LIZZIE DRURY MSC RNUTR
We will all have been told at some point in our horse and pony feeding education that we must weigh their hard feed and forage. Yet it is still not unusual to see horses feeds being made up using cups and jugs and hay being fed in sections and haynets, with no perception of the actual weight. It is important to bear in mind that there are some very sound nutritional reasons for weighing your horse’s feed that I will outline in this factsheet
- In order to monitor the results of a feeding programme, and to develop an accurate feeding programme, you need to use a set of scales. True quantitative weighing of dietary ingredients can often be an enlightening discovery in any dietary evaluation There are many situations where feeds and supplements are not fed on the basis of providing adequate nutrient levels to the horse, but more by testimonials, reputation or by association to horses that have been successful in the competition arena
- One of the most common misconception when it comes to feeding is that 1 scoop = 1kg regardless of feed type, scoop size or how much the scoop is filled, i.e. level scoop or heaped scoop. 1 large round ‘stubbs’ scoop does hold roughly 1kg of a compound mix when filled level, but it will hold more of a cube and less of a chaff.There is tremendous potential for micronutrient problems in the horse.
- Feed manufacturers have minimum feeding guidelines on their bags which are intended to ensure that you are feeding your horse or pony optimum levels of vitamins and minerals, which are key to maintaining health and wellbeing. Feeding below these recommended levels will increase the likelihood of poor coat and hoof condition, increased recovery times post exercise / competition and compromised immune function.
- Horses and ponies that are good-doers, or at an increased risk of metabolic disease or laminitis, will require strictly controlled calorie rations and feeds that are low in starch. While there are specific rations available for these horses they will only be effective if they are fed at the correct intake. If the recommendation is 0.5 Kg per day, don’t assume that 2 coffee cups couldn’t possibly weigh more!! You may find that you have been inadvertently feeding more calories than you should and wonder why your horse is not losing weight.
- Measurement of actual hay or haylage intakes can be measured using a spring balance. Weighing the amount of forage that you feed in the evening and then any that is left over in the morning helps to give an indication of forage intakes, which are important to establish as forage should form the basis of EVERY horses ration. Ideally forage consumption should be 1.5% of BW e.g. 500 Kg horse should be eating 7.5 - 8Kg of hay or haylage. Sections of hay will vary in weight through a bale and haylage may vary in moisture level and therefore affect the weight of haynets etc. It is perhaps not necessary to weigh your forage everyday but I definitely recommend that you do weigh your horses forage allowance at least once a week and any leftovers.
- There can be some nutritional issues that can be easily overcome if optimum levels of forage are fed or alternative ways are found to increase that horse’s fibre intake if he is not eating enough even if it is being offered on an ad-lib basis. Issues such as poor body condition, loose droppings, irritability and wood chewing can be down to poor fibre and forage intakes.
As you can see there are many reason why you should be weighing your horse or pony’s daily ration as well as their forage intake so……….get out those scales!
NEED MORE GUIDANCE?
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