Summer is coming to an end and as a horse owner, you will have to take care of your horse’s health and nutritional requirements in the winter months. Horses require more food in winter and this can easily drive up the feeding costs. Thankfully, with a little bit of foresight and planning you can feed your horse without incurring high costs.
Make Plans Early
Rather than waiting for the first frost to decide what to feed your horse, you should plan it well in advance. Have the hay tested for its nutrient value and while the results come in, find out what are your horse’s nutritional needs. You can do this by referring to nutritional tables for horses. Nutritional requirement of a horse is dependent on several factors, such as age, amount of work the horse does, size and in case of a mare the reproductive stage she is in.
Comparing Nutrient Value to Nutrient Requirement
Once you know the nutrient value of the hay, it is time to compare it with the horse’s nutrient requirement. Good quality hay should suffice and meet your horse’s nutrient requirement along with a mineralised salt block. You should give adequate time for your horse to acclimatise to the new feed and that is why you should start introducing hay into your horse’s diet well before winter sets in.
Understanding Your Horse’s Body
Hay is digested in the colon and caecum and this causes production of heat by bacterial fermentation. If you opt for grain, not only is it more expensive, it also gets digested in the small intestine within no time and without producing a lot of heat. Hence, the horse is unable to keep itself warm and its condition will deteriorate. Hence, it makes sense to give your horse good quality hay that can produce more heat and also not cost you a lot.
You only need to supplement the hay with grain if your horse is unable to maintain his body condition. In which case, go for cheaper hay and more grain but expensive grain. You need to think about this if the weather is very cold and the horse does not have adequate shelter. The hay and grain combination will meet the horse’s energy requirements in this situation.
Feed your horse hay that has more legume compared to grass. The protein present in legume offers your horse more nutrition and energy, making it perfect feed when temperatures dip.
How Much to Feed Your Horse
When you switch to hay, give your horse one or two extra flakes for each meal. Check how much your horse consumes and how well he can maintain his weight. At the same time, remember horses are wasteful and tend to trample hay. So set aside 25 percent as waste. Make sure the hay is kept away, so that the horse can eat it but not kick it.
When winter sets in, most horses reduce their water consumption and this can lead to frequent colic attacks. Horses require water for digestion. Water should be warm, around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. You can bring down your feeding costs and other expenses (vet and medicine costs) by ensuring your horse drinks lots of water during winter. Place a football in the water trough to prevent it from freezing. Also, make sure it is warm. You can add apple juice to get the horse to drink its daily water requirement and keep itself hydrated. Water and feeding go hand-in-hand and if you really want to reduce your feeding costs, this is something you should not forget.
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