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

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 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Re: Alarming increase in intake with Free Choice Feeding

Hi Jody,

That is excellent news about their weight! And only 18 lbs of weight gain for one of your horses is not of major significance. So in spite of the higher calorie hay, and the increased consumption, they are keeping tabs on their weight. This is what I mean -- when they self-regulate and the stress component is gone, they no longer hold on to body fat. When stressed by an empty stomach, the cortisol that is released actually prevents them from burning body fat.

And an added bonus -- eating actually stimulates the metabolic rate, making them burn their calories faster than before!

So, from what you told me, I am not terribly concerned about the higher digestible energy level. There is not much you can do about it, unless you can "dilute" it with another lower calorie hay.

If at all possible, when the hay becomes available in July, see if you can test it ahead of time. That way, you won't end up buying a large batch that may not be appropriate for your horses.

You are doing an excellent job. I am very proud of your patience and perseverance -- it does pay off.

Best to you,

Dr. Getty
Author of Feed Your Horse Like A Horse

Thank you for your response Dr. Getty.

The only thing that I can identify from your recommendations that we are not in compliance with is that the DE on the hay is 1.15Mcal/lb. If there is absolutely no chance to replace the hay with anything less calorically dense, what can we do? We have enough of this hay to last until first cutting in July and my husband has just lost his job so I can not afford to replace it.

More details: The hay nets don't seem to bother the horses. They have become used to them over time and don't get agitated when getting hay out. I put out about 8 bags for 4 horses and I spread them all over their dry lot paddock which is about the size of two standard size arenas. I also feed a very small amount of soaked, rinsed beet pulp with minerals to balance the hay analysis. I custom mix the minerals but they get plenty of magnesium, vitamin E and fresh ground flax. They do not get any grain or other concentrates. I believe the kids slip a few Forage First horse cookies but that only amounts to about 2 a week. All the horses get out for moderate exercise about twice a week.

I re-weighed the horses and the most surprising thing was that in-spite of the enormous intake (still at just under 4% of their body weight today) the ONLY horse that has gained any weight is the severely IR gelding who has only gained 18#. All the other horses have stayed at exactly their baseline weight.

So I guess the bottom line is that I obviously have a DE issue. I am just not sure how to proceed in that knowledge.

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO