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Best feed program to manage a barn with mixed needs?

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  • Best feed program to manage a barn with mixed needs?

    I think the wonderful world of COTH can help me here with some of their personal experiences.

    I am trying to decide how to to manage feed for my new small barn. All are full time working horses, but with different personalities and ages. I want to be able to meet the needs of every horse without keeping 12 different feeds on hand. I want the horses to look fabulous and the boarders to be happy.

    What seems to be typical here at most boarding barns is they offer a 'complete feed' pellet and oats +/- beat pulp. Some people also top dress a loose mineral that the boarder would provide, most boarding barns don't offer this as part of their included feeed. Ration balancers are uncommom but Masterfeeds makes one called VTM20 which I have access too. We live in a Se defficient area.

    My first inclination is to have a ration balancer, oats, beat pulp and flax available. Horses who need the energy/calories can get RB plus more oats/flax, air ferns/ones that don't do well on oats can get the RB and beat pulp/flax for some extra fibre/calories. I am thinking of a RB instead of a regular 'complete feed' since I thought it might be better for the ones who need less calories, and would avoid the step of adding a loose mineral to everyone's feed. Some of the complete feeds have to be fed in pretty high quantities to get adequate mineral coverage so I think on the generic complete feed program some of them are likely not getting all the minerals they should.

    Alternatively, I could get one or two formulas of a high-end complete feed that seems more nutritionally balanced and feed it as a complete ration, adjusting quantities/type according to personalities/workload.

    What have you had success with for best results, ease of management and cost effectiveness when feeding a barn of mixed needs horses?

    I have access to Masterfeeds, Cavalor (I don't see how this could be cost effective) and the Step Right feeds. I can also get Purina and a few other american feeds but the feed store told me they take over 8 weeks to get and I worry about freshness.


    Maybe I'm overcomplicating things.....mine have always done fine on the oats/cf/+ bp.

  • #2
    I manage a barn with a very wide range of needs. I keep everyone in excellent weight and only provide two commercial feeds: a ration balancer and Fibergized Omega (both made by Pennfield).

    My fatties or laid up horses for the most part ONLY get the RB (most get about a pound, but I have had a few big guys who I gave a pound and a half). My very hard working or harder keepers get straight Fibergized. My in-betweeners get a couple of pounds of Fibergized plus a pound of the RB to meet their nutritional needs. Owners provide supplements, I provide good quality hay. Everyone looks terrific and it is a VERY simple feeding program that meets everyone's needs with little extra fuss.

    Prior to this barn, I did a similar program (also using Pennfield products), but also offered an inbetween feed for the horses who needed more than just an RB but who didn't need the super high fat. This program I have now is easier and cheaper.

    My clients do have the option of providing their OWN feed, but it doesn't happen often, especially since I already provide very high quality feeds.
    Amanda

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Thank you yellowbritches. That is exactly the kind of experience I am looking for. I am going to look at the analysis for the Omega to see how it compares to what I have available.
      I know some of the boarders coming currently feed their horses oats + cheap 'complete feed', which is cheap, so good for me in a way, but I don't think their mineral needs are being met and I am feeding my own horses too in the process and want to keep the bins of feed to a minimum.

      Comment


      • #4
        I have worked 4 training barns (ranging in size from 24 horses to a training and breeding farm with nearly 100 horses) and managed a smaller private barn. At every place Purina Strategy was/is fed as the primary feed, with Equine Senior available for the senior horses or horses who need complete feed. At some of the places some of the other Purina products were used when appropriate (Ultium, Strategy Healthy Edge, and Equine Senior Active Healthy Edge).

        There are a lot of Purina "haters" out there, but when it comes to feeding a variety of horses and keeping it simple Strategy works so well.

        Comment


        • #5
          Just remember that the more different products and amounts you have to measure out will mean greater room for human error and greater time it will take to feed no matter who is feeding. Having 4 different foodstuffs (ration balancer, oats, beat pulp and flax) that may be fed in different amounts to each horse in the barn may make it so only you can feed the horses correctly. And if most of the horses end up being fed the proportion of each foodstuff (just perhaps some horses more or less in total depending on size and work load) you will still have more labor involved in scooping everything out and I wonder wether it would be cheaper than just feeding a quality complete feed.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Renae, I totally agree about the room for error. I am definitely leaning towards a higher end complete feed and a ration balancer for the air ferns so they get minerals.
            I think it will be hard to wean the beat pulp fans off of it but I am going to explain to my boarders the rational to whatever I chose and hope that they will see the results in their horses' condition.
            Thanks for the feedback.

            Comment


            • #7
              If I had to manage multiple horses with various calorie needs, and was trying to watch the budget, the only way to do that is to have a RB for the easy keepers, and then a regular fortified feed for the others.

              You can, of course, manage higher calorie needs with a RB + "stuff", but that nearly always ends up being more $, and often quite a bit more $$, than if you were feeding comparable calories from a fortified feed.
              ______________________________
              The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

              Comment


              • #8
                If you can get them in your area, Tribute feeds are awesome. They have a RB and several different pelleted feeds that would meet your needs. I'd probably pick 3 of their feeds. The RB for the air ferns, Kalm n Ez for the middle of the road guys and Kalm Ultra for the harder keepers/older horses. Everyone at my barn does really well on one of the three. It's very easy to feed.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Back when I thought I could make a living riding horses, I did a year long fellowship at a 70+ horse stable. All the horses, from large ponies to huge warmbloods, fatties and skinnies were on a beet pulp/flax diet with barley added in if the calories were needed. We'd soak enough BP overnight in a wheelbarrow and wheel it down the aisles along with 5 gallon bucket of soaked flax.

                  The fatties would get 1 qt BP with 1 heaping 1/4 cup soaked flaxseed 2x per day. The largest horses might be up to 2 qts BP, 1/4 flax, and up to 1.5 qt barley. If they needed more, they would get a lunch feeding. Very few needed a lunch. They fed free choice minerals and really didnt supplement at all unless it was a joint supplement or supplements that the owner insisted their horse needed. All the horses were healthy and shiny. Colics were extremely rare. They also had really great hay.

                  Even the fatties did really well on this. The only horses who were skinny were the ones the students brought in. After a few weeks, they looked a lot better.

                  If I ever have a farm of my own, Id like to give this a try.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I have a similar situation. Instead of a ration balancer which most of my horses react to the soy in it, I use alfalfa pellets/supplement alone for the majority of my horses. I keep that as my "base" and then I add what is needed from there. I will give oats with the alf. pellets to the young stock that need help with weight while growing, beet pulp/alf. pellets to seniors, and add more fat in the form of oil or rice bran if needed. Most of my adult horses simply get alf. pellets..about 1-2 lbs a day and a good supplement. I have one boarder who gets about half a scoop of senior in his to flavor his mash.

                    All the horses have dapples and all are in a good weight and it costs a fraction of using a processed feed. Alf. pellets here are about $15.50 a bag, local oats are $8.50, beet pulp around $16 a bag and that lasts a lot longer. Last time I bought senior (Purina) it was over $20/bag. I shudder to think what a ration balancer must cost these days.

                    I should also add that I feed a top quality NY grown orchard/timothy/clover hay...they all get plenty of that...and I think that his the most important thing. My hay comes from the same farmer and I've run the analysis on it so I know what supplements work to balance it. I'm lucky to have a good source of hay but I bring it in by the tractor trailer load. It's worth it as I can still save money over buying locally grown hays or from dealers.

                    I will say that I am predominantly feeding smaller breed horses now. In the past, I had a couple of large breed horses that needed some lysine/protein supplements for lactation. I've crunched this program down to the minerals and milligrams in a spreadsheet and it works for nearly everyone. With my hay, the RB did not balance the minerals so you can't just feed that and figure it's enough or it's working.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by winter View Post
                      Thank you yellowbritches. That is exactly the kind of experience I am looking for. I am going to look at the analysis for the Omega to see how it compares to what I have available.
                      I know some of the boarders coming currently feed their horses oats + cheap 'complete feed', which is cheap, so good for me in a way, but I don't think their mineral needs are being met and I am feeding my own horses too in the process and want to keep the bins of feed to a minimum.
                      When you compare, also look at just the straight Fibergized. They are very, very similar (basically the same). The Omega has more fat (I think), but they are otherwise the same.

