Sunday, June 28, 2020

Sunday Stills

Moe and Revy

Toledo and Roho

Squirrel and Sushi

Wilson and Toledo

Levendi and Moe

Trigger and Faisal

Hemi and Apollo

Faisal and King

Cisco and Revy

Rey and Levendi

Baby and Convey

Chance and Convey

two different grooming sessions; Ricardo and Inti, Hemi and Thomas

Hemi and Thomas

Toledo, Ripley and Furb

Rubrico and Franklin

Rocky and Roho

Sushi and Franklin

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Understanding Hay Test Results, Dry Matter and Energy

(post by Jason) Today we’re going to explore our hay test in a bit more depth. Last week I wrote at some length about measuring fibre levels and digestibility in hay and why those things might be important in terms of balancing equine diets.  I want to focus today’s blog on talking about energy level and why that’s probably the most important number on your hay test. In order to do that I’m going to start with a few equine nutrition facts. Although it’s a bit unwieldy I’m going to use mostly US Standard units of measure for today’s blog post. You’ll note that the units on my hay test are in SI units. That’s because I spent the first 33 years of my life in Canada thinking, working and living in metric and to this day I still think and compute everything in metric first. Sorry.

The average horse will eat roughly 2% of it’s body weight in free choice forage every day. That means in the winter....hay feeding time at Paradigm Farms.... a horse weighing 1100lbs will eat roughly 22 pounds of dry hay every day...actually a bit more than that because we’re talking dry matter units, but work with me here.

Horses have an extremely wide genetic base and that leads to wide differences between horses experiencing the same conditions in terms of how much energy it takes  to maintain their weight and general level of thrift no matter what external conditions do. And external conditions....particularly how cold it is and how wet it is.... have a huge impact on how much energy it takes to maintain a horse’s weight in the winter. Generally speaking, horses are most comfortable and thus maintain their weight most easily under dry, calm conditions between roughly 30 and roughly 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Add wind or rain or colder weather than the minimum and it can take vastly more energy to maintain weight and general homeostasis.

All that said we know on this farm that the “average” 1100 lb horse will require roughly 28,000 kilocalories (calories) or 28 Mcal (megacalories) of energy per day in order to maintain homeostasis. You’ll note that the hay we tested has a Digestible Energy (DE) level of 2.14 Mcal/kg, or 0.97 Mcal/lb. That means each pound of hay contains 970 calories of energy. If, in our example, the average 1100 lb horse eats 22 lbs hay per day and we know the hay contains 970 calories per pound,we can calculate that this horse will get roughly 21000 calories from hay. That’s a deficit of 7000 calories per day...not enough to maintain weight, so we have to make up the difference with grain. Since there is a limit as to how much of anything a horse will consume before it’s sated I like to feed as energy dense a grain ration as it’s possible to build. Unfortunately for some reason most equine feed manufacturers do NOT place energy numbers on their tags or otherwise make them easily available so it’s something you will have to ask about at your feed store If you’re interested in how much energy your grain contains. The feed store may have that number on hand or they may have to phone the manufacturer to get it.

We know in this case that we have to make up a 7000 calorie per day deficit if we’re going to maintain weight on my hypothetical 1100 lb horse this winter. If the feed at hand contains 1500 calories per lb we’ll need to feed 4.66 lbs per day to make up the difference. In this example that is a very do-able amount of grain to feed.

Unless the horse is a very easy keeper, energy will almost always be the most scarce or limiting macro nutrient in a horse diet and it’s almost always the most expensive macro nutrient to replace. For that reason, in my opinion, when we are buying a grain ration we need to worry a lot more than we do about how much energy each pound of feed contains.

Happy and Quigly

B-Rad, Paramount and Ascot

Donneur and Moses

Doni and George

Blu and Sebastian

Lighty and Bear

Sam, Lighty and Johnny

Quigly and Taco

Bear really wanted to eat Indy's grass

Gibson and Donneur

Silver and Cocomo

Romeo and Lotus

Ralph and Fendi

George and Gus

Digby and Elf

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Sunday Stills

Dawn and Diamond

Maggie and Gracie

Missy, Maggie and Charlotte

Maddie, Missy and Maggie (and Charlotte and Jake)

Penny and Diamond

Sport and Bruno

Art and Baner

Cinnamon and Jake

Diamond, Maggie and Maisie

Lily and Traveller


Merlin and Duesy

Remmy and Renny

Havana and Dooley

Cody and Baner

Taylor and Alfie

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Understanding Hay Test Results, Part One

(post by Jason) Since we got our hay tests back today I am going to begin sharing some of the information we use to evaluate the forage portion of our horse diets. That’s the first and most fundamental step in designing a grain and mineral ration that complements your forage and thus *really* balances the diet. I’m not kidding or exaggerating when I say that each line of the hay test shown below could easily turn into a blog post.

