Just the other day I received the following via e-mail and thought it brought up a few topics that need commenting:
Now THIS is annoying.
I took my horse to the vet last week, and found myself in a conversation about a supplement I should put my horse on. Normal horse forage should take care of every horse nutritional need, and I know all about depletion of our topsoil and even human food not providing what we need, but the horse supplement industry is full of a dizzying array of claims about what to feed our horses. In my lifetime I have seen the quality of hay deteriorate drastically. But I make a point of getting the best I can.
I have friends who swear by a certain supplement, and when I look at their hay, the hay is crap. No wonder the horse does better with the supplement.
I still get sucked into driving long distances to get “the best quality hay”, only to find the same stuff I get in my own area.
I am aware of all the pressures on hay dealers right now, but I do get annoyed with feed store personnel who insist that the hay they have is “great”! I now do business with a small feed store that fesses up about the quality of their hay.
With only one horse, I’m not too concerned about the price of hay. $35 for a bale of timothy I can handle, but when I have to throw about half of the bale out, I am annoyed.
Am I going to get this supplement? Of course! I get sucked in again and again. But it is annoying.
- Hay testing is an underutilized resource that doesn’t break the bank and yet can save gobs of money down the road. How simple it is to know exactly what is lacking in your horse’s forage, therefore only needing to supplement that which is deficient. And in most cases you don’t even need an overinflated priced ‘equine’ supplement. There are no statistics on how much it costs an owner in healthcare for a horse that doesn’t have a balanced diet, but I think most of us know of several examples of horses that have suffered because of a poor diet. Junk in equals junk out and no horse can perform and remain healthy and sound on junk. At some point it catches up to all.
- Farming isn’t easy and it’s not for the stupid. Unfortunately, like any industry, farming isn’t immune to individuals who suck at what they do. To be able to produce healthy, nutritious crops year after year takes knowledge, hard work, AND some weather luck. The first two we are at the mercy of others so must do due diligence, but the last… Raise your hand if your region has been bombarded by unusual weather patterns over the last decade or so that have affected forage crops and increased the costs that you’ve had to endure.
- The premium price gouging by the ‘Equine Supplement Industry’ – do they really deserve the capitalization, Mercedes? – is a crime on par with the government taxing me up the wazoo and then cutting funding to the social programs that money was intended for (and that they told me it was for) so they can indiscriminately spend it on useless…deep breath… Okay, it’s not the same, but I still want to hurt somebody.
- I hope that’s one big ass bale of hay for $35.
- Do I understand correctly that your vet talked you into the supplement? Before or after the blood results? And what’s the vet’s margin on that supplement?
- I’m annoyed too, and frankly I’ve never been able to forgive Rick for riding that horse into the city and getting it eaten by zombies. What the hell was he thinking?!
Thanks to pallas broy for sending her thoughts on this recent experience and allowing me to put them up on Hooves for others to comment. Remember: email@example.com
That had better be one F’ing huge bale of hay for that $$. I certainly hope we are talking about a roundbale and not a square! My hay is a bit under $.10 a pound and I feed 10-15 lbs twice a day per horse. I buy 1st and 2nd cutting from the same fields, unfertilized orchard grass / clover mix. It’s fine, green and readily consumed. We sold some to a friend of mine who had it tested for about a dozen parameters. We were shocked to find 2nd cutting at 14.5% protein, 3.5% fat. No wonder they were keeping easy. First cutting was in the 8% protein range wtih just under 2% fat, both with very good digestible energy and low carbs/sugars. That said, there is a BIG difference between these 2 cuttings out of the same fields which will greatly affect the quanitity of grain/supplements fed. Hisory taught me this but until I read the quality results, I’d never had expected such a difference between the cuttings. It is absolutely worth the money to have hay tested and should be standard for horses receiving no grain. Our fields are also very low in Selenium but the grain, for our area, provides the appropriate balance.
Blondemare, a round bale weighs much more (ours are coming in at 1200 lbs on average). We had to partner up with a friend and buy a semi load out of state and each bale costs around $180. I am hoping he is talking about a large square, if that is the case then $35 is reasonable. I am thinking we should get our hay tested. I knew there was a differnce in 1st and 2nd cutting but I didn’t realize it was such a big differnce!