                      If I were to set up from scratch (this feeding program was adjusted from what was already established), I would have scoops for each grain that measured out a pound (or half pound) of whatever product I was measuring, to further simplify the process and eliminate discrepancies with other feeders even more. Right now *I* know what 2lbs or 2/3 a scoop looks like, but I know the other people who occasionally feed don't quite see it the same as I. Just something to consider if you are starting from scratch.
                      Amanda

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Will feeding just a RB provide a horse with the correct balance of vitamins and minerals?

                        I worry that it would not be balanced and then adding another multi vitamin/mineral supplement will contribute to further imbalance. Thoughts?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          All I have to say, is that I am a little jealous! I have been boarding in California for 25 years – different barns, ranging from private back yard places, to full training at very nice facilities, to huge 100+ horse complexes – and none – NONE of them every provided “grain” or concentrates – those were always up to the boarder (or maybe trainer at a fee) to provide. They did however provide feed room space for your own grain.

                          The barns around here provide basic level of hay (or some places – cubes or pellets instead) and any additional is up to you. Currently I am buying alfalfa hay so my horse can get more hay, and a ration balancer – which I pay of out of pocket on top of board.
                          APPSOLUTE CHOCKLATE - Photo by Kathy Colman

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Mouse&Bay View Post
                            Will feeding just a RB provide a horse with the correct balance of vitamins and minerals?

                            I worry that it would not be balanced and then adding another multi vitamin/mineral supplement will contribute to further imbalance. Thoughts?
                            No, not necessarily. the only way to know if it "balances" the diet is to analyze your hay/forage and see what needs to be corrected. In my case, the RB did not balance to my hay.

                            Yes, adding another supplement without knowing what is off is just hit and miss...might help or might hurt.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mouse&Bay View Post
                              Will feeding just a RB provide a horse with the correct balance of vitamins and minerals?

                              I worry that it would not be balanced and then adding another multi vitamin/mineral supplement will contribute to further imbalance. Thoughts?
                              Define "balanced"

                              Ration/diet balancers are designed specifically to be the sole/major source of nutrients beyond the forage in the diet. Because they are fairly generic in their makeup, they can't possibly 100% balance everything for every horse's diet because of the wildly varying forage quality. But in general, they are making up for deficiencies that are most likely to be low in grass (for the grass balancers) or alfalfa (for the alf balancers) diets.

                              A given horse, or a given area, might need more tweaking

                              Because they generally provide the recommended ratios of the vitamins and minerals, they're not going to unbalance anything, really. They might make something a bit high, or even leave something a bit low, but it's unlikely you'll unbalance what the forage is providing.

                              The same would be for adding another v/m - wouldn't unbalance, as the ratios are generally correct, but you'd just be adding MORE. But regardless of that, you don't want to be adding a full v/m supplement to a full serving of a ration balancer for that very reason - potential OD on some things.
                              ______________________________
                              The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                If your horse grazes you will never achieve 'balance.' It is a myth. Unless you are willing to follow him and clip a sample of every thing he eats, you will never know.

                                If he is dry lotted and eats the same hay every day you can achieve 'balance' for that-but then you need to know which balance? NRC? Dr Kellon? Another source?

                                And finally horses have been eating for years and years without having access to ration balancers to 'balance' the diet.

                                Oh post final question-do you balance you minerals daily? Zinc and copper? Magnesium?

                                How about for your dogs? Outside cats? How many mice do you factor in?

                                think about it.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Thanks for all the responses, I totally agree LHM, you're never going to really know exactly what they have or are getting... a lot of horses do just fine on hay and a salk block and seem no worse for wear without 'balanced diet'.

