Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Draft Animal Power › Animal Health › Underweight Belgian
- May 29, 2017 at 9:52 pm #90429
Our old mare is underweight. Her teeth are pretty worn, but she’s still eating more hay and grass than she drops.
This winter I gave her free choice second cut hay plus the Empower Boost supplement by Nutrena and crimped oats twice a day. Boost is advertised as a ration balancer with added fat from rice bran for horses on a hay/pasture based diet. She was a bit skinnier than I would have liked going into winter, but maintained what weight she had almost all winter. Now she is looking pretty skinny again, and I’m trying to figure out what to do for her. 2 weeks ago, we increased her ration of Boost to 3 lbs per day and started soaking her 4 qts of crimped oats. On days she is working, she gets another 1-2 qts of oats. Our pasture is rather poor– although we have enough acreage to provide more grass than our very small herd can eat, the soils are pretty depleted so I’m guessing we have some nutritional deficiencies. When she isn’t in harness, she has free access to the pasture (rotating paddocks once or twice a week).
I’m guessing that her lice flared up in the early spring, plus her workload increased manyfold as of late April. A few weeks ago I treated her for lice with pemethrin. Every time I do that, she seems pretty low energy for a couple days– the poison must make her feel awful. I checked her for lice again today, and didn’t find any. But the blackflies are out, and she’s choosing to stand in the barn all day and only graze at night. I’ve started keeping hay in front of her in the barn so she doesn’t have to choose between the flies and food.
What recommendations do people have for supplementing an old horse to bring her weight back up?
Also, given our depleted soils, does anyone have thoughts/recommendations on multivitamins? We just got a younger teammate for the old mare. Aside from being besotted with her, he is in great shape. I want to keep him that way, and am thinking a mulitvitamin might be a good idea until we bring our soils up to snuff. Any thoughts?May 30, 2017 at 10:57 am #90430
You mentioned her teeth, but do you have a good equine dentist checking them regularly? It can make a big difference. Many vets will do teeth, but a good dentist that focuses on teeth alone can make a big difference, even after the vet has worked on them.
Soaking oats is a good move, they can process them so much better especially if you let them soak for at least 12 hours. The Nordell’s kept an older mare on sprouted grains, it takes more steps to sprout grain, but if you have the time you could make a better resource of your oats for her, sprouted grains offer some more readily available nutrition compared to plain oat seed. Also good call on giving her a high fat feed and hay in the barn, some horses will also not go out for water. We had a pond in the pasture, but found they drank so much more when we offered water next their shed in the summer, they would only got out for water once in a while and ran back to the shed, their urine was dark and they didn’t recover from work as well as they do now with a constant supply of fresh clean water next to the shed. What is her water situation like.
Vitamins and minerals is a tough subject, there is a lot of garbage on the market for multi-vitamins and there is a division between tailoring your ration for the horse and letting the horse choose its own. If you go for a multi-vitamin/min go with something bio-available/chelated, it costs more but they get more out of it and they need less of it. The other route is to feed free choice minerals in the barn. Some of the things that we offer our horses is white salt, 2 different Calcium and Phosphorous mixes (1:1, 2:1), copper, sulfur and their favorite, Kelp meal. When they have the right minerals, they can make the right vitamins in their body. Kelp has lots of different trace minerals and they eat more of it in the summer. Our horses have never looked better now that we feed free choice minerals, their coats are shiny and their skin is healthy, they live off of air and the black horses are black now, not brown. We feel that supplementing this way give them the opportunity to take what they need and since all of our feed is home grown, we also give them a set amount of Vit E/Selenium and Boitin daily.
Sounds like you have a good of how she is doing. I hope you find something that helps her a bit more.
ErikaMay 30, 2017 at 5:05 pm #90431Donn HewesKeymaster
I think Erika’s ideas above are like mine would be; but I want to hear more about the new horse. What did you get? Where did you find it? DonnMay 30, 2017 at 11:05 pm #90432
The new horse is Billy. Blue Star asked me if I knew of anyone looking for a good single horse (retired from the Philly carriage line). I remembered that Liz was looking for a single so I connected the 2, and they hit it off well. He is a flashy smaller spotted draft, that has worked on the streets and an Amish farm. I look forward to hearing how he is doing with Liz.May 31, 2017 at 10:30 pm #90433
Thanks for the advice, Erika. It’s helpful to hear. We’re fortunate to have a good dentist to work with– he just did her teeth in late winter. I was encouraged when he came because he thought her body condition looked good– which is partly why I was caught off guard when she started dropping weight in early spring. She does have water in the barn.
What is your setup for minerals like? Do you have a fancy mineral feeder, or just a collection of small troughs screwed onto the wall? We’ve been interested in feeding out free choice minerals, but we’ve gotten really intimidated by the upfront cost of some of the mineral feeder setups we found online and in catalogues. Where do you buy the minerals– does your local feed store carry them or do you have to order them online?
As for Billy, he is doing great. He is very close in size to Annie, and very flashy, as Erika said. Its been fun having such a different personality added to the mix– unlike Annie, he is a lover boy. He’s a little anxious, but also seems to be able to settle down well. He’s been really good in harness. So far he’s just done a lot of disk harrowing, both with Annie and single. And one day, when the black flies were driving Annie so insane one day that she was actually agitated, he really stepped up to the plate. It was awesome to see him take on being the steady horse even though it was probably only the third or fourth time I hitched him. I don’t think he’s ever been on an implement without a pole or shafts, so I’m eager (and a bit anxious) to introduce that. I have an area that really needs to be plowed again, so hopefully I’ll put the team on the walking plow pretty soon. I’m trying to decide if I should let him drag a tire first (because it seems difficult to get hurt with, but also a little too light and bouncy for settling a horse down), or go straight to the plow because it is substantial enough to be difficult to back up over. He’s a lot happier working alongside Annie, and really takes cues from her, so teaming them up on the plow seems like it might be a good way to go. Any suggestions?
