower in nutritive value than hays, but they can be used in horse diets to provide bulk. Straw should be limited to 10% of the total ration. Chaff is a mixture of chopped straw and molasses. Like straw, it is a good source of bulk and should be limited to about 10% of the total ration".

"Many of these feeds are low in nutritive value. Horse owners should realize that they might have to increase the amount of concentrate feed to maintain the horse's body weight when these feeds are substituted for hay. Because of the generally low nutritive value, these feeds should be fed as a small proportion of the total diet. High levels may prevent the horse from eating enough of the ration to meet its nutrient needs. Before using a new feedstuff, horse owners should consult with their county Extension agent or with horsemen experienced with using the feed. As always, new feeds should be gradually introduced to a horse's diet to reduce the possibility of colic or laminitis.--Courtesy Auburn University, Auburn, Ala".

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When Your Horse Thinks He's a Termite...

by: Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN

"Wood chewing increases if the horses' access to forage is limited; if they have inadequate feed and/or fiber in their rations; in cold, wet weather; or if the horses are confined and bored. Has the horses' quality of pasture, type of hay, or activity level changed? "

"Mineral imbalances are not known to affect wood chewing, though a salt deficit will increase licking and/or chewing of abnormal substances in the horse's attempt to meet his salt needs".

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