Weight a Minute!

I received a call from a customer that had just recently transitioned her farm from a mill mix to Safe Choice.  We had delivered 4 tons of bulk feed to her farm.  She was very upset that after 3 weeks on the feed the bin was almost empty.  She was convinced that the delivery truck had mistakenly only delivered 3 ton of feed.

I  contacted the freight company and our plant, both weight tickets confirmed a little over 4 tons of feed were delivered.  I then went out to visit the farm.

I talked with the farm owner and manager and reviewed the dietary program we had established for the horses.  All of them looked good, and some had put on additional weight in the three weeks on the feed.

A hanging scale, such as this (dirty) one is helpful to hang a bucket from and weigh feed. Note that the scale has been tared for a bucket.

The manager had her notes with the dietary recommendations for each horse, as we had weight taped and body scored all of them.  I then asked the manager to show me the feed cart and measures they were using.

She showed me what she believed to be a 3 pound coffee can.  She said that she would fill it to the top for the horses needing 3 pounds per feeding.  Those only needing two pounds would get the can filled to the second ring.  She said it was always accurate with their old mill mix.

I took the coffee can and filled it with feed.  When I poured it into my scale it weighed 4 pounds.  So in essence the horses were getting about 33% more feed, by weight not volume.   This spread over a few weeks accounted for the missing ton of feed!

A small weight scale is a great investment.  It can help take the guess work out of feeding  and also help you keep your horse healthy!

The Do’s and Dont’s of Feeding Treats

We all enjoy a treat once in awhile – a nice warm brownie fresh out of the oven, a cool slice of watermelon on a hot summer day – and your horse is no different. He will enjoy a treat from you every now and then, or even on a daily basis in small amounts . We share treats with our horses to say thanks for a job well done,  as a reward when training, and let’s admit it  – feeding treats to our horses makes us feel good, too.

There is nothing wrong with treating your horse. He deserves it, and so do you. But there are some guidelines we can use when selecting the type of treat,  as well as the feeding frequency and amount.

  • Select healthy vegetables and fruits as treats – these taste good to your horse and are usually close to foods they eat in their normal diet, so chances of digestive upset are reduced.
  • Feed only a small amount. Feeding your horse 15 large carrots at a time may create more of a meal than a treat. For an average size horse, one or two carrots is sufficient. Feeding too much of any treat can have negative effects on a balanced diet like lowering protein content, raising starch levels and diluting vitamins and minerals. In addition, too much of certain treats can lead to severe digestive upset and even colic or laminitis.
  • Feed sparingly. Treats are only special when they are not available all the time; feeding treats  free choice defeats the purpose.

What are Good Treats?

  • Healthy snacks like apple slices, carrots, and hay cubes are good places to start for a treat. Many horses will even enjoy a banana.
  • Commercially made horse treats can be a favorite for many horses and they may store and travel better than fresh fruit or vegetables when you’re on the road.
  • Sugar cubes are a very traditional (although not very healthy) treat for horses.

What Treats Shouldn’t I Feed?

  • Don’t feed lawn clippings (these can contain poisonous plants, can cause choke, and can drastically change the pH of the hindgut )
  • Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower can cause severe gas if fed in large amounts
  • Potatoes and Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family and while some people report feeding these with no issues it is best to avoid them. 
  • Don’t feed unpitted stone fruits, as the pits can cause choke.
  • Chocolate – while your horse may enjoy it, chocolate can cause a positive result in a drug test.
  • Fresh bread, donuts, etc. – these items can become a doughy mass in the digestive tract and cause a blockage.
  • Sweet Feed (COB & unfortified sweet grains) can quickly unbalance the diet when enough is fed as a “treat”.

When feeding treats, remember the acronym A.I.M. – Always In Moderation. Keep your treats as close as possible to the natural diet and enjoy being a hero to your horse!


Ration Balancers vs Regular Horse Feeds

Gayle shows off her horse, IM ALittle Too Kool~ who is in wonderful condition thanks to a very well balanced diet!

I recently received a call from a horse owner that said she needed to put her horse on a diet. Her 1000 pound mare is a body condition score of 7. Her vet had recommended she put the mare on a ration balancer. When she priced products at the local feed store she thought that the price of a balancer was too high. Since her mare has free access to pasture, she felt that 1 pound a day of an economy feed would be good, with a few supplements. She was wonder what supplements would be best for her mare?

I told her she was on the right track to reduce the horse’s calories, but there was an easier way to put the mare on a healthy diet. I pointed out that the feed tag on the product she was feeding had a feeding rate of 0.5 pounds of feed for every 100 pounds of body weight. So, for her mare to get the proper fortification of vitamins and minerals listed on the tag, she would need 5 pounds per day.

Cutting the ration down to only 20% of the required feed rate and adding supplements could get costly, as well as establishing an imbalance in micro and macro minerals. I suggested she consider a ration balancer. The concentrated nutrient levels allow for low feeding rates. A good quality balancer will contain prebiotics and probiotics to help support nutrient digestion. They will also feature guaranteed levels of biotin to support muscle, hair coat and hoof development. In addition they will also have guaranteed levels of amino acids to support muscle maintenance and development. Not to mention that a quality balancer will also use organic trace mineral complexes to increase bioavailability and protein utilization.

When we compared the balancer to top dressing the economy feed, the balancer was a much better value on a cost per day basis.  That’s why it’s always important to do the “cost per day” math, rather than getting fixated on the price tag on the bag, and remember to include the cost of supplements needed if a lower-quality, less expensive feed is being investigated.