LizzyJune 2, 2017 at 12:49 pm #90434NTroutParticipant
Lizzy, we feed a broad range of horses a grain mix of either rolled oats, or spelt with crimped barley and alfalfa pellet to round out the protein. For those that need more we feed the same Nutrena Empower Boost product you do. We also top off the harder keepers/workers with ground flax meal for the added Omega 3 & 6 beneficial fats.
We’ve had good luck feeding minerals from Advanced Biological Concepts for 20+ years: http://www.abcplus.biz/
All our horses get a daily scoop of the ABC vitamin E and Selenium combo and the “Fortified” product. We used to feed this company’s free choice mineral system with 4-6 wall mounted feeders in every stall, but it became burdensome given our number of horses. The Fortified product is a daily pellet that incorporates the minerals we were feeding free-choice. There are a few different versions of the pellet allowing you to tailor the blend.
This is an added cost, for sure (including shipping), but we find a good supplement program rounds out a solid forage program and, like Erika, helps the horses to bloom. White salt and water included.
NickJune 2, 2017 at 12:52 pm #90435
I don’t have a pic of our mineral feeder, but it is a hardwood box with 6 compartments each large enough to hold a 50 salt block. we have a thin rubber mat over the sloped top and the horses have to flip it up to get at the mineral. We left it off for a couple dry days and they figured it out quick when they wanted more kelp meal.
We get our 1:1, 2:1 and best price for kelp at Oregan Ag in Litiz, PA. A friend picks it up for us. Our Cu Mix and Su Mix is from Lancaster Ag, I believe they have a truck that goes to Maine once a month. When we run out of the $42 a bag kelp, our local feed store does keep it in stock for $48 a bag, given most of it comes from Maine and a lot of small organic farms us it, you should be able to find it near you. Lancaster Ag also has some other mineral mixes, but we get what we feel we need.
Our Biotin, Se and Vit E come from where ever we find them at a good price, but generally I stock up when I am in PA or FL.
Just to show how important the free choice minerals are we did an unintentional experiment. We put our mares on a multi mineral and vitamin mix made for pregnant/lactating mares, made by draft horse folks. Before they had their foals, they also has access to the mineral feeder in the group paddock. After they had their foals we didn’t turn them out with the group, but vowed to fix the feeder that my oxen broke. Well we didn’t fix it for a few weeks and the mares just lost their pre-pregnancy glow (literally shine even when filthy). Two weeks ago we noticed the foals licking dirt and the walls of the shed so we finally fixed the second feeder and gave it to the mares and foals. They hit it hard and 2 weeks later they just look better and have that amazing shine again even when filthy, and the foals still mouth things but lick minerals instead of the shed walls. I can’t wait to see how they look when they shed out their fuzzy baby coats.
ErikaJune 6, 2017 at 6:53 pm #90441
Thanks! This is very helpful.
About the Cu-Mix and the S-Mix from Lancaster Ag (or ABCplus.biz, they sell the same ones): I noticed that it is a mix with a lot of ingredients, including alfalfa meal and a whole host of herbs. All of these various ingredients must add a lot of flavor– how does that work with the free choice concept?
For starters, I am planning on buying:
SE Top Choice Mix (to be given as limited daily ration to the horse not getting the ration balancer)
Compared to Erika’s program, I think I’m still missing the biotin. Also, there is some Vitamin E in the SE Top Choice Mix, but it is not included in the guaranteed analysis. So I still need to figure out if and how to fill these gaps.
I added the redmond salt because it will provide another source of trace minerals in addition to the Kelp. This isn’t scientific, but it’s only $12 for 50# and I’ve heard conflicting arguments about relying on Kelp for trace minerals because of the excess iodine that I figured it wouldn’t hurt. It’s helpful that I happen to need a pallet of field amendments from Lancaster Ag anyway, so shipping costs will be minimal if I can get this all in one order.
Any feedback would be welcome!
Thanks for all the help,
LizzyJune 7, 2017 at 11:31 pm #90442
We feed biotin because our horses had poor feet. Their feet are still not great, but are better than they were. Is it the biotin or because we trim/reset more often, who can say.
The Cu mix in only white salt and copper sulfate, for our horses it is one of the more popular minerals, behind kelp meak, almost as popular as the white salt block. The Sulfur mix does have some extras in it, perhaps to make it more palatable, it is elemental sulfur after all.
ErikaJune 8, 2017 at 9:29 pm #90448carl nyParticipant
If your soil is not Selenium rich make sure you have a Selenium salt block. Essential to all kinds of stuff including metabolism. Google it to find out more. I have about 0 selenium in my soil, I always had a Selenium mineral block in the yard.August 16, 2017 at 10:04 pm #90560
The horses have had the free choice minerals for about a month now. I ended up buying the Helfter Feeds A-Mix (which has Vitamins A and E), and that is by far their favorite. They will eat it by the quart! After that they go for the calcium mix and kelp, a little selenium each day, and dabble in the others. About 2 weeks in Annie had some diarrhea. I got pretty nervous, but when I called the company they said that was a normal response to detoxing, and it cleared up on its own after about 5 days.
Annie is still skinny, and terribly itchy (maybe sweet itch). We’re still working on it, and I’m still hoping to get some fat on her before winter. Tomorrow I’m going to build a mineral feeder I can move around the pasture, as I need to graze them away from the shed where I’ve had the minerals for a few weeks.
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