Grain alternatives for winter.
I have a very, very easy keeper who is about to move to a 24/7 pasture situation (with the option of a dry lot to control grass intake, especially in the spring!). I believe it's going to be much healthier for her, and I'm thrilled that I am finally going to be in a boarding situation where it will be available for her.
She will need no grain in the summer, but in the winter when the grass is dead, she will need something more than hay, even being blanketed I know. Last year she was on an oat/barley/corn mix that was just a blend of very foragey type stuff.
Thinking of using this again, because I would love to give her something to keep the weight nice, that is natural. But I would like to hear of any other options anyone knows and have successfully used!
We always used grain/corn sweet feed, but we are switching to oat/corn now. Altho our horses are out in grass feild with their hay bales. But I like to use corn b/c it builds fat and keeps them warm. Someone else might have a different option on this, and Im wanting to see them too! Im hoping this will be a good alternative. I also have another thought a little off topic, but when hunters set up deer feeding stations, they usually use corn to fatten up the deer. Im wondering if it adds too much fat for a horse tho? But they did great with a corn mix the past 3yrs we'd had them.
Corn is not very easily digested by horses - If you must feed a cereal grain, I would go with Oats or Barley. However Hay is the absolute best heating feed and weight-maintainer in winter.
OP - Does ALL the grass die off? My easy keepers are on pasture 24/7 and are just now coming out of a winter with zero extra feeding (Except for my show horse, for appearance, not weight). The grass dries off, but there is certainly still enough bulk. I like my easy keepers to lose some weight in winter, it is quite natural, and for horses who are so fat the rest of the year, very beneficial coming into spring. (They are not skinny by any means, just leaner!). If our horses ever need extra feed, we just throw them some more hay.
I agree that all you should need to give them is more hay, especially for an easy keeper. However, if it isn't a decent quality hay, they will eat more and can get a hay belly. We give ours a mixture of beet pulp and a low protein sweet feed. It helps our hard keeper keep weight on and our easy keepers from getting the hay belly. We give them 1/2 to full scoop of each with the beet pulp being soaked. Last winter we only gave them that once per day but only 4 or 5 days of the week.
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You might just consider a pelleted low protein stock feed--pellets are easy on their teeth. If you want to feed straight grain, then oats are good choice because they are the safest grain for the gut of a horse. I got some advice from a U of Illinois Vet Professor many years ago when he suggested that I consider feeding oat straw to my easy keepers. His father, he said, raised show Shires on it. Just some "food" for thought. =D
I'm with W_S, grain isn't the way to go to keep her warm and healthy in the winter months. Hay, hay, and more hay is the best thing you can do for her, free access 24/7 if at all possible. Constant access to fodder (roughage like hay or dry grass) keeps their gut working and that's where their internal heat comes from. All my horses get nothing but hay year around and they all stay fat and healthy and comfortable...unblanketed, even in the dead of winter. It doesn't stay terribly cold down here, but at the coldest, it can get to -15 to -20. So long as horses have something to break the wind and a place to get out of any precipitation, they'll likely be just fine.
^ Our horses actually got overweight last winter! Quality hay is key.
We got tons of hay, and they are turnout 24/7. I just thought they needed something more... Everyone around this areas feeds corn, and I have heard its harder to digest years ago, but everyone assured me its not... Well, I WAS RIGHT!!!
If your horse has plenty of access to grass and hay, I would just put out a protein-mineral tub. My horses love it.
Another one here for providing more roughage & avoiding grain where possible, especially if she's already an easy keeper. There are healthier alternatives if the horse needs more calories, but if you must feed grain, make sure it's well processed, relatively low NSC and is fed little & often(not just a couple of big feeds daily) with a lot of roughage.
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