                                  I am going to meet with a rep from a local feed company. They do make a performance mix similar to fibergized which sounds nice but I wonder about the hotter mares on that. It would be nice just to scoop that out to everyone in varrying quantities. I'm not %100 sold on the high calorie mixes but a lot of people seem to use them now compared to the old "12% pellet" with a bunch of oats and oil or flax added..... It has 13%protein, 10%fat and 10% starch

                                  I'm also going to look into their high fat pellet and their ration balancer to be fed with oats and/or beet pulp but that kind of defeats the purpose of making feeding simple. I do think it would be a good option for the high octane ones, for them to get low cal nutrients.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Daydream Believer View Post
                                    I have a similar situation. Instead of a ration balancer which most of my horses react to the soy in it, I use alfalfa pellets/supplement alone for the majority of my horses. I keep that as my "base" and then I add what is needed from there. I will give oats with the alf. pellets to the young stock that need help with weight while growing, beet pulp/alf. pellets to seniors, and add more fat in the form of oil or rice bran if needed. Most of my adult horses simply get alf. pellets..about 1-2 lbs a day and a good supplement. I have one boarder who gets about half a scoop of senior in his to flavor his mash.
                                    I would suggest something similar to this...

                                    I would offer two 'base feeds'-alfalfa pellets and beet pulp (just in case someone goes snorty over alfalfa pellets)-OR you could use beet pulp alone as a base.

                                    From there offer your calorie or energy mix-oats for energy, rice bran for fat.

                                    If you have a really hard worker (and you are not terrified of feeding GMO soy-I personally won't touch it but am in the minority on this forum....but I digress)...anyway you could feed the hard worker a ration balancer.

                                    Easy workers could get a smaller dose mineral mix to make everyone (owners) sleep better at night.

                                    I have done all ways-balance to NRC, balance to Kellon, feed a bagged RB, feed a mineral supplement alone, etc.

                                    Honestly there was never a huge increase in health doing any of them and more often than not heavy excess minerals would show up in the hooves in ways I don't like to see....again I will be the minority in this...BUT my horses are barefoot and I actually ride them and work them so I am quite sensitive to noticing how what goes in shows up over gravel.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by winter View Post
                                      I am going to meet with a rep from a local feed company. They do make a performance mix similar to fibergized which sounds nice but I wonder about the hotter mares on that. It would be nice just to scoop that out to everyone in varrying quantities. I'm not %100 sold on the high calorie mixes but a lot of people seem to use them now compared to the old "12% pellet" with a bunch of oats and oil or flax added..... It has 13%protein, 10%fat and 10% starch
                                      If it is similar to Fibergized (ie, a beet pulp based feed low in starch, high in fat and fiber), then it should not make anyone hot (especially if the NSC is 10%!). High fat is the best way to get calories into a horse without making them hot, versus something like oats. There's a reason they are so popular, and it's because people can keep weight on their horses without turning them in idiots.

                                      Good luck in your search!
                                      Amanda

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        How savvy and informed are the owners in your barn, generally? It's hard to please everyone, but opening a line of communication can be a good idea. Why not send a letter to boarders with some sort of poll or questionnaire to see what their main goals and concerns are regarding feed? Let them know you want to respond to the needs of the horses as best you can without having a full "a la carte" selection of 15 different products on hand. Maybe offer some basic choices and provide the relevant nutritional information and see what people seem most inclined to prefer.

                                        My barn where I board my competing horses (I keep some at home, some there) does this now and then. They use all Tribute feeds and have a decent selection, but whenever new options or products come out they ask for input from boarders as to whether or not the choices should be changed. Recently they offered a RB with glucosamine/chondroitin added (that was voted down) and a new vit/mineral add-on for easier keepers not getting full amounts of other feeds (which was accepted). I love democracy!

                                        As to what to have on hand, I'm a huge fan of ration balancers and think they can be the backbone of a majority of feeding situations. A higher-calorie option and perhaps a more "metabolically friendly" or easy keeper option might also be good to offer. Personally I don't care that much for beet pulp since it's messy and doesn't offer that much more than hay, nutritionally. I like oats for hard working horses, but their needs can also be met without them more often than not.

                                        It really depends on the population of horses in your barn--a barn full of Morgans and draft crosses is going to need a different selection than a barn full of lean, hard upper level eventers.
                                        Click here before you buy.

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