Saturday, January 22, 2011

Junior's Weight - The Never Ending Saga

One year ago I began drastically changing Junior's ration. As you know, this was based on an Equine Nutrition Class project. I took TJ's data and made some choices. Our goals at the time were to:
  • Lower his BCS with a low starch/low sugar/high fiber concentrate. The digestibility of the hay was very low so this would help the digestibility of the hay, too.
  • Not lower his busy-work feeding - he was stalled too much - he had begun cribbing out of boredom and frustration.
  • Somewhat affordable because there was no discount on board if I stopped feeding the 12% barn grain - so the feed costs were additional. AND I had to pay for any hay over the 4 thin flakes/day. This was MY goal, TJ did not factor in cost, only suitability.
The whole "Plan" is HERE, but due to some questionable grain storage practices I ended up switching entirely to the Safe N Lite instead of the 50/50 mixture I had listed.

We seemingly met our goals in the Spring. The barn move greatly helped with a number of things including increased pasture access (from random less than 5 hours to up to 12 hours/day.)

However, as the winter began we noticed weight loss and I believe some energy loss as well. I don't mind having this calm, collected guy, but his BCS is too low. So it's back to the math.

I can't (thankfully) make this Rocket Surgery type science this time because I'm estimating the DE in the hay rather than having it analyzed. I think we were, in fact, underfeeding him this fall. When he was getting all that grazing (1.5 lbs/hour estimated) he was fine. The BM thinks he currently gets an estimated 18-25lbs grass hay per day. He gets a good 18-20 in his stall, but some hay is fed in the pasture so it's hard to accurately guess how much he's getting of that. I can't really do math with 18-25lbs, so I'm using 20. He had been getting 2lbs Safe N Lite each day. Then in fall it was upped to 3lbs/day. With that ration he SHOULD have been fine on DE of 21.48 Mcal/day, but apparently not. NRC guidelines list 20 Mcal/Day for adult horses in light work.

He is currently getting 5lbs S&L/day bringing him up to 23.4 Mcal/Day. This SHOULD be enough... wasn't he an easy keeper!?!?!

A new puzzle piece to this problem is that I will now be going through 1 BAG EVERY 10 DAYS!!! That is a lovely $52/month for 3 bags. When I made the choice to move him to S&L it was cheaper per bag than now and we were feeding so very little. I get an $18 discount on my board for providing my own grain. If I switch to one of the barn grains: Strategy or Kalm N EZ, I can pay only $18/month for grain AND not have to make trips to the feed store.

So what next? Some more math and research. Kalm N EZ was one of the grains TJ analyzed for me. She was looking for low starch low sugar feeds so she did not analyze Strategy. Max is on Strategy Healthy Edge, but that has to be bought by the owner.

A possible switch to KNEZ will be feeding him 2lbs/day giving him 21.44 Mcal/day. I just bought 3 bags of S&L, so when she's at the last bag I'll probably start switching him over. If the 23.4 Mcal/day seems to be helping over the next few weeks (he's been on that a few weeks now) I might do 3 lbs/day which ups it to closer to the DE he's on right now.


On a side note: I missed two days at the barn due to long work days and crappy winter snow. It's amazing how quickly 3" of snow can cripple a city that doesn't have enough plows. Anyway, I rode last night with the help of the BM telling me when he was "round" like Monet told me to make him. I'm much more of a visual thinker than a tactile one. I would LOVE mirrors in the arena! His neck was not solid but the two hard bumps were definitely there. Before and after the ride I did stretches. I broke down and did it with treats - need to go buy carrots. I was reading an article and it said to do the stretches in a special location to help prevent the horse from being grabby. His annoying grabbiness has been the reason he doesn't get treats. Can I train him to know the difference? He certainly stretched further and longer with the food reward than with the pat/verbal praise award. Hopefully we can keep him from being like this:


  1. I feel so smart... I'm not clueless reading about your nutrition info! :)

    The new barn I'm going to feeds either Equine Senior or Strategy and I refuse to feed Strategy so he's going to humor me (and M) and get our favorite grain to feed. The NSC value for Strategy is like 28% and it makes my horses crazy. I didn't like the Healthy Edge either, so I'm back to something very similar to the Safe 'n Lite (SafeChoice).

    I feel your pain regarding the cost of buying feed... AJ goes through a bag of Senior per week, so I'm spending about $70 to feed him per month.

    It always boggles my mind how much the bag says you should feed... esp once you figure out how many mcals that would be per day. Like the Kalm 'n EZ says 6-10 lbs per day with 10-16 lbs of hay per day. Can you imagine feeding 10 lbs of grain per day?! Holy jeeze...

    Anyway, I'm rambling. Hopefully the 5lbs of S&L will get his weight back up to where it needs to be. Perhaps he'll just need a bump in the winter and can go back to a smaller ration in the spring/summer.

    Perhaps you can switch him over to the KnEZ and see how he does. Sounds like it would save you some money.

    Good luck!

  2. He's a lippy bugger.

    I am not a fan of supplementing any pelleted feed in place of good quality hay. Assume he's about 1000 lbs. 2% dry forage per day is what's recommended. Now it's winter, so I'd comfortably up that to 3%. And hay forage is way better for his whole well being than a pile of grain.

    We feed Buckeye Gro 'n Win as a ration balancer. 16 oz per day with equal parts oats. I would assume Buckeye is readily available in your area. It's about $30/50 lbs.

    But regardless of the supplement, hay is what I'd recommend. Maybe a analysis of the protein content is in order. Testing around here is about $30. Cheap peace of mind.

  3. @in2paints, so Kalm N EZ is suggesting a 60:40 Forage/Concentrate diet for a mature horse? Oh, helz no.

    @ Cedar View, I absolutely agree about the forage. That seems to be the most important thing I learned doing this nutrition stuff. The hay quality here is very good. The BO and BM are adamant that they feed quality hay. I should have had it sampled and sent in with the fall Nutrition class, but I didn't think about it. From what I understand, the problem with analyzing the current hay is that to be really accurate you have to re-analyze every single time you get a new hay load and re-calculating from there.

    I am considering having his hay weighed so I can see what he's actually getting. I still won't be able to accurately estimate the hay intake while in the field, though, but I could put a scale and a notebook next to his stall and have the feeders keep a log. Hmm... how much of a pain-in-the-ass boarder do I want to be... ;)

    Are you suggesting a protein analysis because you think he's getting too little and that's causing the muscle loss? That could be, I suppose. S&L is only 8% Protein... I'm off to do some MORE math... I hate math...

  4. Has he had his teeth done recently? That could result in him not getting the nutrents he should from your feed/hay. Im not so good with the feeds (and I have no idea of the brand names you guys have down there!)

  5. Really, a protein analysis will only give you more to worry about.

    Junior needs more forage.

    Let's try a different angle - tell the BO that your horse needs more hay. When he/she gives you grief, tell the BO that an underfed horse is a negative reflection of the barn's reputation.

    30 days with an increase in hay (and exercise) should show an improvement. If not, THEN check for underlying problems. (fecal, ulcers..)