“It Must Be the Pellets!”

A couple weeks ago, I transitioned a large breeding farm from textured feed to pellets. Despite the farm manager’s reluctance, the feed program was changed. The horses were doing well and everyone seemed pleased.

Late one afternoon I received a frantic call from the farm manager. She said some of the horses were drooling and acting strange. She said they had just been fed an hour earlier and “it must be the pellets”. It sounded like possible choke issues.

I reviewed the feeding procedures with the manager, and she had fed hay prior to the concentrate. I suggested she keep a close watch on the horses and contact their veterinarian. About an hour later the manager called me again and said the choke issues had subsided, but now a few of the horses were presenting colic symptoms. She was awaiting the veterinarian, and again stressed “It must be the pellets”.

The veterinarian treated the horses, questioning water consumption, and feed changes. The manager called me to tell me that all seemed quiet. I encouraged her to keep me advised of any changes. A few hours later I received a call that two horses were on their way to the veterinary hospital. This time the manager did not hold back about her concern with the pellets.

The next morning I called the farm manager to check on the horses. She told me that both mares had colic surgery. I asked if the veterinarian had determined the cause, and was surprised by the answer. For the past few days the horses were not getting turned out due to the cold weather. While inside the horses did not receive any additonal hay to compensate for the round bales they consumed during turnout. With the lack of chew time and boredom, the horses had eaten their pelleted bedding, which had in turn caused the colic.

Today’s lesson: Feeding 1 ½ to 2% of a horses body weight per day in forage really is essential for a healthy horse!

3 thoughts on ““It Must Be the Pellets!”

  1. I just found out that giving my mare mash daily to get her to eat her. I was giving her Timothy Hay, Bran Mash and give her Timothy pellets to keep her from getting bored I gave her a ball with two scoops. Due to inconsistent amounts due to employees changing daily I had to supplement as she was getting either to fat or thin. Help

    • Hi Theresa,
      Thank you for your question. It sounds like you are facing a challenging situation. Horses do their best with consistent nutrient intake with gradual changes. I think the goal might be to try to smooth out the daily changes, perhaps by providing or posting clear feeding directions and making certain the selected products are always available and that a specific way to measure with marked scoops is available. I would be a little concerned about using both Timothy hay, Timothy pellets and a bran mash as you might have some risk of an inverted calcium to phosphorus ratio in the total diet. If you provide an estimate of the quantities of each product being fed and the estimated weight of your horse, might be able to offer more specific suggestions.
      Thanks,
      Roy J.

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