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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

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Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

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 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Roughage & Beet Pulp

I'm hoping you can help me understand a bit more about feeding the easy-keeper. I'm caring for a Haflinger. Their breed's FAQ says to feed 10-12lbs twice daily, meaning a TOTAL of 10-12lbs daily! How can their digestive system stay healthy with so little roughage? Someone mentioned that in their origins in the Alps they didn't get much roughage, so do they just need less in their belly? I'm one of those who always thought that horses were meant to graze all day, to keep their digestive system working and to avoid gut-disasters like ulcers or bacteria imbalances (producing colic), etc. I've always tried to keep hay available free-choice so my horses can munch throughout the day, or grazing on pasture. The thought of only feeding a dry-lot horse 1 or 2 flakes in 12 hours, instead of free-choice, seems to be courting digestive problems, or at the least, boredom and fence chewing. I'm feeding her 3-4 times a day now, but wonder if people feed oat straw or something else so they can munch all day long? or at least relieve the boredom of dry-lot. (None of our local suppliers have oat straw, so I'd be open to other ideas!) I've got her on a fairly low protein grass hay, but fear my pasture may turn her into a blimp. For now, she's entertaining herself by calling to the herd, who come and visit several times during the day, but I don't know how long they'll continue providing her with distractions.

I'm also wondering about beet pulp. From what I've read, it helps extract more nutrients from the hay that's being fed, so I've been curious as to why people feed it to their easy-keepers? mainly to combat IR (insulin-resistance)? or is it mainly for a palatable base for adding vitamins or medicines?

Thanks in advance for all your help!!

Where are you from? Centralia, Washington

How did you locate this forum? referred from the Haflinger discussion group

Re: Roughage & Beet Pulp

Hi Sharyn,

You are 100% correct! Your mare needs to be able to graze 24/7 in order to keep her digestive system healthy. And, the crazy thing is, that if you stress her by keeping her isolated and without something to nibble on, she will actually hold on to more body fat! This is due to the release of cortisol, a hormone that promotes body fat storage.

So, if you're going to cut back on anything, it would be on any starchy feeds. You didn't mention if you're feeding her any oats, sweet feeds, etc., but if you are, totally eliminate those from her diet. And, let her graze. The hay needs to be nutritious - so don't worry about the protein level. Grass hay is typically low in protein.

Beet pulp is an excellent source of calories for the horse that needs more in order to do work. It is a safe feed source, unlike too much grain.

Don't go with straw -- it is not only low in nutrients, but can cause choke. Instead, let her be a horse and graze. You should also provide her with a small amount of alfalfa pellets in order to improve the quality of the protein in her hay. This will allow her to use the protein to make body tissues, instead of being burned for energy or even stored as fat.

A good overall vitamin/mineral supplement is important (such as Accel). And, if she starts to put on fat deposits on her crest, rump, back, etc., then consider adding a magnesium supplement, as well, such as Quiessence.

I hope this is helpful. You're on the right track -- go with what you know to be correct.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO