Cut Horse Feeding Costs

 

Date: February 28th, 2013

An average horse requires approximately 15,000 daily calories! Where do all these calories come from? How do you keep costs low while still providing your horse with a well-balanced diet? Learn more by reading on.

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Horses in Mist

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Forage, forage, forage!


When it comes to bang-for-your-buck, forage is king.


Don't underestimate the nutritional value of forage on a horse's diet. Pasture and hay can provide sufficient amounts of calories, protein and minerals for most horses. The pasture is also an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E, though the amount declines when pasture grass is cut and stored for hay.


Hay is usually lower in caloric and nutrient content than pasture forage due to drying and processing but it can still provide a large portion of a horse's nutrient requirements. In particular, hay provides substantial amounts of energy, protein, calcium and phosphorous.


The nutritional quality of forage depends on what plants are present. A higher concentration of legumes (clover or alfalfa) offers higher protein and calcium levels than forage comprised of mainly grasses such as timothy or orchard grass.


Tip
Get the most out of your pasture by implementing a rotational grazing schedule. Dividing a pasture into smaller grazing plots has been proven to result in an increased yield of forage per acre.


Many equine nutrition consultants encourage a pasture analysis at least once a year. This will provide you with valuable information on what your horse is receiving, and more importantly what he/she isn't receiving from the forage. Once this has been determined, you can decide what to supplement the diet with.


Concentrates


Concentrates are mixtures of grains (corns, oats, etc.), byproducts (alfalfa meal, beet pulp, etc.), protein (soybean meal), fats (oil) and additional vitamins and minerals that are formulated to meet horses' needs.


Once you have determined what nutrient value your horse is receiving from his forage, you can then design a portion of his diet that is specifically suited to meet his remaining needs. For example, if the forage ration of your horse's diet meets the protein requirements but lacks in energy needs, provide a beet pulp with vegetable oil to create a low protein, high-energy feed.


Many feed companies offer low-cost feed mixes that may be perfectly suitable for your horse. Purchasing a premade mix will reduce the amount of time and effort you will have to forgo to create a personalized feed mix. For a sampling of CountryMax's feeds, click here.


If you aren't sure what feed may be right for your horse, contact a feed company and ask for a nutrition representative. They will be able to help you find the grain mix that matches your horse's needs. Or, simply leave a comment below and CountryMax's equine experts can answer your questions.


Supplements

Equine supplements can help with weak hooves, dull coats, achy joints and many other issues your horse may be experiencing. For best results, take a targeted approach that directly addresses the issues at hand. If used properly, supplements can be a beneficial addition to your horse's health.


But how much is too much? If the horse is being fed the correct forage and concentrate, it may be unnecessary to further supplement his diet. Before adding or subtracting a supplement from your horse's diet, research and the knowledge of an equine nutritionist may be necessary.


Nutrition Consultation


Ration balancing and hand-mixing can be challenging aspects of managing a horse's diet that not all owners may have the time for.
If you feel that you might be in over your head or would just like to see if you are meeting your horse's requirements, contact an equine nutrition consultant. Qualified consultants will be able to recommend adding or subtracting supplements, changing hay or concentration types, and any other necessary modifications. A consultation isn't cheap – it may cost anywhere from $50-200 per hour – but it might save you $50-100 per month and quickly pay for itself. If you are considering a consultation, try to get a group rate by inviting fellow horse owners to join you.


From the Horse's Mouth...to his Stomach


Just like humans, horse's nutrient requirements are dependent on several individualized factors. With a little effort on your end, you may find that balancing your horse's diet may actually save you money. For more information on equine nutrition, contact a qualified equine nutritionist and your veterinarian for proper feeding instructions.



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