The Horse

DEC 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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42 December 2018 The Horse | at the beginning of every season. If math isn't your strong suit, you can always rely on an online tool such as tools/adult-horse-weight-calculator. Could you be over- or underestimating how much your horse or pony is being fed daily? Feed by weight, not by volume. We've all heard this over and over. Yet many of us still feed based on volume in scoops or coffee cans. This is perfectly acceptable if you know the weight of one scoop or coffee can full of feed, but don't assume all feeds weigh the same. For example, a pelleted concentrate does not weigh the same as a textured sweet feed; pellets or cubes are denser and heavier. The same can be said for hay versus other types of fiber sources, be they cubes, pel- lets, haylage, or chopped hay. The forage factor "There are several unknown factors in the diets of horses, one of the main ones being the nutrition- al content of forage—both pasture and conserved forage (haylage or hay)," says Davies. Ask yourself the following ques- tions to figure out if a forage adjustment has changed your horse's nutrient intake: ■ If your horse is out on pasture, has the grass quality decreased due to a seasonal shift or lack or excess of rain? Grass does not grow continuously throughout the year, of course; growth varies based on precipitation, soil qual- ity, fertilization program, and tempera- ture changes associated with changing seasons. ■ Did you get a new delivery of hay or haylage, possibly from a different supplier? Or is it a different cutting or type of hay? Have you changed from hay to haylage, or vice versa? Have you swapped from mainly pasture to con- served forage, or the other way around? Hay quality can be quite variable, even when cut from the same field. The only true way to determine a change in nutrient content or digest- ibility is with hay analysis. But pulling a hay sample, sending it in for testing, and waiting for the results is not something hungry horses nickering to be fed can comprehend. Therefore, a simple visual hay quality assessment might be your only way to assess forage quality without a complete nutrient analysis—it's just not as reliable. Poor forage quality can re- duce a horse's energy intake and be more likely to cause colic. Find tips for assessing hay quality at The grain/concentrate factor Do you suspect your grain or concentrate isn't cutting it? It's possible that the product isn't meeting your horse's nutritional needs. When commercial feed manufac- turers formulate a concentrate, they do so with those specific physiological classes of horses in mind. Most feed stores have separate formulations for pasture orna- ments, growing youngsters, breeding herds, and performance horses because of their vastly different nutritional needs. The Association of American Feed Control Officials says feed manufactur- ers must include a purpose statement on the label listing the species and classes for which the feed is intended. Look at the instructions on your feed tag or bag, and contact the manufacturer with any questions about whether that product matches the horse consuming it. Feed formulation can vary even within a category. Let's say you are shopping for a performance grain mix for your reining horse. After finding a set of products in- tended for your horse and his work level and scanning the ingredient lists, you'll find no two recipes are exactly the same. With a commercial concentrate, it could be a simple matter of finding the right blend of ingredients. "How much starch does the concen- trate contain, for example?" asks Davies. "Higher levels of starch may result in be- havioral problems and hindgut dysbiosis (microbial imbalance)." Making the Switch Based on NRC recommendations, make changes in the amount or form of feed— including grain or concentrates, hay, and pasture—slowly. Gradual feed changes reduce the risk of colic caused by digestive upset. Additionally, the horse's sensitive digestive system needs time to adapt to diet changes to best utilize nutrients in feed. For example, when adding fat rap- idly to a horse's diet, researchers noticed it produced more manure than usual, and it had a greasy texture. But when they added fat slowly, these effects diminished. If you're simply increasing the amount of concentrate your horse consumes, bump the ration up by ½ pound per day. This is especially important when feed- ing high-starch grains or concentrates. NUTRITION Increase concentrate rations at a rate of ½ lb/day If you feed based on volume in scoops, you might be inadvertently over- or underestimating how much you're feeding. ISTOCK.COM

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