Sunday, October 26, 2008

feeding the "whole" herd

A few trims ago, our natural hoofcare trimmer recommended I head over to Pete Ramey's website to read THIS article, as he knows I'm constantly trying to learn more about feet and keeping them healthy.

As a result of reading the article, and then following up by talking to more folks who steep themselves in hoof/whole horse knowledge, I signed up for an online course in equine nutrition with Dr. Eleanor Kellon.

The course, NRC Plus, was already full, but she allowed me to audit the class beginning in November, and then I will be a full class member for credit in the February section. In effect, I'll get to go through the material twice, which sounds good to me!

Our trimmer, Pete Ramey, and Dr. Kellon all strongly recommend getting pasture and hay analyses done while taking the class, so that the numbers and percentages are actually relevant ones to your horses. THIS is a good place to get that done at a reasonable cost.

Pete recommends a few places to go to for custom supplementation (if needed) once you have all the data and want to add in only and exactly what your horses need based on the feed/hay/pasture analyses done in the class, and applied to the individual needs of your horses. I wasn't surprised to see Horsetech listed. Rod and his staff have been enormously helpful to me over the past year and a half, making custom blends for me based on the changing needs of my herd.

I'm very excited about Dr. Kellon's classes, and learning how to feed my horses with confidence based in knowledge.

Right now they are off all processed feeds, and looking wonderful on a combination of soaked beet pulp pellets and whole oats, with a good salt blend mixed in. I tried alfalfa pellets but they wouldn't touch them - and come to find out, that particular brand of pellets has "feed grade animal fat" added in for "palatability." I need to find some alfalfa pellets that are pure alfalfa next trip to the feed store.

Salina also gets rice bran, and the two big geldings get black oil sunflower seeds. They all rotate through several vit/min mixes during the course of the year. I've also started giving probiotics after deworming.

I think I'm doing a decent job but I'd like to get it better, using more real data. I've started to see how powerful it is to be able to customize the tubs for each of my horses, and I'm so excited I wanted to share the links in case any of you horse folk readers have interest.

It's my answer to the "ignorance is bliss" conundrum I posted about a few weeks ago. Hopefully Dr. Kellon can help me synthesize all this data into a good, organized plan.


Rising Rainbow said...

Feed is such a complicated issue. I wish you luck.

billie said...

well, thank you! maybe I'm overly confident, but I feel like I can manage it, esp. with the class info.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I think taking the classes will be a big help. You've inspired me to check and see if there is something like that in our area. Feed is such an important issue to ensure healthy happy horses.

billie said...

I feel it's particularly important when we're feeding horses things they would never eat on their own volition. And we limit their "range" by fencing them in and offering them lush or limited grass.

It's taken me awhile to get to this point with the horses. We have always fed the dogs a combination of raw and dog food we make here at home, and I've wanted to get to that point with the horses for several years now.

Cats are more complex and I haven't leapt into that yet, but I was tempted to when all the pet food stuff was happening last year.

the7msn said...

This is great information, Billie. Thanks. I've always wanted to have my hay and pasture tested and you've pointed me in the right direction.

billie said...

Glad to be of help, Linda. I was very excited to find all the links needed on Pete Ramey's site when I first read his article.

AnnL said...

Yes, definately good info. An area I need to learn alot more. Do you have every batch of hay tested? How do you know that the hay from each delivery is the same nutritionally? This is where I get all confused.

And, I dislike feed that has "supplements" in it. It's never enough, if it's something your horse needs, and it makes it difficult to figure out how much more to give.

I feed the cats and dogs an all human grade, all natural food--Wellness. So, the pet food scare from last year didn't worry me.

billie said...

Ann, I think the hay testing would be easiest and most consistent for folks who buy their entire year's hay from one grower,from the same cutting.

The testing for hay and pasture is something that will need to be done every year to stay accurate, but the cost is not huge, and the local ag office will do a certain level of testing for free here.

We actually buy (except for last year, when he ran out b/c of the drought) our hay from someone who grows organic hay mixes. Since our storage capacity is limited, we don't buy up for the year, and this year he's only got round bales anyway, so we can only haul one at a time. We're going through one big round bale about every 2.5 weeks right now, forking it from the bale, not setting it out and letting them have at it.

What we're doing is rotating through the different mixes he has, which I think is better than feeding the same one all the time - but from the testing standpoint it makes it tricky.

I may ask if he will pull a sample from each of the mixes for me - and send that in. The other possibility is that he already has the numbers on his hay. He raises certified organic beef so he tracks these things for his own purposes too.

I agree with you about the supplements in the processed feed. The problem I had was that my easy keepers will never eat the recommended amount of feed, so they would never get the rec. daily % of supplementation in the feed anyway, and as you note, the only way to add or subtract from those percentages is to up or down the amt. of feed.

So I supplemented with my own mix horse by horse, but still never really knew how much they were getting from the feed itself.

One pleasant surprise from my efforts thus far: the feed bill has gone way down for us, even with the supplementation. Once I get my numbers, I suspect the supplementation cost will decrease too b/c I am almost certain I'm offering things they are getting from the pasture and the hay.

We feed the EVO to our cats, so I wasn't too stressed - but after reading so much about various companies using the same mills I did consider trying to do the cats' food using whole ingredients.