Here's a contentious feed

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Hound, Jan 9, 2011.

  1. Hound

    Hound Songster

    Apr 25, 2010
    For the most part we have always fed sweet feed. Not because we necessarily believe it's the best thing for a horse, but our horses have been fed free of charge by the ranch and that is what they use. On the occasions that we have needed to buy feed we've used Strategy or Ultium and have been pleased with the results. We've tried SafeChoice and none of them seemed to find it palatable, the goats wouldn't eat it either... or the chickens. With the move we cannot justify an Ultium feed bill week in and week out at $20/bag. Our horses are used to 24/7 turnout and will continue to be on pasture, but we'll be in a colder climate and the pasture will not be the same grasses as they have grazed on all of their lives. They may do better on it, they may not. They were all born here and range from 2yrs to 11yrs, 800lbs to 1500lbs. They only get grain in the winter or if they are penned and working. None have special dietary issues or health conditions, one is a somewhat hard keeper, the rest are not. They are working ranch horses other than the colt, who will also be a ranch horse with time.

    We're considering switching to whole oats. What are your thoughts/experience with feeding oats?
  2. hencrazy

    hencrazy Songster

    Mar 5, 2009
    Honestly, oats will not provide much in the means of nutrition. If you have high quality pasture/hay and provide a means of salt and minerals you really don't need much else. I feed my horse Purina Strategy Healthy Edge - he doesn't have the strongest feet and I have to fight to keep weight on him - this has been the best feed for him and believe me I've tried them all.
  3. Sir Birdaholic

    Sir Birdaholic Night Knight

    I feed mine a mixture of 50 lb. alfalfa pellets, 25 lb. of sweet feed, & 5 lb. of whole corn during the winter. They each get 1/2 cup, twice a day. I keep tifton hay out for them at all times.
  4. WIChookchick

    WIChookchick Songster

    Aug 25, 2010
    Rural Brooklyn, WI
    Horses that I feed, (not mine) either get a custom grain blend that is oats, corn, soybeans, and a bit of molasses and then run thru the blower at the mile to break up the oats a bit. That fed with a vitamin/mineral pellet called Equishine, has raised many, many foals into nice big horses, or brought older horses back up to weight, and fed a good diet of round bale hay.

    The other horses I feed (again not mine) are fed a store bought sweet feed, mixed with a pelleted sweet feed, dried beet pulp and some cracked corn. This has helped 2 young horses gain some growth, and another weanling gain some much needed weight, and keep PLUS add some weight MUCH NEEDED to an 18 yr old gelding that was starved for 8 yrs. They are fed 2x daily an alfalfa/grass mix hay.

    I think that if you mix oats, corn and soybeans with a good pellet form of mineral/vitamins, you will see a good weight ratio. BUT introduce any changes slowly and bring the type of food being fed WITH you, so you can change it over a 2 week period. Not doing so could cause issues.

  5. welsummerchicks

    welsummerchicks Songster

    Jul 26, 2010
    I fed top quality 'race horse oats' for many, many years, often with just a mineral salt block. The horses were very fit, glossy and full of energy. They were worked an hour 5-6 days a week. No matter how hard or advanced a work they were in they were never fed more than five pounds(big warmbloods or half Thb) a day of oats - often only 2 1/2 pounds of oats(15 hand horse).

    I would give one caveat to feeding whole grains with the husk/hull on: horse's teeth need to be in good condition to chew up these products and get all the value out of them. Having the teeth maintained by a good dentist is a part of feeding whole grains.

    For some time, when I was boarding, my horse was fed Purina products - 200 or Omolene. They did well on them, but the price went up and most boarding barns started feeding a molasses-oats-corn based feed. That's when I started feeding oats.

    In all cases, if the horses had a day off, I reduced their grain/concentrate ration by half on that day. This is to prevent the horses from getting too much starch and carbohydrates, and tieing up(exertional rhabdomyolisis). The fitter the horses were, the more I was concerned about this. Tieing up was called 'Monday Morning Disease' because work horses were fed the same concentrate ration on Sunday as all work days, and on Monday, a few minutes into work usually, they'd tie up. Cutting their grain ration allowed me to control carbs.

    The problem I have with most commercial concentrate products, is if I do that, I am not giving my horse enough of the minerals and other things he needs, independent of energy food related to work. That is why I continue to feed two separate products, one for energy, and one for the basics needed for maintenance. I feed the same amount of the one product and vary the energy feeds, based on amount of work.

    The best thing about oats, is the covering made of fiber. You lose that if you feed rolled oats. The fiber hull of the oat goes right along with the starch, and creates a mixture in the gut that is perfect for digesting the nutrients safely, unlike corn, barley and other grains which do not have that.

    I don't feed any concentrates to horses out of work or young horses. I feel as long as they have a ration balancer providing the NRC level of nutrients for their age group, they will do well. Especially with warmbloods, we have a very serious problem with them in the US, namely, them being porked up like American breeds traditionally have been - they get osteochondrosis at incredible rates when they are fattened up while growing, as well as poor bone growth and many other problems leading to unsoundness. They need to be slim while they are growing - not poorly, not starved looking, but slim. In Europe, Warmbloods were fed among other things, straw, or hay that is something close to it, as they were growing, to prevent overly fast growth.

    If you have a good quality hay and salt/mineral block, there is generally no problem feeding oats. Old time horsemen always used to say oats produces strong muscles, but I think a consistent work program is what creates muscles. If a horse does nothing more than walk around a pen or pasture (even with the occasional sprint), he's not going to muscle no matter what he's fed. It's work that makes them beautiful. A decent diet of course, but work is what makes that beauty.

    People have to be careful, because the marketing people at those big feed companies is very, very able to make us believe a whole lot of things. What they don't really tell us is that they themselves change their ingredients all the time - as long as the ingredients they use add up to the percentages on the label, they are allowed. Different products can be used to make up the protein, the fat, the carbs.

    That's another reason I liked to feed oats. I knew what I was feeding. That and the price. I also just liked the idea of feeding a natural grain - not something cooked, extruded or pelletized.

    Today, I don't have any oats in the bin. Since I am old and have some hot horses to contend with, I feed beet pulp shreds, soaked for at least 8 hrs. It compares to oats with the same DM, 9 instead of 12 % crude protein, about 2% of the starch, double the fiber, much less fat, a lower TDN. As with oats I feed it with a small amount of a ration balancer when we have our less good quality hay in the winter. Normally, our hay tests out as very, very nutritious. Our pasture also is very, very rich, with a lot of clover and alfalfa, so if they are also grazing, I cut back on the hay, at 1 hr grazing = 1 flake hay.

    My Welsh pony gets hay, no beet pulp, a very small amount of ration balancer, maybe an eighth of a cup, and no grazing. My vet's orders. He was foundered multiple times before we got him. On this regime he is not having problems. It is extremely difficult to keep him at a healthy, slim weight. My vet says most ponies are a walking time bomb, they are so fat. In fact in his practice, he says, 'there are two kinds of ponies, ones that have had laminitis and ones that are about to'. He says he tries very hard to get people to stop feeding them so much or allowing so much graze, but few people actually listen, so their ponies get laminitis. A lot. He also says that many people don't even realize their pony has foundered, because ponies tend to be kind of stoic. If they are given unlimited grazing in spring, they will get laminitis every spring.

    My horses seem to view the alfalfa and clover as roughly equivalent to crack cocaine. They eat it preferentially,, no matter what else is in the field. So I often have to make other adjustments, or they are getting too much protein for adults.

    I have TRIED to eradicate the alfalfa and clover. It is extremely aggressive. Alfalfa exudes a poison into the ground to keep other plants from growing, even to keep other alfalfa plants from growing near it. And because we have clay, the alfalfa and clover love it here. So I have to accomodate that so that no matter what, my horse's diet always comes close to the NRC recommendations.

    But stuff gets a little tougher with nutrition for baby horses and as they get older. We have some serious problems, industry wide, with babies and old horses. Old horses are getting an awful lot of insulin resistance and other disorders, babies are getting osteochondrosis, contracted tendons, and many other problems.

    Some will say all of these are related, associated, linked, even caused by high-sugar rations like sweet feed. But is it? Maybe metabolic problems in babies are caused by overfeeding in general, and we see more IR because more old horses are living longer, due to use of wormers and other management changes.

    The contention today, is that feeding a diet with a little more fat and protein is better for horses, and leads to fewer complications in old age, and fewer disorders in youngsters.

    It is said very often by people selling products with more fat and/or protein, but it would be difficult to prove by designiing a study. You'd have to look at horses throughout their lifetime and track very accurately, disorders believed to be controlled by diet...but you'd also need some proof that these disorders ARE to any degree, controlled by diet!
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  6. scbatz33

    scbatz33 No Vacancy, Belfry Full

    Jan 23, 2009
    South GA
    We feed a custom mix which is much cheaper than some of the "High End" brand s and far more nutritious than most anything you can get prepackaged. We have cut our costs a bit farther by mixing parts ourselves. It's very very simple...... crimped outs, cracked corn, vit/mineral suplements(not in pelleted form where they have to use heat to make it and thus kill most of the nutritional content), and dried molasess. It's milled fresha nd local weekly. It's a 12% protien. Then we add alfalfa pellets - also milled locally, a pelleted fat supplement - again milled locally, and fast track(probiotic). We also throw in some calf manna. This makes a 14% protien, 10/12% fat(I am drawing a blank this morning!).

