Hay wasted v Hay Needed
This is the first year I've had my horses at home. They've been boarded in the past.
They're currently on approx. 2 acres of pasture with free access to their stalls during the day. The pasture is pretty much all browned due to the season. We are finishing up a fence project and about to open up an additional 3 acres, also browned.
I've started supplementing with hay, about 10lbs each per day, divided into am/pm feedings. They get it in hay nets in their stalls. They waste quite a bit of what they're given. There's usually a few bites left in the net and a pile on the floor. I try to recycle the clean bits of the pile back into the next feeding. I do have small hole hay bags on the way to help eliminate waste.
Guidelines say they should receive 10-20lbs of hay - but if they're already wasting a lot should I up the offering? It seems like if they were hungry, they would eat it instead of leaving it on the stall floor. When I weighed what was left in one stall last night is came out to 2lbs. I don't want to waste but I want to make sure they get enough. When I refill the nets they tear into it like they're hungry but never actually clean it all up.
My mare typically loses weight in the winter, and she needs to gain right now. She's being brought up to 2 lbs pelleted feed 2x per day, per the usual winter plan while she was boarded. Also considering adding rice bran oil, but I'm wary of adding too much into her feed. She also gets Smart Pak Senior Flex and Source Hoof. She only got 1/2 lb plus free pasture in the summer and looked great. Now she looks pretty ribby and I'm really concerned. She's on a vet supervised worming plan and she goes in for her annual physical/dental in 3 weeks, and if she hasn't gained I will see what the vet advises.
They hay comes from a reputable supplier and is known to be good stuff - so I don't think that's an issue.
The slowfeeder nets will solve the problem. I wouldn't ration the hay, tho keep filled nets in front of them all the time. Especially in pasture this time of year. Have enough nets, usually one more than number of horses, space them apart (I hang mine on fenceposts).
For your mare to gain weight, pelleted ricebran together with her feed, soaked alfalfa pellets, soaked beet pulp all works. But make sure she can eat it in peace and quiet, is not chased off or has to fight for it. Divide it in as many small meals as possible. Also pick a feed with a good fat content.
I didn't know there was pelleted rice bran. I'll check in to that, it sounds like it may be a really good solution. Thanks!
Some horses will pick through their hay and waste, no matter what. You can give them all the hay you want but you can't MAKE them eat it! There's a TB where I board like that, amazing what she deems "yucky"... no matter whose stall I shovel her leftovers into, they are inhaled.
Consider adding some alfalfa to her diet, it's great for weight gain and it gets the horse into "eating" mode and they tend to eat more grass hay than usual as well.
Also, you said that the stalls are open to multiple horses during the day. Is it possible the other horse is preventing her from eating? Even with two stalls, some horses will bully the other one enough that they won't even attempt to go in and eat. We have two ponies like that, even if I put out 5 piles of hay, the one just hides in the corner while the other cleans up all 5 piles and then they go back to being friends. Figured that one out when we had one skinny and one fat pony!
I don't think she's being bullied. My gelding is the dominant one, and they are separated at feeding to make sure she gets all her feed with plenty of time to finish it all. My gelding will prefer to stay out while she sneaks into his stall and eats his hay, and I've seen them both eat from the same net. As a matter of fact, she prefers to eat the gelding's hay over whatever she has. It's exactly the same. I'm also going to follow the previous suggestion about putting several nets along the fence line.
I'll ask my trainer/vet about adding alfalfa, too. I want my mare fat and happy.
2lbs of extra feed in the winter isn't much. After making sure she's 1) cleared by the vet for worms and teeth and 2) has free choice quality hay, you have a lot of room to add feed to help her weight. You could go with alfalfa pellets or hay, rice bran, beet pulp or any of the low sugar feeds and probably get good results. My first step would be (gradually) upping ypur choice of feed to 5lbs twice a day or whatever the label says.
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I was following the same management plan that was used in the past at the boarding barn, which apparently is no longer enough. She'll be 24 in a few months. I'm going to start going home at lunch to add a noon feeding. Then I will consult with the powers that be about what else may need to be added. Now I'm really upset with myself that I've let her lose weight.
Don't! There is so much to learn about keeping horses on your own, and boarding takes the decisions away from you, not your fault. We all have started somewhere and made our mistakes;-). Research comes up with new findings just about on daily bases, so it's a constant learning with horses.
There's going to be some amount of waste when feeding from a hay net just because of how they eat (reach, bite, pull). To cut down on waste I would recommend a feeding trough or manger so the hay just falls back in the manger instead of falling to the floor.
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