(post by Jason) As I begin to write this blog the mid afternoon temperature at the farm is 18 F. This may or may not be a record…it probably is but I’m too tired of the cold weather to bother checking. The thermometer on my weather station has an unhappy face which appears whenever the temperature goes below freezing. Interestingly it exactly matches the look on Melissa’s face whenever I mention the weather. January has been a very cold month. Even TEMA, normally quick to pounce on any chance to declare a cold weather emergency is strangely silent this time.
Technically we are still under the same State of Emergency as last week which they never allowed to expire despite being almost 60 F on Sunday. Apparently they could not be bothered to issue a new one this week. Like most of the rest of us maybe they have finally quit caring. People have even stopped stocking up on milk, bread and eggs. There were ample supplies of each in the grocery store this morning and no panic buying that I could see. At this point warming up to seasonal norms in the low 50’s would feel like a tropical heat wave. Now I will move along to a topic other than the weather.
Today’s blog is going to seem like a bit of a cheat on our part because we are going to ask you to do much of our work. I am curious as to what criteria you use when choosing a grain or supplement for your horse. To prompt you I will share what I was thinking about when I designed our current feed.
1. Most of the nutrients in our horses’ diets comes from pasture or hay. We regularly test both for energy, protein, fiber level, mineral content and vitamin content. When designing a grain the first thing on my mind is that I want the nutrient content of the grain to roughly equal the difference between what the forage provides and what is required.
2. Many of the older horses here have poor teeth and/or poor gut absorption. Thus I want our grain to be as energy and nutrient dense as possible. The most energy dense ingredient is fat but it is also relatively expensive compared to starches. As a general rule feeds with high fat content (8-10%) are found more often in higher priced premium products.
3. Bioavailability in minerals is also important. As a general rule mineral chelates/proteinates are the most bioavailable form, followed by mineral sulfates, with mineral oxides being the least bioavailable. Thus mineral chelates and proteinates tend to be found more readily in premium products.
4. Low sugar/starch – Since so many of our clients are IR or are being treated for Cushings it is important that anything we feed not be exacerbating their condition. Thus we achieve energy density from fat rather than starch. We also like to make sure there is significant fiber in our grain. This helps in two ways. The first is by aiding in saliva production which acts as a buffering agent. The second way is by slowing hindgut digestion. Slowing hindgut digestion gives some of our elderly horses a bit more time to absorb nutrients across the gut wall.
5. Our hay and pasture is of moderate quality for most of the year. There is no great difference in nutritive value between pasture and hay except perhaps briefly in April when the warm season grasses are at their peak quality. Generally warm season grasses are considerably lower in sugars and starches then their northern cool season counterparts. The further north one goes the more massive this difference becomes. At the Canadian border the difference between energy content, fiber levels, sugars, starches and protein in peak quality cool season grasses and moderate quality grass hay is HUGE.
So now I’m curious about what you are doing ! Please tell us what you’re feeding for grains and supplements and why you chose the feeds you did.
Gus and Lofty
Ritchie and Leo having fun
Lighning and Noble were also being playful
Clayton, Toledo and Rocky were having fun together
Elfin was napping in the sun