    I have a super hard keeper, a really old mare and two growing girls. They all do really well on the mix. This summer when the mare and the two babies broke into the barn and ate over 100# of chicken feed between the three of them, I know the probiiotic is what helped them from being sick. It also is my firm belief that the probiotic also helps the hard keeper to process ehr food better and thus she has put on weight better than any other mix.

    Plus, it's fresh! That is by far the best thing you can do for any animal. Fresh food. I have a friend who has been using the mix as well. Although she doesn't put in the added fat. Her horse is an easy keeper so she doesn't need the fat boost.

    As for straight oats, we had a draft horse who only got oats, good hay and access to a salt/mineral block. He didn't need all the extra calories that is in processed feed. Sometimes minimal is best. Having fat animals is a major problem and a direct result of a culture that thinks we must over think everything. Proper nutrition is what we all strive for, but a good quality, fresh hay in the winter and a good pasture of green grass in the summer is the perfect combination for most horses. Growing horses, pregnant/lactating mares and heavily worked animals need more energy and higher protien/fat. Most folks over feed with the best of intentions but it's the horse/dog/cat/etc is the one who suffers.
  7. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer Premium Member

    May 11, 2010
    You can really open a can of oats when discussing feeding horses. Most horses don't need all those supplements unless the horse is in heavy work such as endurance riding or intense training. Horses don't need refined sugar in their diets, and molasses was originally added to make floor sweepings more palatable.

    If your horse is on a good quality mixed pasture/hay and is doing well very little sweet feed is needed. Older horses need special care if their teeth are in bad shape. Horses with metabolic disorders need to be kept off any type of refined sugar. Recent research has proved supplements have caused problems with EMD horses because refined sugar is added to make the product palatable. Alfalfa has been indicated in bladder stone formation in some horses. HYPP horses need to avoid certain minerals. Hyper horses definitely don't need refined sugar in their diets, and many owners report an improvement in attittude when sweet feed is removed from the diet.

    Unfortunately, feed companies make the consumer think more is better. However, when one remembers how the horse evolved, we began to realize a good diet of mixed grass/clean hay is the best for most of our equines. More is not better even for the young horses who must grow at a certain rate in order to maintain healthy bone and joint formation. As with most things keeping feeding simple is the best for most horses.
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Are these working horses, who need the extra calories for doing an hour plus of work most days? If so, I don't see anything too awful about sweet feed (depending on the quality of the grains, and its general freshness, and how much molasses the feed mill schmucks it up with). In some situations a plain grain or two could do just about as well, without the molasses and sometimes with better quality grain that way; but it depends hugely on your particular situation (grain costs, what your hay and pasture are like, what your horses will *eat*, etc)

    Or are these idle or only-lightly-worked horses, that you're just trying to make sure vitamin and mineral intake are correct? If that's the case you would probably be better off nutritionally with an actual ration balancer pellet rather than trying to fake it with sweet feed or grains. They make balancers for alfalfa hay, and balances for mix or grass hays. My horses do well with the All-Phase balancer pellets from Kentucky Equine Research, but there are plenty of others on the market and they are probably all useful.

    The only thing you'd have to check is the economics; I don't offhand know how the *cost* of a ration balancer compares to the cost of sweet feed. (edited to clarify: I mean, per "useful serving", not per pound). And in some regions you would probably have to get the feed store to special order it for you. It's better for the horse, though, and they seem to do better on it generally.

    If the horses are idle or only-lightly-worked but a ration balancer is not an option (perhaps because of unavailability), personally I'd be inclined to spend more on hay and less on grain. Really GOOD hay, and really good pasture, and you may well not need any supplementation beyond a mineral salt block.

    JMHO, good luck, have fun,

    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  9. welsummerchicks

    welsummerchicks Songster

    Jul 26, 2010
    Oats do not provide 'nutrition'? Of course they do. The misconception began when not accounting for the hulls, which increase digestibility and provide roughage.

    It is 'lower in energy' than other feeds because it is fed with the hull, but that's the good thing about it, that it is mixed with fiber already, and that is why it has been the the grain choice for horses for hundreds of years. We have fed it rolled, without the hulls, when the horses are getting hay before grain, but when they were boarded where they were fed grain separately, we fed whole oats.

    12% protein, a higher TDN than many other products, fat, starch, 66-72% TDN, etc. Would I feed it without anything else other than a salt mineral block? That depends on what hay we have. If the nutritional needs are met, yes.
  10. QH Girl

    QH Girl Chirping

    Jun 27, 2010
    Baton Rouge
    Interesting topic. My horses are on good pasture, timothy hay, and Country Acres Complete. I completely agree that American horses tend to be on the heavy side, but I think alot of that is because there are so many pasture ornaments here.

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