Managing a large horse farm - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 09-23-2013, 09:42 PM Thread Starter
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Managing a large horse farm

I will be taking over a large horse farm (100 head- mostly mares and foals) and need some ideas on how to keep such a large group of horses happy and healthy. The conditions they are in right now are not ideal and neither is their feeding program. So I will be making adjustments to those. My main concern is the mares that are overweight... and by overweight I mean obscenely obese. I am thinking about turning one of our large pastures into a dirt lot, putting the grass hay (right now they are on straight alfalfa free choice and very short pasture grass-so sugar cubes) as far away from the waterer as possible and making them walk as much as possible to get to and from food. Does this sound like a good idea to those with more experience?? These mares are 3-400 lbs overweight which is unacceptable in my book. Especially when they are carrying the extra weight of a baby on top of it. It's no wonder most of their hooves are in terrible shape. Poor girls.
We have about 6 large pastures ranging from 5-8 acres a piece. And 3-4 pastures at 2-3 acres a piece. We also have a few smaller 1 acre or less paddocks. At any time we have about 40-50 mares and 20-30 foals and or yearlings. I am trying to figure out the most efficient, and healthiest living arrangements for these girls and their babies. We have a pretty tight budget, but I will be getting nibble nets for the pastures to cut down on hay wastage and make them eat more slowly and naturally since the actual pasture grass is next to nothing. I would like to implement some kind of rotation with these girls too, to give the lots a rest, break the parasite cycle and give the grass some time to recuperate. I'm not sure if that is possible with so many horses but I would like to try. If anyone with this kind of experience can give me some ideas that would be awesome. Even if you don't have this exact experience and have ideas that have worked for you I would love to hear them!! I need a lot of help!
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post #2 of 23 Old 09-25-2013, 05:55 AM
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My answer to this would be to assess all the stock. Work out which mares are worth keeping to breed from, if that os what you intend to do, and the same with the foals.

With the market as it is, unless you have a bottomless pit for money, you are not going to make anything.

The overweight mares need to be shut in less grassed paddocks.

I would run the wearers together along with a couple of the mares that are the sanest. Yearlings I would separate into sexes a d run them as two lots.
I always prefer to have an older horse pr two in with the youngsters as this tea he's them manners and is a steady influence.

.
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post #3 of 23 Old 09-25-2013, 10:57 AM Thread Starter
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Unfortunately I am not in charge of what horses we can get rid of. It is a university farm and the main guy who is in charge of that just keeps bringing more horses in. If that were part of my position I would get rid of half of them in a heartbeat. I love them all, and I have worked with them for 3 years, so it would be sad to see a lot of them go, but from a business aspect it needs to be done. They are standardbreds and are sold as yearlings for harness racing. This is supposed to be where our income comes from, but since we are in Illinois, there is not much money to be made with them right now, so yearling prices have dropped significantly.
The main guy is also in the mindset that if we have more broodmares, they have more babies and therefor we have a better chance of getting a really good one. In my opinion we should only have 5-10 really really good broodmares, not 50.
So what I'm dealing with is a hard situation and my main goal is to cut down hay costs, improve the feeding program and therefor have healthier mares, stallions and foals.
The foals are weaned at about 4-5 months old and put together in a pasture and separated by sex. I like the idea of having a few mares in with them to teach them manners!! We do a very good job of keeping them in line, but I think I will try your idea.
As far as putting the overweight mares in a less grassy lot.... all of the pastures are not hardly grassy at all. They keep the grass mowed down to less than and inch, and I know that is not good for them at all as it is mostly straight sugar... hence the idea of a dirt lot for them.
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post #4 of 23 Old 09-25-2013, 08:21 PM
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It's been a common practice for overweight horses to be put on dirt lots for the time needed to keep their weight down/lose some. You could put them on dirt for a week, say, then back on the "sugar grass" for a week, & I doubt that it'd be stressful for them. Having water placed so that they must exercise to get to it is also a fine idea.

Sounds like you've got common sense, so you'll do the right things.
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post #5 of 23 Old 09-25-2013, 08:31 PM
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I am confused. I thought you said you were feeding them hay because lack of grass. If they are wasting hay give them less. You are on a budget but overfeeding? Every horse is 300-400 pds over weight. So lots of statements that seem odd. I would not fry lot 1 week and then pasture 1 week. That could cause colic/ founder if there is grass. Be constant, give them a bit less hay. I would be curious to see photos as I am wondering if the 300-400 pds is accurate.
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post #6 of 23 Old 09-26-2013, 08:09 AM Thread Starter
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Well to give you an idea... the mares that ARE obese look about 9-10 months pregnant. And are not pregnant. And I also did NOT say that EVERY horse was obese, I said the ones that are, are 3-400 lbs overweight. I'm sorry you think my statements are false? I've worked here for 3 years, under our manager who has no clue what she is doing. We feed large 1000 lb bales. So how can you feed less?? Hence my idea of putting nibble nets over the hay and moving the hay as far away from the water as possible. This is a large scale operation and we don't have the man power or the money to feed them all individually. I work every day and am on call everyday for emergencies. There is one other girl here at the farm with me and a couple of students who work 4-5 hours per week. It's a lot of stress for one person and I want to make it easier on all of us as well as cut costs drastically. I will take pictures for you so you can see I'm not just randomly making their weights up. We have a livestock scale they have to walk across during breeding. I am taking over the position and have to deal with what has been done for the last 5 years and make changes to bring the farm out of debt and make the horses healthy again, which is why I asked for help. But thank you for the rude remark churumbeque. I am also a masters student doing research on equine nutrition at this farm. So I am extremely busy and so is everyone else there. Whatever we do it has to be feasible for just a few students to be able to accomplish everything in a few hours each day.
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post #7 of 23 Old 09-26-2013, 08:22 AM
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I just brought home an overweight donkey w/my new horse. She is a dainty eater, so how she got so lumpy-I don't know. I am going to take her out w/me when I ride the mare & see if that helps. It may be more difficult to lose the poundage, than to put it on! That's how it works for us! I wish us both success.
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post #8 of 23 Old 09-26-2013, 08:36 AM
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I must have had a senior moment: churumbeque is right that one shouldn't abruptly alternate a horse weekly on dry lot then grass! Best to build up to increasingly long periods of time: 2-3 hours on the grass to start, & have them satisfied with hay beforehand so that they don't pig out on the sugary grass. To have the fatties lose weight, they should just stay off grass for an extended period, maybe mixed in with a bit of hand-grazing. Sorry about that!

Also, have you heard of grazing muzzles?
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Last edited by Northern; 09-26-2013 at 08:38 AM.
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post #9 of 23 Old 09-26-2013, 08:36 AM
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I didn't say false I said confusing
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post #10 of 23 Old 09-26-2013, 04:29 PM Thread Starter
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These are pictures of how their hay is presented to them now and what they do with it.
IMAG0193.jpg

IMAG0192.jpg

IMAG0191.jpg
Yes I have heard of grazing muzzles, but to buy as many as we would need would be quite costly. Plus if we are using the Nibble Nets over the large bales, a grazing muzzle on top of it would make it quite hard to get the hay I would imagine? I'm hoping with the girls that are just a little overweight switching from straight alfalfa to mixed/mostly grass hay will help them cut down their weight? Since it's more fibrous than alfalfa and the nets will also make them slow down their eating. Right now its just being replaced as soon as they eat most of it.
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