Dramatic drop in hay consumption normal for spring?
We made it through our first winter. And what a winter. Hellaciously cold temperatures and record snow. My old mare and her mini buddy were eating 40 + lbs of tim/alf hay almost daily, and often supplemented with soaked tim/alf cubes on top of that.
But, they made it through in good weight, good health, right as rain (living out with a garage turned shelter)
But since the temps have warmed up they're barely eating their hay. It took me a few days to realize it (I switch up feeding spots, and sometimes feed behind a tree line) but they just weren't eating the hay all up. We've gone from easily 2 20lb bales a day to maybe 3/4 of one bale. No more soaked cubes.
Is this normal? Temps are dramatically warmer - from -30 c just a couple of weeks ago to + 10c today. They seem fine enough.
I'm letting them clean up what's out there before putting out more.
Are they eating grass? My horses stop eating hay when the grass comes up (which is happening now in NC with good Winter Rye).
I figure that horses who are in good health know what they need, so I would not worry. But if they start eating tree bark or fencing they are telling you that they do not have enough fiber in their diet.
Yeah, what LH says. Are they out on a field with grass? ANY grass?
We sure don't have anything actually growing here in MN as far as I can tell, but the horses have cut their hay consumption by probably 2/3rds or so since the snow melted and they can get to the ground. They are out there grazing on something whenever I look out.
Barring a new load of hay that perhaps they're not liking, or a few "off" bales, I'd be inclined to go with Abbie's idea of they just don't need the high calorie load with warmer temps.
If it makes you feel any better (probably not, since you still have a ton of snow) spring is coming. We got to 60 degrees this week and had a huge melt. A VERY welcome melt. (Even if everything is now mud. 60 degrees! Weeeee!)
oh god I am DREADING the mud. Dreading it. I'm already having anxiety wondering what it will look like when the snow is gone!
You made me realize that part of my concern is the fact that we just picked up another load of hay and this new hay reticence coincides with the tail end of the last load and the start of this load. But, it's the same hay, same grower, same wagon, he just stores it for us and we pick it up monthly. So it should still be the same good hay they've been eating all winter, just a bit older.
Ah well, I won't worry. They seem to eventually eat the piles. The old mare is shiny enough under all the shedding hair. The mini is a wooly mammoth but in good weight - not too fat, which is good for a mini.
Now I dream of locking down the barn and 2 acres from our neighbouring farmer... so if everything is a mud pit at least it's further from the house!
How long have they been on the new hay? Even if it's from the same guy and looks great, it's DIFFERENT (OMG DIFFERENT) and ... well, horses. You know.
Give it a week--maybe 10 days?--for them to realize the old hay isn't coming back. We just recently (within the last month) got a new load in, too. Horses were like "what is this crap?" for maybe 5 days and really cut back, but before the snow melted, they were back up to roughly previous consumption. It just took some time for them to get on board with the new stuff. They're less cool with changes in hay now that they're home, I think...at the boarding barn hay changes were not infrequent due to the amount the barn had to feed and the amount they could store. Now, we buy a load and we're good on that same load for months. They get acclimated and stubborn.
Nice that it's warmer, and I'm sure that the temps are playing into it too. Less stress than when it's cold and you KNOW they need as much forage as possible just to generate body heat and not die.
I would keep supplementing with the soaked alfalfa cubes until you are sure they are eating enough of the new hay. It is hard to know if there is something different about that lot of hay. Sometimes, it has a little mold or some toxic weeds or just doesn't taste good.
When the day's high temperature is below 20F, most horses will eat pretty near anything you throw out there and eat it fast. The priority is processing roughage to stay warm, quality of the roughage counting for little.
But pop it up into the 50's, and let a whiff of green sprouting grass get in the air, and all of a sudden we're picky-picky-picky and leaving everything that doesn't taste like Haagen-Dazs. I don't throw it out there and let them mulch it; I cut them back and let them get a tad hungry (cleaning it all up in a reasonable time)
and thereby keep the ration proportional with the relative demand. Good hay costs too much to waste!
A couple of complicating factors can be what's available late-season (tends to be lower quality, the fancy stuff being bought up first) and the preference of nearly any horse for fresh, new grass over dried forage. This latter can be a real PITA when you're dealing with pastured horses who'll WALK AWAY from hay in favor of spraining their lips for a quarter-inch of the green and drop weight as a result. This can be "the" challenging time of year for hard keepers for that reason. If that starts happening, entice with your cubes, alfalfa pellets, whatever it takes.
There is a definite change in the quantity of hay consumed when the weather finally crawls above 35, after endless teens and 20's. Grass, or what's left of it, is still at least two weeks thaw away. Much as I want to see bare ground,as ugly as it will be now. I would prefer a gradual thaw to floods.
I would though cut back hay allowance a bit.
Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.
Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.
Thanks all It's hard not to be a bit paranoid that I'll be the one to kill the old girl after so many years of boarding barns.
I have really dropped what I was putting out and I noticed they cleaned up a good chunk of what was out there. While there's definitely not a hint of grass to be had they seem to be in grazing mode, which isn't such a bad thing. The old mare is a hard keeper but she's looking ok so far.
Remember that without the cold, they don't have to consume the same calories to stay warm. It would be normal for them to reduce their intake, as they don't need to keep firing the furnace.
My guys (22/16/15/7) are all eating less this past week, with the temps hovering just above freezing.
And yes... once the snow melts and they get a little taste of grass, they will not want their hay.
Mine go out on the grass very gradually, starting in late April. One hour a day for a few days, then two hours, etc. And the ponies are muzzled.