Feed Management for Horses

March 18, 2019


Have you ever had a horse quit eating when you moved them from pasture to a dry lot with hay, or more commonly when you switched grain?  Do you then implement the “when he gets hungry he will eat” theory?  If so, this blog entry is for you.  Read on to learn some management tools to help keep your horse eating when you change your feeding program.

When a horse can wander around freely to find forage, grazing throughout the day, his digestive tract is working in its natural environment.  Unfortunately, this situation is not always easily provided to them due to weather, training or lack of space.  Therefore, good feed management practices are key to helping the horse stay healthy and comfortable.

Below is a list of feed management rules to follow when changing a horse’s diet.
  1. When possible, feed small meals often.The digestive tract works more efficiently and is less likely to have disturbances like colic when multiple meals are utilized.Strive for at least 2 separate feedings per day (morning and night).
  2. Feed less than 0.5 percent of the horse’s body weight in grain for each meal (5 lbs. or less for a 1000 lb. horse.) Feeding lower amounts of grain per meal will help reduce the risk of soluble carbohydrate overload in the hindgut, which can lead to many health problems.Note that if you are feeding a lower carb feed, such as Impact Professional Performance by Purina, you can safely feed more grain at one time.
  3. Forage should be fed in quantities greater than 0.1 percent of the horse’s body weight (10 lbs. per 1000 lb. horse) and often 15-20 lbs. of hay per day is not uncommon. Forage is an important fiber source, which is necessary to keep the microbial population in the gut functioning properly.
  4. Changes to a feeding program should be made gradually.Sudden changes can cause a pH shift which will affect the microbes in the gut and cause digestive troubles.If a change needs to be made make small transitional changes over 3-4 days.If making large changes, transition to the new diet over a few weeks’ time.
  5. It is important to use feed designed and labeled only for horses.All stock feeds are not designed to meet a horse’s daily nutrient needs and are often made in mills that use substances toxic to horses.Play it safe and choose horse specific products from an Ionophore free mill.
  6. Never use moldy feed or hay.Unlike other livestock species, horses are more sensitive to mold and can develop breathing problems and allergies.
 
Use these rules when making diet changes for a horse to minimize the risk of digestive upset.  If you are concerned about switching your horse’s feed contact your local CVA feed specialist for more information.

by Lindsey Kester
Posted: 3/18/2019 9:06:06 AM by Kristin Petersen | with 0 comments