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How to provide constant feed in cold winter

This is a discussion on How to provide constant feed in cold winter within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category

     
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        10-07-2009, 09:27 PM
      #11
    Green Broke
    It depends on the situation. I'm in Manitoba where are winters are consistantly colder then -20 as soon as December hits and right through to March. All our horses winter outside without blankets.

    Our hay is virtually as you described yours, a good portion alfalfa and the rest is a mix of grass/timothy. We purchase 800lb square bales and when cold hits, our horses are NEVER without food. If they go longer then 2 hours without hay, they will start shivering. They get limited exercise in winter, so they never get "fat" - however, they DO come into spring heavier then when they went into winter which is a good sign of a proper feeding program. I always like putting an extra layer of fat on my horses before winter hits.

    However, if your horse comes into the barn or even wears a winter blanket, this heat source isn't quite as crucial. In cold months however, he still shouldn't go very many hours without food. They require almost a constant intake of food to maintain body warmth in the winter months. Unlike in summer months, this food isn't just going to create a massive belly, it's all being used to maintain body heat and keep what fat they DO have.

    When cold hits, I definitely think a constant source of food is the best option. Giving that an average bale of hay weights roughly 50lbs (give or take), he shouldn't be able to actually consume an entire bale a day. If you feed him grains/concentrates, I'd just stop that for winter unless you're riding him regularly as his body will run much more efficiently if he's allowed to just fill himself with hay as neccesary. I'd start him off with half a bale in the morning and see how long it takes him to finish it.

    We have wood feeders set up by the fence to throw hay into easily so not as much is wasted. We usually cram the feeders as full as we can get them which typically provides our herd of 7 1/2 (LOL, miniature) horses with a couple of days of feed.

    What's ironic is that free fed horses actually tend to NOT gorge themselves. Gorging is quite often a symptom of horses that get fed on a schedule - they're so hungry by the time the food comes, they're convinced they need to wolf it all down. Because our herd spends the entire summer grazing with supplemented hay when fall hits, free feeding in winter doesn't cause us any weight problems even WITH our extremely easy keepers. They're accustomed to always having food around, so it's natural for them to simply take as they require. Now that it's chilly and the pasture is sparse, we always keep a bit of hay in the feed bin and yet they're always out grazing down the last bits of yummy grass over alfalfa. They know it's there and they know it's not going anywhere, so they're getting as much grass as they can before snow flies!
         
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        10-07-2009, 10:03 PM
      #12
    Trained
    It depends also on where your horse is eating the hay.

    If he is stalled most of the time, he will ruin most of his hay if you give him all of it at one time. You have little choice but to feed small portions multiple times per day.

    If he is on free turn-out however, you can put out 1 - 2 bales once a day in two or three piles and he will eat exactly how much he wants over the course of the entire day. He will not gorge himself if he is eating constantly, which is what you are trying to accomplish and what horses do naturally.

    I feed small squares also and I love them because I can track how much my horses are eating. Last winter, I got stuck with round bales for a couple of months and it was awful for me. I hated not knowing if their eating habits were changing, so I tried peeling layers off and that was so much work. Terrible. Right now I am just starting my 2 horses back on bales from full pasture. I started with one bale / day and now I'm up to three, but I expect there to be some leftover tomorrow night. If there isn't, I will give them 3-1/2 tomorrow; if there is waaaay too much left over, I'll cut back to 2-1/2 instead.

    BTW, straw is a great heater in the winter as a FEED. Nice to have some around in January and February to mix in with their regular hay.
         
        10-08-2009, 09:57 AM
      #13
    Started
    I would suggest you play it by ear.. Give him up to twice his usual ration and see how it goes. If you are able to feed more often during the day then that helps a lot. If he doesn't clean it up fairly well then you know that's enough. If he's out when you go to feed again then it's not enough. Make sense? Usually you will feed double in winter, but where it's way cold you may well feed 3x his normal ration. Don't be afraid to give him more, but don't feed so much it's being majorly wasted. Unless you can afford it. ;) With one horse you don't have to worry about others hogging it and one not getting enough fed this way. Some days you may need more, some days less. Bitter cold is always going to be more more more tho.
         
        10-08-2009, 04:47 PM
      #14
    Foal
    Lightbulb

    I've made two of these to keep the hay from being peed and walked on, and most of all to keep it from being blown away as we live in a very windy area. They work fine and took me an afternoon to build (it's a salt stone in the corner).
    The other one is a little bit longer, and I think it's better as the horses tend to look for the good hay in the bottom and move the hay on top away with their nose. If it's longer, it'll just be moved to the other end, else it will fall outside the container (as you can see)
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        10-08-2009, 04:51 PM
      #15
    Foal
    So what I wanted to say is that it would be quite easy to put in 1-3 bales in it and in this way your horse will always have clean hay. You could put on some kind of roof to protect from rain/snow but I'm not so much of a handy woman so I didn't...
         

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