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Thinking about not feeding grain anymore...

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  • Thinking about not feeding grain anymore...

    So this has been on my mind for quite some time. I want to get away from feeding grain and just move to a forage diet and give supplements to ensure nutritional values are being met. However, my situation is a bit difficult because my horses still need to gain weight after being starved by my former BO last year.
    I have one horse who chokes and has ulcers, one who is not an easy keeper (somebody needs to breed an easy keeping thoroughbred with appy feet!), and my lunatic youngster I posted about in Off Course.
    Each of my guys currently gets grain 2xs a day and basically free choice hay throughout the day in the field and a hay net in their stalls overnight. Our vet has cleared them all to begin working again as now they are finally growing hoof again and have enough fat on their back to comfortably hold a saddle and rider for short periods with sufficient padding.
    I have talked to my vet and he is very pro-grain, pro-Purina grain in fact. I currently feed Sentinel feeds and have been happy with the results. It's been a slow trial and error process but over the past 8 months they have definitely improved. But now I'm starting to see that it's time to do something more or different because they have kind of plateaued. I realize that I won't see the weight gain as much now since they are in better shape but I do think it's time to take things to a different level.
    I haven't made a decision just yet as I want to do the best thing for my guys. I knew it was going to be a very slow process but my instinct says that we have gotten what we needed out of Sentinel now it's time to progress to something better.
    My 3 boys are finicky even after being starved. Not one of them will touch anything when oil has been added (kinda glad because that was messy!) and no one likes beet pulp in any form. I tried the pellets, the shreds even ground some in a coffee grinder and added it to the feed. I got the "are you kidding me?!" looks from all 3 every time we tried to feed it. I guess beet pulp smells or tastes distinct because not one of them will touch it no matter what brand or form I use. I do add a weight gainer to their feed which I think has been helping. But they will not touch the beet pulp or oil. They do have mineral licks available at all times but no one really touches them, even the flavored or just plain salt licks but the salt is there if they need it.
    I have switched feeds and tried SafeChoice and Strategy but wasn't happy with the results. 2 of the boys started eating trees on the Strategy so we went back to Sentinel. I'm in an area where feed choices are limited which is also a driving force behind me considering this. I can get supplements online whereas I have to drive pretty far to get the Sentinel so I'm thinking accessibility and costs as well as nutritional value.
    I just started to research this just this morning ad I figured I would post in here because I know that there are some very knowledgeable people on here who can steer me in the right direction for advice. I would definitely like to find a nutritionist who is not backed by a feed company but I think that is going to be hard. All of the ones I have worked with before have all been backed by a feed company.
    Ultimately, I want to do what's right for my boys and feed them what they need. I'm wondering if there is a better nutritional solution for my money.
    Please let me know what your experience is with a mostly forage diet that is supplemented with something other than bulk grain. I saw a link for feedXl (I think) somewhere that I am going to look into and try to find a nutritionist but I would like to hear some feedback from other CoThers as well.
    Thanks so much!

  • #2
    What's your reason for wanting to get away from a commercial "grain" product? They aren't all bad Some contain very little actual grains, there are so many nice lower sugar ones that are high in calories, just nice products all around.

    You CAN get out of that, but you're going to be spending more $$ making up your own in the majority of cases. By the time you start with a v/m supplement, then add 4-5-6 pounds of alf pellets or beet pulp or rice bran or whatever, maybe some extra lysine if you're not using alfalfa added selenium if you need that, copper if you need that, etc, it's more than just feeding 5lb of, say, Triple Crown Complete.

    So what's your real goal?
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


    • #3
      I want to do what's right for my boys and feed them what they need.
      This can be accomplished in MANY ways, including using "grain" as required. It's possible to keep horses on "forage only" (as long as you're providing for all the extras) but if they're very thin it can be a hard row to hoe.

      So, what is MOST important to you? Avoiding grain at all costs? Why, exactly? (not challenging, just asking for clarity--always helps me!) Are you more interested in forage only for the horse's sake as it's more physiologically "natural"? If so, what kind of hay do you have available? Do all of your horses have similar needs? Have they had definite problems with certain feeds?

      There are SO MANY ways to feed a horse well. Grab a good book on horse feeding and see what your options are. Talk to a nutritionist--why not? Just leave your wallet at home. And sites like FeedXL give you a chance to plug in what you are feeding or would like to feed to see if it would meet the needs of the average horse.

      In the end, though, you don't have to choose ONE particular way to feed. Just have the basics and a clear idea of your goals in mind, start with great hay, and add on as needed.
      Click here before you buy.


      • #4
        OP is feeding 5 qts 2x day to the horse mentioned in the other thread. A few posters had mentioned reducing the grain ration as part of cooling down this horse.
        >I have been considering taking the boys off grain completely. In fact, I'm going to post about this under Horse Care ( Uh-oh think I may be getting addicted to the posting on COTH lol) but I really don't like my horses on grain. I'm a vet tech and have seen far too many issues that could have been avoided because of feeding grain but my vet wanted them on grain after getting starved so here we are. I have backed down his grain from 5q 2xs a day down to 3q 2xs a day. He hasn't noticed because I have upped his hay. When he is TO, they get hay throughout the day as we don't have much grass yet out there.<
        Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
        Incredible Invisible


        • #5
          How have you tried feeding the beet pulp? Dry? Soaked and in a soup? Just wondering because some horses hate soupy mixes, you might be better off soaking it longer and letting it soak up all the moisture so it's a soft mashy type consistency rather than soup.


          • #6
            I'm confused as to what you're asking. You want to stop giving grain to horses that need weight? And they're already on free choice hay? Good luck with that.

            Honestly, I don't get the whole "let's not feed grain because it isn't natural" idea. Also, what issues have you seen from feeding grain? Just curious.

            I dont see a way you could provide your hard keeping/needs weight horses with enough calories on just forage. You're going to end up with starving horses again.

            How much grain are you feeding each horse, which sentential feeds are you using? What BCS score does each horse have? Have you wormed, checked teeth, pulled blood etc to make sure there is no medical reason for this plateau? You might have to bump up the grain or add a fat supplement.

            What kind of product(s) are you potentially looking for, some sort of highly concentrated feed? Vit/min supplement? Forage product for weight gain?
            come what may

            Rest in peace great mare, 1987-2013


            • #7
              "I'm a vet tech and have seen far too many issues that could have been avoided because of feeding grain"

              What issues? What was the grain involved?

              Issues only arise when that feed is in appropriate for that horse. TC Complete is too high in sugars for IR horses, but totally appropriate for some hard working horses, for example. Seeing "issues" doesn't automatically mean all types of grain products are bad.
              The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


              • Original Poster

                Thanks for the responses bear with me...I'm in the barn on my phone trying to respond. Most everyone asked why am I considering this and the truth is that in dealing with my own health issues, it got me even more concerned over the nutrition my horses are getting since we are still battling weight. I do prefer my horses to be more natural, ie out moving more than being stalled, eating more hay and grass than grain. Plus adding the ongoing problems of choke and ulcers to the heartache of them being starved, I'm basically wondering if I could be doing better.
                IME, having seen my own horse choke, and worked on others that colic, founder, and have seen all sorts of food related aggression and behavioral issues because of feeding too much grain, it just made me wonder if there is a better way to get the necessities into my guys without the grain, especially if I can give the necessary nutrients in a smaller amount. I read somewhere on CoTH that an owner had gotten her horse down to 2 cups a day. While I dont remember the entire situation it would be nice to be able to pack in everything they need into a smaller portion and still get results. But I don't know if that could even be done at this point.
                I'm just exploring options to see what I can be doing better for them. I want my beautiful boys back to being 4's and 5's and not the 2's and 3 that they currently are. I feel awful still about what they went through and as I said before, in looking at my own nutrition it has me looking into theirs. I want all of us to be healthier so thats my motivation.


                • #9
                  I'd say once their weight is up in a healthy range your options would expand dramatically. For now, high levels of nutrition, even in the form of concentrates, would seem to me the lesser of two evils.
                  Click here before you buy.


                  • #10
                    But what is "too much grain", and what is the grain?

                    You can create a horse who is a monster at feeding time by allowing bad behavior over "just" beet pulp and alfalfa pellets. Food aggression is not about what the food it, it's about manners.

                    Foundering horses with grain does not mean all grains are bad. But you can't feed a pony 10lb of grain and keep him on grass and not work him and expect him to be happy and sound.

                    Too much grain for the situation is a problem - not the grain itself (in most cases).

                    Feeding grains too high in sugar is a problem - feeding grains in and of itself is not the problem.

                    So again, you need to define "grain" in these cases, and how much for what situation. Remember too there are people involved, so behavioral issues are much more likely to come from them, not what they are being fed. That said, grains too high in sugars can cause behavioral issues, just like feeding lots of candy to little kids and wondering why they misbehave in school. But again, that is a problem the type of grain, combined with how much is fed, combined with the horse's particular metabolic issues, not of "grain", generically, in general
                    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Chachie View Post
                      IME, having seen my own horse choke, and worked on others that colic, founder, and have seen all sorts of food related aggression and behavioral issues because of feeding too much grain,
                      Feeding too much grain for the horse is bad. Feeding just enough is not. Underweight horses will need more calories than forage alone can supply. With a history of choke, soaking pelleted grain and feeding in a pan on the ground are management options to reduce risk. Colic and founder are not usually caused by excessive daily intake (sudden changes/increases yes, but not the high grain rations of horses needing calories). Behavioral issues surrounding feed are usually environmental rather than being caused by the type of feed. Ulcers can be treated with drugs and feed changes. Until your horses are a healthy weight, I would focus on a balanced diet rather than looking at ways to cut out concentrates.