Equine enthusiasts tend to focus heavily on the level of crude protein and the mineral levels in hay, particularly calcium and phosphorus. I’m not going to dismiss either minerals or protein level out of hand, but I am going to relegate both to another blog post because, in my opinion, they are the least important, or the most easily correctable (and in the case of minerals probably the least accurate) numbers on this test. Instead in today’s post I am going to focus on digestibility. Those numbers are represented by ADF, NDF. In my next post I am going to talk about energy levels. When I’m through with digestibility and energy I will come back and deal with protein and minerals in a third blog post. Then I’ll put it all together and (hopefully) show you what a balanced horse diet looks like.

ADF stands for Acid Detergent Fibre and NDF stands for Neutral Detergent Fibre. These names are nonsensical to the average layman; they are short merely forms of the chemical assay process used to measure the fibre fraction of forages. What you need to know is that ADF measures digestible fibre, cellulose and hemicellulose. NDF measures digestible AND indigestible fibre, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.

Let’s talk first about digestibility. It might be easiest to think about digestibility as a ratio. If there are 100 parts in total of nutrient X in a forage, and that forage is 90% digestible,that means 90 parts of nutrient X are available to get used by the horse and 10% pass right through the horse and out the other end in the form of liquid or solid excreta. If another forage containing the same 100 parts of nutrient X were only 60% digestible, the horse would get significantly less of nutrient X per pound/kilogram of forage consumed and a lot more of nutrient X would pass through the horse and out in it’s excreta.

I wish we had models that predicted digestibility this accurately for every nutrient. Unfortunately we don’t. Instead we measure digestibility indirectly using ADF and NDF. ADF contains cellulose and hemicellulose which are digestible fibre fractions. NDF contains cellulose and hemicellulose too, but it also contains lignin which isn’t digestible at all. Generally speaking and up to a point, lower levels of ADF and NDF equate to higher digestibility of all nutrients.  Higher levels of ADF and NDF equate to lower levels of digestibility. In terms of grassy horse hay “good to excellent” digestibility may be represented by numbers like ADF 30% and NDF 50% on an as fed basis. Remember when you look at these numbers they’re measuring fibre levels NOT direct digestibility of any nutrient! As fed numbers with ADF >45% and NDF >65% mean that nutrient digestibility is poor for horses. If you see hay with as fed numbers higher than that I would certainly think twice about buying it for anything except very easy keepers.

I’m quite pleased with the ADF and NDF numbers (31.3 and 52.8 respectively) in this batch of hay. It means the nutrients contained within it are going to be quite bioavailable to the horse.

Fibre numbers also play a role in how acidic a horse’s gut become which is why I used the caveat that lower ADF and NDF numbers in stored forages were good only up to a point. Beyond that point there is too little fibre in the diet to offset acid production and it’s entirely possible to create a situation that promotes hindgut acidosis and all the maladies that brings with it. Most often this happens when grazing cool season grasses (particularly when said grasses contain a lot of cool season legumes) up north in the early and mid spring AND you’re not feeding enough/any hay to buffer the rocket fuel the horses are eating. This is exactly why we keep good quality hay in our hay feeders through much of the spring. The good news is that if you’re feeding long stemmed grass hay as your major forage source there is a much reduced chance of creating a situation where there is too little fibre in the diet.


Levendi and Cisco

Trigger and Moe

Ricardo and Trigger

Faisal and Hemi

King and Apollo

Furb and Toledo grooming

King and Trigger grooming

Rocky and Franklin

Squirrel and Sushi

Roho and Rocky (and Franklin)

Wilson and Rocky

Ripley and Rubrico

Revy and Rey

Inti and Revy

Chance and Convey

another of Chance and Convey

Thomas and Hemi

Convey and Baby