Sunday, January 23, 2011

Myths and Truths: Ouch, the Feed Bill (post written by Jason)

I don't think anyone reading this blog needs to be told that every part of horsekeeping is expensive, but given the recent run on commodity prices and the shellacking this is likely to lead to for anybody buying commodities on a small scale, I thought now might be a good time to have a look at one of the largest ongoing expenses of keeping a horse and that is feeding it !



Myth: The price of feed seems to go up for no reason. The feed store owner must be lining her pockets right now !



Truth: There are a lot of reasons I don't own a feed store, but one of the best reasons is that the margins on feed for feed re-sellers are razor thin. The reason that feed changes price so often is that there is very little margin for the retailer to eat price changes. When the company they buy feed from raises prices, so does the retailer. A typical retail margin on bagged feed is $ 1.00 per bag or less, and I want to highlight that margin doesn't equal profit; this is what they pay the light bill, pay their help and run their business on. The folks who make (and lose) the most money on commodities are those who trade futures and options on the Chicago Board of Trade, NOT the people running your local feed store or local farm supply co-operative.



Myth: The only difference between high end and low end feeds is the price and the shininess of the graphics on the bag the feed comes in.



Truth: I've been kicking around the feed industry a long time and it's my opinion that there are plenty of differences between feedstuffs beyond price per bag. More often than not you get what you pay for in this world, and feedstuffs are no different than anything else. If my myth was actually true I promise you I'd be feeding the cheapest local no-name knock off which currently sells at $ 6.00 per 50 lb bag) to our retirees rather than Triple Crown Senior which we get for $17.95 per 50 lb bag when we buy three tons of it at a time. That said, I'm not a hundred percent stuck on using *ANY* feed so long as it meets my various criteria for quality control, ease of feeding, ease of delivery, and, of course, nutrient profile. I'd be happy to share my criteria for feedstuffs and feed suppliers with anyone who asks.



Myth: My horse loses weight every winter and it doesn't matter what I feed him.



Truth: While some horses are more prone than others to lose weight in the winter, and while any horse's weight can fluctuate a bit at any time, sustained and considerable weight loss every winter is not normal and it is something that can almost definitely be managed. First thing I'd do is take a good long look at the type of forage your horse is eating and if it's possible to do I'd up both the quality AND the quantity on offer. Within reason, and depending on your horse and what you are asking of him or her, improving the quality of forage on offer can play a huge role in maintaining adequate body condition in the winter. When forage has been addressed and if one's horse is still losing weight, then one needs to look at the quality and quantity of the grain on offer. We pay a lot of attention to forage quality and maintaining each horse's body condition on this farm, and when the horses are on spring grass (very high quality forage), our grain bill drops by a third.

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(Melissa here). I mentioned in the last blog that there were snowflakes coming down. We woke up Friday morning to about 3/4 of an inch of snow. I'll skip the usual complaining as I have nothing new to say on that front. I will say that the snow did have the common decency to start melting right away and was completely gone by Sunday afternoon. Other than that nothing new to report. I hope everyone had a great weekend!



Jo and Mina, World's Cutest Fainting Goats

Jo with a big mouthful of hay


Rocky and Rampal playing


Lily and MyLight dosing in the sun

Faune, Winston, Gus and Romeo

Romeo

Sebastian

Faune and Winston
B-Rad, Darby and Ogie

Fuzzy and Clay

Boo
Toledo, Stormy and Rocky

snow breakfast

Johnny and Rampal

Winston

Trooper, Bear and Bella

Chimano and Asterik

the Big Boys on Saturday afternoon
O'Reilly and Slinky

Noble
Lucky

Tony and Elfin

Levendi and Chance

Thomas

Leo, Apollo and Ivan

2 comments:

blogfourfiveone said...

I think the "my horses looses weight in the winter" idea is just silly. Obviously your horse needs more/better food to keep warm, especially if they are outside (and it's -21 like it was here today). That being said, mine gains weight he looks at grass so I have it relatively easy.

Kate said...

If your horse is losing weight over the winter, there's something wrong - yes, horses need extra calories (or to be warm so they don't need calories) but you have to supply that. Forage first, then supplemental feed, along with appropriate deworming and dental care, take care of most issues. Sometimes our seniors do need supplemental feed due to their less efficient digestion, and sometimes soaked beet pulp if their dentition is poor.

Good thoughts on feed costs.