Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Beyond the Grain I: Feed Additives

There's a lot of feed world out there beyond grain and hay. I'll get to supplements in another few posts ( I don't think I could cram it into one!) and spend today talking about other feed additives. Mostly the purpose of these types of feed is to supplement the hay or the grain - horses are big animals and need lots of food!

Beet Pulp Shreds: BP was my first experience with feed additives. The shreds come dried, and you MUST soak them before you feed them. They expand up and I generally add a bit of extra water to make it a nice tasty soup/slop that horses seem to either really like  or really not. Beet Pulp shreds are sweet, and offer about 1000 extra calories per lb when hydrated - plus if the horse isn't a good drinker, that extra water can really help them out, or be good at a show when the horse won't drink for love or money. Nothing is funnier than a horse slurping (loudly, I might add) his beet pulp! I would say start small and feed in a flat feed pan or bucket on the ground, rather than dumping into any type of permanent feed bin, as if it's attached, you're stuck with all this water and shreds your horse won't eat and its tough to get it out.

Hay Pellets/cubes: Another soaking-product that horses (or Fox, at least) LOVE. I bought Foxie some Alfalfa pellets to help her get used to alfalfa before a barn move and will probably feed them again this summer because she LOVES them. I found the pellets to be much harder than the extruded bits in a regular feed, and started soaking them to make sure they were safe for her to eat (she could choke or get colic-ey if they expand in her stomach). I fed about a pound of them per feeding (I have a SURE SCOOP brand scoop) with another scoop of water in with them. Cubes are often too hard for the horse to really tackle on his own, so water is helpful there, as well. Hay cubes can supplement a diet (especially where alfalfa is too expensive to buy in bales) or fill in the holes that a hay shortage leaves behind. Or they just make a good snack/treat that isn't chock full of sugar for your beloved steed. Alf Pellets hang out just under 1,000 (977) calories per lb, orchard grass somewhere in the 870's and green pasture is about 250 calories/lb.

Rice Bran: Rice bran seems to come in power/granule form or pellets, and is another source of extra calories. It's loved by show horse owners and basically anyone for it's ability to make your horse shiny and have a really lovely lush coat. Again, I have heard of some taste issues, but it has that nice ferment-able fiber (fiber is a fact of horsey life- that gut needs to keep busy!) and, like fish oil supplements for people, it's full of omega-3's and omega-6's that are good for your horse's health. Rice bran is more calorie heavy around 1500 cal/lb but don't fall for most fat supplements - I've found that they don't really offer all that many calories per lb - do your research!

Corn Oil is also popular among show riders, because judges love shiny, healthy looking horses. At ~ 4,000 calories/lb (thought who measures liquids in lbs, seriously) it gets expensive fast, but again offers many of the same benefits as rice bran, but in a form your horse can't sort out of his feed. I see a lot of people buy big things of oil from the "Industrial" section or from a big box store and prescribe the amount in a pump measurement (two pumps per meal, etc). There is some argument that oil isn't good for your horse, but I'll let you do the research.

Finally there are the fat supplements made by horse feed companies - Amplify by Purina, Envision by Progressive, etc. These are highly concentrated forms of fat that are easy to integrate into your horse's diet along with his grain. These supplements differ in calorie content by the company, but these supplements are a nice way to simplify the trips you make to get your feed bought. Amplify is also available in Ultium, letting me kill two birds with one stone.

The biggest wisdom I have on this subject, is, of course, to do your homework. Make smart decisions - don't invest until you know your horse likes what you're feeding, and even then, Foxie got sick of beet pulp and magically stopped eating it when I had 1/4 of a bag left. Mares!

Ash & Fox

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