Roundbales around me are selling for around $45-$50 so there must be a difference in the sizes. I’m not set up for them otherwise I could definitely consider it! I like thinking of hay in $$ per pound, it helps me visualize because we obviously have our hay baled by very different equipment.
I also never imagined such a difference in nutrients between the cuttings either! I was quite shocked at how nutritional the 2nd cut was. I’d be curious to hear if others have the same results!
This year we are paying $75 for an 800 lb square bale. Large rounds *used to* go in the $35 range: hay is scarce this year so I imagine they are twice that or more. Small squares – when you can find them – are going for at least twice or triple their ‘traditional’ price.
There is definitely a difference in the sizes of round bales. Also in weight – loose core, tight core and so on! Some producers will do ‘half bales’ (meaning half the capacity of their equipment) as well.
Any farmer (especially dairy!) will tell you each cut is higher in protein than the previous. Alfalfa can go well into the 20’s percentage-wise in subsequent cuts. It is not the protein that puts weight on, anyway, unless you are feeding broodmares or rescuing.
Keep in mind that timothy really only gives one cut and the proportion of other grasses and legumes (if present) will then be higher in later cuts: so as the mix changes, so will the analysis.
It has actually been a while since I had to buy my own hay since my horse is not on my own property at this time, but when I did I only bought hay from people who had it tested and could show me the paperwork. Surprisingly, in my area there are quite a few people who test, although I only bought from one in particular. I also have fed my old guy (29 years young) a senior supplement recommended by my vet for about eight years, as well as soaked alfalfa cubes. He has had trouble keeping weight on, but since I started feeding the alfalfa we have had no problems. One more example of an old horse who is in great body condition and continues to be sound for light work with the proper care.
Amy, can I ask what supplement you feed to your senior horse? I am having problems keeping weight on my senior and he receives free choice hay and a senior feed.
Try adding alfalfa cubes to his diet in place of some of the hay. If his teeth are at all wavy or worn from age, he probably isn’t chewing well enough for the hay to be beneficial. Start at 1-2 qts morning and night and soak for 30 minutes prior to feeding. It’s about $15 for 50# at Tractor Supply and their brand is consistent in quality. I used them 100% for hay replacement on a senior horse and he never lost a pound and loved the cubes.
I feed him the TDI senior supplement. They have one that is apple flavored that he thinks is yummy. I give him two scoops of soaked alfalfa cubes in the morning and at night along with his senior feed which is just the purina stuff. I get all of it at Tractor Supply. Also I have found that it helps A LOT in cold weather if I keep a blanket on him when he’s turned out. He needs his teeth floated about every other year.
Thank you for your advice blondemare and Amy. I will try adding the soaked alfalfa cubes and the TDI senior supplement to the hay and senior feed. I think you are right and he isn’t chewing well enough for the hay to be beneficial. I did get his teeth floated in January and I think it helped but it did not solve the problem.
Definatly agree on the alfalfa cubes (My oldster is 37 and has virtually no molars) and I also give rice bran and a probiotic. I feed 2 to 4 pounds a day (Depending on the time of year) of a low carb pellet but haven’t used supplements. There are definatly a lot of choices out there for the seniors so you just have to figure out what suits your horse.
Sometimes there isn’t enough tooth base to work with. The float will take off sharp edges but upper/lower alignment is nil. Nice thing about the cubes is that they provide plenty of fiber that should keep digestion functioning properly. You really can’t overfeed them once the horse is acclimated. Good luck.
Amy, get your geldings blood count done. I struggled for a couple of years trying to keep weight on my older mare. I finally called the vet out and she took blood and called to let me know that Abby was anemic. She told me that I would never get weight on her until her blood count came up. Started giving her an iron supplement and it did the job. I use Omega Alpha Hemex. I am in Canada but I know that in the U.S. there are some good supplements that were not available up here. I had been feeding this mare free choice hay, beet pulp, Integrit-y and a fat supplement as well and nothing worked until she was on the supplement. It can be very frustrating trying to get weight on. (wish I had the same problem with my body, hehe).
Sorry, that should have been addressed to Country Rayne.
Thank you. I will talk to the vet about this.
Just as well that owner isn’t in the UK. I bulk buy and sell hay and haylage and it’s a heck of a lot dearer than that!
I have my land tested and my hay and haylage tested. I trade with another farmer a little further away because he and I have different composition.
Here our weather is unpredictable – snow in Spring! and for the past year we’ve had rain, rain and more rain and that’s not unusual and so there’s a national inability to produce sufficient hay and hence there’s a lot of haylage produced for horses and sileage for cattle etc.
As the demands on farming increases and with pressure to produce such as renewable energy and crops for oil the price of hay and other grain products will rise further. Then we have pressure on land in general and with less land being used as grazing and hay producing land. All adds up to “higher price” and potential for “reduced quality”
Horse owners need to be aware of this and they need to ensure they can make provision now and IF they’re concerned they can’t they need to be darned certain not to get more horses because the one they’ve got is going to be a lot dearer to keep.
It is definitely worth it to have your hay tested AND weigh it when you feed. It is easy for us to use a $20 spring scale because we feed in haynets so we know they get their 2% bodyweight ration. We also weigh a few bales whenever we get a load to make sure they are consistent. We have bought from three different places in the past 6 months and they have ranged from $4 for a 40 lb bale, $7 for a 50 lb bale and our current supplier of $5.50 for a 55 lb bale. I can’t believe I ever attempted to feed in “flakes” after looking at the range of weights in those flakes. From 2.5-5 lbs per “flake!”
The UK had a real glut of hay this year- hay in my region was going for around $3.00 a small bale ( 48-50lbs…ish…do not know about big bales as I do not use them) All the hay came in at one time and we were knee deep in it!! I do not use supplements of any kind, per se- I use hay, my own mix and grass cubes and beet pulp. To this I add various oils- primarily Rice Bran Oil – and ground cooked flax (linseed) I never weigh hay, they get free choice, completely, I keep the feeders filled and they “graze” it.
I make my own hay, although I do buy in a few small bales for the picky ones, they have not, this year, been of the same standard as my own, so I am not buying any more!!
I am currently keeping a 34 year old stallion with no teeth left (you should get your old boys teeth checked if you have not already done so- even to the the point of X-rays) in good weight, on soaked grass pellets, beet pulp pellets , and the mix I use made into a porridge in the microwave, then blended and stirred into the BP and GP- to start with I put them separately in the bucket til he got used to the idea. He is doing well so far!
I have often wondered about feeding beet pulp. I will have to keep it in mind. I was wondering if I should get a second opinion on his teeth, they were floated in January but his senior feed still falls out of his mouth.
if feed is falling out of his mouth, it doesn’t sound like enough was done to the teeth. my old guy not only had the sharp points, but the actual grinding surfaces were wavy and did not make contact along the mouth. the equine dentist had to resurface untill he could feel contact all along the back teeth, and also had to rebalance the front teeth by grinding down. Some vets don’t have a lot of dental training, so you might want to get a second opinion from someone who specializes in equine dentistry.
Beet pulp is definatly a good choice. I just completed an equine nutrition course and the lecturer felt that it was a vastly under-rated feed. Easily digested, low in sugars and with good usable proteins. I’ve used it for years and find it particularly good for any kind of hard keeper.
I have yet to find a horse that will eat beet pulp. I have 6 in the barn that will stick up their noses at it (warm and wet on a cold winter night) and I find most of it frozen in the feeders the next morning. I opt for alfalfa cubes for mashes – they love those.
Hmmmm – well if they won’t eat it there’s not much point in using it! I haven’t had that problem however – I don’t use it straight though. I mix it with rice bran and pellets and when I have needed to stimulate an appetite, used apple juice to soak it.
Second opinion definately, but also be aware that sometimes neurologic on muscular problems like EPM can cause a horse to have trouble chewing and drop feed.
You what!? By heck I’ve read some crap from you but that takes the biscuit.
I sometimes wonder where the heck in the UK you are. Now I wonder what planet!
Do you think it would be asking too much that you just keep your crap comments to yourself? If my comments annoy you so much, here is an idea- do not read them. Simples. I live in the North London area- there is a GLUT of hay- farmers who stored it thinking they would get a good price are giving it away. NO idea where you live to get such weird ideas, but since you deal in hay you would try and push the idea that there is a shortage, now wouldn’t you? Straw was a little short in my area but it is back to normal now. I cannot help it if you just permanently have urine in your cornflakes, but it would definitely be a complete pleasure to me if you could stop trolling !
Are you going to tell the farmers guardian to stop trolling or shall I just stop reading it?
Couple of things you said that are rarer than sparkly unicorns.
1. Glut of farmers in north London!
2. Farmers giving hay away for free!
Makes for a good story.
Perhaps those farmers who have enjoyed a glut may arrange to donate their excess hay to those who seem to be in difficulties? When such circumstances arise, it has been done in Canada, where (presumably) the distances are greater. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to me” to do some good at little expense.
Dairymen often have hay tested but for the average horse owner, if you showed them hay that had some brown or yellow in it but tested at just what their horse needed they would most likely buy the super green super high protein hay that their horse will just pee out the protein that they paid so much money for to begin with.
I was very surprised in my large animal nutrition classes that horses can digest and utilize stemmy brown hay much better than cattle can. As long as it isn’t moldy they can get more of the nutrients out of it and sometimes it is better for them as well
My husband and myself are truck drivers. Last winter we hauled large squares of alfalfa hay to Kansas from Alberta. The hay was selling for $65 in Alberta, delivered, and would sell for $220 in Kansas. The guy we took it to was making alfalfa cubes out of it. We have also hauled for hay producers from the U.S. that have rented fields in Saskatchewan to grow alfalfa. Hopefully it will be a better year for hay. I only feed 1st cut to our horses, free choice and I went to see the fields before it was cut. I am lucky to know the farmer personally and he grows a mixture of timothy, brome and a bit of alfalfa. We pay about $4.50 a bale, delivered. We also give a vitamin, mineral supplement to our horses. We just bought a hobby farm last year so we still have to get of pastures done. If our horses were on pasture I would not give the vitamins.
“I’m annoyed too, and frankly I’ve never been able to forgive Rick for riding that horse into the city and getting it eaten by zombies. What the hell was he thinking?!” Ditto.
Finally! Someone addressing the most important point in this article.
What is the important point?
What is the most important point in this article?
Marking to the gullible?
Go on, give us a clue 😉
This is the ramblings of a mad”person”.
exactly, it was both unforgiveable to keep riding the horse into a mess, and totally unbelievable, no self respecting horse would have plowed into the middle of dead smelling moving things and then stand there to be taken down. I almost stopped watching at that point.
Oh I didn’t miss it I just only now got down this far in the comments- never could work out WHY they ate the horse- they go for humans, I thought, not animals??
You mean, like carrying us into war? No, clearly a horse would never do that.
there is a difference between a trained war horse and a horse you just happen to find at a farm one afternoon, but more importantly, the humans on a battle field generally stay in the dead or living category, not putrid decaying variety still up and walking around. Further, war horses don’t tend to stand still when attacked and isn’t that the theory behind the initial high school airs, battle manuevers?. An untrained horse, as I think we have all experienced, tends to move first and ask questions later.
I’m confused about who said what in this post.
Just nod and agree. It’s the only reason I let you stay.
This was a great read, love all the comments too! I didn’t buy my hay this year, the BO did, but I would be curious to see what testing would show.
I’d be a lot more curious and concerned to know if they eat it and if they remain in good condition… but hay-ho, it takes all sorts.
People really over-think their horses’ diets. We know now that we can forgo all this hay testing altogether, and feed entirely kelp.
Don’t they just! I’ve a customer who is a Director for a huge animal feed corporation and he says they don’t sell animal feed to animals, they sell it to people and marketing hype is therefore targeted at people to get sales.
I do test hay but it’s really to ensure I know what I need to do to my land in terms of ensuring it’s got the right stuff on it and also so I need to know if I need to feed anything else – feed I mean – NOT supplements.
Testing doesn’t tell you if your hay is full of mould spores, ragwort, clover and other toxic plant matter though so it’s probably a good idea to still get off your butt and go see it in situ and check out what’s growing there. .
Skulking around the field won’t do a bit of good if looking for mold spores. Mold is everywhere, usually in small amounts that aren’t a danger when hay is properly dried and stored. BUT, take those few spores, pack the hay tight into a semi trailer in the heat of July and va va va voom – they multiply like rabbits in the dark, hot box. I speak specifically of zearalenone, an evil mycotoxin with estrogenic effects. Usually found in bulk feeds (grains) yet can grow under perfect circumstances in hay. (of course I was perfect) Mares abort, yearlings make milk…it’s a sneaky spore, couldn’t be seen, no white poof in the bales. The geldings were unimpressed by it, the mares, however, paid the price. I lost the colt I’d been hoping for after 6 years and 3 fillies and my vet was stumped. The only change had been the hay….sent a sample out and learned another chapter in life. The hay looked and smelled fine.
I’m so sorry this happened to you, rotten luck and no real way you could have avoided it- just one of those things you learn the hard way, I’m afraid. We could do a whole blog on “Things I have learned by them happening just ONCE to me”
Thanks Kirri. Just when I think there’s little left to learn, something new pops up. I’ve owned horses for 30+ years and still learning. My vet jokes that I have some of the strangest issues (like the hay and aborted foal), the mare with the cervical scar tissue discovered the hard way, the face cut from a kick that was ‘breathing’ through the sinus. Sigh. Horses are a sick addiction and there isn’t a patch to kick it.
Whatever happened to feed grain to animals that are being used regularly to supplement the hay. Most pasture pets don’t need grain but a good quality hay to keep them at a good weight. If the horse doesn’t eat the hay either buy better quality hay or don’t feed as much. If they eat all of the hay and are fat, cut back on the hay.
So what do you suggest if you have a horse that eats as much quality hay as he wants and does not hold his weight? What do you do in the winter when the grass in the pasture loses its nutrients? There is a reason why horses are living to older ages, they are being taken care of in a different manner than they where 40 years ago. I think your statement is overly simplified.
I live in the city, and depend on feed stores for hay. Inquiries about getting hay tested are laughed off. Even though I think it would be in the store owners best interest to do it, they could then recommend supplements to compliment the hay. Hay is purchased from every which way, and they will not tell me their suppliers. $35 was for a 112 lb. bale. It has now come down to $25.
Hay is a natural food. If you just toss it over the fence the horse will most likely eat only what’s palatable, but I live in a sand box, and must use a feeder. I carefully inspect all the hay that I use, I have found:
Mold inside of a flake of an otherwise decent bale
WOW!! A Rabbit? Dead, I am presuming? I have found mice, and mouse nests and once a cat I had lost some time before- which was one HELL of a shock, she was perfectly mummified- but that hay was made on my own fields, so anything in it was my responsibility. I do walk my fields as I have three outcrops of ragwort that i just cannot get rid of (believe me, short of blowing them up with nitro nothing seems to work and I have been on this land for 40 years now) and I need to be 100% sure it does not get into the hay.
You blow up your ragwort with Nitro? How fun!
I would if I thought it would work!
I find snakes, plastic bottles, and once, horribly, an entire fawn folded up and packed right in.
Here is a question for those of you using round bales. I never have as the farmers here don’t put them up and I’m not set up for it anyway. I have heard that its not good to feed them to horses because they hold a lot of dusts and molds, especially if they stand out uncovered. Also, horses tend to eat by ‘tunneling’ in and makes for the concentration of the dust and molds. Is that something you consider? Just my curiosity at the moment but you never know…
Made my own hard core rounds for 10 years. No issues. You can’t be in a hurry to bale it, it must be dry. I store indoors and often ‘unroll’ it.
My farm feeds round bales, and we’ve never had any trouble. We vaccinate for botulism, just in case, though.
zanhar, you are not missing anything! I find their size to be very inconvenient for a number of reasons.
Yes, good large bales are just good hay. Improperly prepared and/or stored, the large bales easily can be trash.
I have a fat on air gelding, even though he’s getting to his senior years (18 in the spring), and a pudgy-prone mare. We feed round bales of grass hay, provided by the farm, who source it from the same farmer every year. We also vaccinate for botulism, just in case. We don’t grain them with sweet feed, either. They get one pound of ration balancer (Hallway Feed’s mare cubes). The senior gelding gets MSM, the mare gets just feed. Both are healthy and energetic, and the mare even dapples!
Interesting subject. We feed the small square bales which run from our hay dealer $7.50. Our state is into about it’s fifth year of severe drought. We buy from the same hay deal two miles down the road when at all possible. 1st or 2nd cutting alfalfa, barn stored and feed horses and exotic sheep. Only pregnant mares and pregnant sheep get any form of grain unless it is sreally cold for long periods. I have my own grain mix prepared by the ton, when $$$ available which will last three to four months.40-42 sacks per order. I know exactly what is in the mix having worked in a feed mill many years ago and have an anayisis for reference from two different years. There is no molassess/sweet adatives and the mix is safe for both the horses and the exotic sheep (who cannot have copper adatives). Feed mill manager and I agreed on my formula after we tried it several ways in 1998-1999 and came up with the last formula change in 2005. Failing the $$$ for a full ton we use dehy alfafa 3/16 inch when we need extra feed support. The large 115-125 bales come from southern California or Arizona and run anywhere from 17.00 to 25.00 per bale. We only use those when our dealer runs out. If we had space for pasture, believe me we would not be feeding hay and very little supplmental grain.
I do not like any form of round bales for exactly the reasons given above. They were used a lot in Wyoming on the horse ranches I worked on a teenager many years ago.
Yes, grain and and all the “feed mixes” are another part of the dizzying array of choices out there. Not that I’m putting them down, on the contrary, I am very happy with what I am using. But hoo4hearted said that the marketing hype is targeted to us, the owners, and that sounds about right to me.
Ahhh, but that is why I sat down and designed my own mix. We have had very good luck with the formula especially after we took the sweet feed component, ie: molassesses out of the equasion. We use soy or sunflower oil to hold the mix together and stop the dust and have red bran as a major component. I seldom if ever have colic on this mix and the horses stay nice and fat and sleek. Actuallt I can’t remember when we last had a colic, so must be doing something correctly.
I do realize that not everyone has rhe ablity to design their own feed mix, let alone find a mill that will produce it. We as mentioned earlier buy all of our hay, but use the same dealer who grows what he sells, again not everyone may have that luxury either.
Studining what you horse really needs, taking the time and figuring what your use or intention for those horses makes for a really concerned knowledgble owner.
I make my own mix and I do not use a mill to do it as I do not use enough to qualify- I would not buy enough bags of it so it is not worth their while. I buy in the components of the mix and use a clean, very old and quite tiny, cement mixer! It was bought so long ago I cannot remember and came as either an electric or motor driven model- I got the motor one. It is the kind of thing people who are building their own extension buy then throw away at the end, as I said, tiny, but it does my job fantastically. I use oil, too, I am not sure why commercial companies use molasses- maybe taste + cheapness?? I don’t use bran at all nowadays, but I always feed chaff (chopped hay) and the feeds are always wet, and I can claim a pretty good track record with colic too (although that is tempting fate)
Love the cement mixer idea. I have seen some of the small types, that would be lots of fun…. I used to mix my formula by hand, but my asthma got really silly and we went to the feed company. One ton = 40-42 sacks, we then dump them into 50 gallon barrels with lids, but not air tight. Some sacks sit on top till we get to them, but a mouse problem is not our problem as we have barn cats which we also feed, but they eat anything that moves: mice, squirles, lizards, that sort of thing. have not had a rodent problem in years.
As someone mentioned we do find unusual things in the hay bales, usually cow piles and barbed wire and trash. No rabbets, so far….