feeding free choice grain

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feeding free choice grain

Post by Sunny Admin on Sat Feb 20, 2010 4:25 pm

Hi Doc,
I am a friend of one of your editors and she was telling me about a discussion she was having where the horse owner said they fed free-choice grain. I can't imagine doing that, but this person swore by it. The logic behind it was to purchase a low-quality grain, and then let the horse feed freely throughout the day. The grain, being low-quiality, did not overdo the nutrition requirements of each horse because they were snacking on it round-the-clock. The owner then fed just minimal hay. Apparently these horses were in stellar condition and not a one of them ever colicked. She said that they initially gained weight but then didn't take long to self-regulate. It's interesting to me, but I'm unwilling to try something like that as I have about 10 horses and with my luck they'd all colic at the same time. What do you think about all of this?

Nikki
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Re: feeding free choice grain

Post by Dr. Daniel Pike on Sat Feb 20, 2010 6:27 pm

Nikki: Thanks for the good question, and I apologize for the delay in responding! In general, I do not recommend feeding freechoice feedstuffs (grain). Typically, these feeds are lower quality and thus less digestable. What we need to realize is the difference in feeds that are high in fiber and roughage content (like most Senior feeds) and those that are poorly digestable....these are not the same thing. Like I said, feeds that are fed free choice should be high in roughage content, but should still be highly digestable. If this is the case these feeds will be more expensive. Bottom line: dont use feeds with low digestability. These are usually the lower priced feeds. Talk to your local distributor for more information regarding digestability/roughage content of the feeds they sell. The problem with feed that have lower digestablility are more likeley to cause problems such as colic, change in normal GI bacgterial flora and changes in the horse's 'metabolic' health. It is still usually most economical and most beneficial to feed horses a large portion of good quality hay/pasture and supplemental concentrate to maintain a healthy horse.
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