Ration balancer substitute?
I recently posted pics of Aires for a conformation critique and the biggest thing everyone seemed to be concerned about is that he appears underweight. In the pics, he had just been curried and bathed (getting rid of all that nasty winter hair) and was still wet. He'd also just had his mane roached. He doesn't appear skinny or underweight in person, but I figure it couldn't hurt to add a ration balancer or something to his diet.
He's boarded, so I don't know exact weight on what he's fed, but I know he gets Bermuda grass hay morning and midday, and alfalfa for supper. He's usually fed in his stall, but every once in a great while, he gets his midday meal in the turnout with four or five other geldings. Each pile is a good five to six pounds of Bermuda grass hay, and there is usually one more pile than there are horses turned out. I'm assuming he gets the same amount in his stall when he's fed (so 10-12lbs of Bermuda grass hay per day and probably 10lbs of alfalfa [the alfalfa tends to be heavier and more densely packed]). I haven't had a chance yet to figure out how many calories he's getting yet.
Right now, he's 16.1-16.2hh and weighs approximately 1300lbs. He just went through a growth spurt.
So, I've been looking at adding a ration balancer to his diet. I'm not sure if I should feed a grass formula or an alfalfa formula. In addition to a ration balancer, I'm thinking of adding pellets to his evening meal (locally produced alfalfa mix hay pellets).
Here's my problem. I have three feed stores to choose from in my area: CAL Ranch, Olsen's Grain and Warren's Hay-N-More. I know for sure that CAL Ranch doesn't carry anything even remotely resembling a ration balancer. I'm going to be checking the other two this week armed with this list: http://www.understanding-horse-nutrition.com/ration-balancer-products.html . So, what do I do if I can't find a ration balancer at a local feed store?
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You have a couple options. You could look for a fortified feed based on alfalfa or beet pulp. You could order something like Barn Bag Pleasure and Performance Horse Life Data Labs (Supplements - Vitamin Mineral) and add oats if he needs more calories. You could try a senior feed or Strategy Healthy Edge or something like that.
Generally it's recommended to feed the grass formula if your horse is getting all grass or mixed grass & alfalfa hay.
I'd be surprised if you couldn't find any ration balancer, but a lot of feed store employees don't know what a ration balancer is, so they might tell you they don't have it even if they do. The easiest way to find one is to ask for a specific product. Find out what brands they carry, then find out what that brand's RB is called (almost every brand has at least one ration balancer) Purina's is Enrich 32, Nutrena's is Empower Balance (not Empower Boost- that's something else entirely), Triple Crown's is 30% Supplement. We could help you figure out the name for other brands, as well.
If you really can't find a ration balancer, I'd go with a high quality vitamin/mineral supplement like SmartPak's SmartVites. The primary difference between a high quality vit/min supplement and a ration balancer is protein. Both are otherwise low-calorie feeds designed to provide the vitamins & minerals that are lacking in the rest of the horse's diet.
Agree with Verona.
And if your feed stores carry either of the three " big" brands, they can certainly order their ration balancers.
For up to 50% alfalfa of total feed, the grass balancer is fine.
I always thought ration balancers were for horses that didn't really need extra calories.....just vitamins/minerals.
If you are wanting to add extra calories, I would go with more alfalfa hay or pellets, or something like Purina Strategy or Nutrena Safe Choice.
Nutrena does make a ration balancer and our CAL ranch carries it but it was close to $40, so I opted to feed Safe Choice original or perform instead.
I personally use bermuda as more of a filler and alfalfa for calories, so I tend to feed more alfalfa than bermuda. Plus where I am at the bermuda is much more expensive.
I saw his conformation shots and he looked lean but not thin to me. In other words, I could see a young horse in a growth spurt looking that way and just account for it as a growth spurt. I like my horses with a little flesh on them though so I would be upping the calories just a tad because he is growing and getting exercise.
So my personal picks would be something like Safe Choice (the Perform is higher in fat than the Original) and just feed a couple pounds of it, Purina Strategy (fed the same way, as an addition to his hay) or exchange some of the bermuda for alfalfa, or add alfalfa pellets.
I can tweak what he's fed at each meal, as far as if he gets alfalfa or grass at a specific meal. At our old barn, he was fed alfalfa twice a day and sometimes a couple of pounds of alfalfa mix pellets for lunch. He would eat every scrap of alfalfa within fifteen to twenty minutes of being fed. With feeding the bermuda, he eats more slowly and the hay lasts him longer.
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