By Brandon Sears
Winter may not arrive officially until Dec. 21, but wintry weather is already here.
Consider these ideas for feeding your horses this winter.
The first thing every horse owner should do is assess your horses’ body condition scores, or the amount of fat they are carrying.
This is simple numeric system, ranging from 1 to 9 that will help you adjust your horses’ diets so they are carrying the perfect amount of body weight.
If you need help with this, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has published a fact sheet titled, “Condition Scoring Your Horse,” and you can contact us here at the Madison County Extension Office to look for ASC-145. Using this system will help you keep feed costs down and your horses’ health and well-being in top shape.
No matter your horses’ body condition score, one of the most important aspects of feeding horses during the winter is being able to provide a source of good-quality forage.
Without question, this is a difficult task considering the current availability of affordable, good-quality hay. But unless you have a well-planned rotational grazing system in place and have stockpiled forage that will that last until spring, purchasing hay is essential.
Square or round bales are perfectly acceptable when correctly managed. However, you will have a better idea of how much hay your horses are eating when providing them with square bales on a daily basis.
Unless you are raising broodmares or growing horses, most horses should be fed at least 50 percent of their total daily diet as forage. For an average 1,000-pound horse fed at 2 percent body weight per day, that would be at least 10 pounds of hay per day. In addition to providing nutrients, hay also supplies heat to the horses through the digestive process.
It’s best to provide hay in some sort of feeder when you are group feeding your horses outside. In most situations, a hay feeder will reduce the amount of wasted hay by 20 percent or more. If your hay is of high-nutritive value and your horses are maintaining their body condition scores throughout the winter, you may not have to provide a source of grain at all.
But if your horses are not meeting their nutritional needs with hay alone, you can add grain to their diet. Remember, grain should supplement a horse’s diet as a majority of their nutrient needs should be met by the forage source.
Water is an essential nutrient that you need to monitor very carefully during the winter months. In general, horses tend to increase their consumption of water when consuming more dry matter or harvested forages. But, they tend to not want to drink really, really cold water. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you provide fresh water daily on a free-choice basis.
Make sure you especially monitor older horses that have trouble keeping weight on during the year. They may need some special attention to keep them in good weight throughout the winter.
Using these simple tools can help you and your horses make it through the winter in good health and body condition. (Source: Bob Coleman, UK Extension Horse Specialist)
Madison County Beef Cattle Association annual meeting Thursday
The Madison County Beef Cattle Association annual meeting is 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Madison County Extension Office, 230 Duncannon Lane, Richmond.
Annual Reports will be given, and MCBCA scholarships will be awarded. Officers will be elected, and door prizes given out.
A sponsored ribeye meal will be provided. Meal cost is $5 for non-members, or join the Madison County Beef Cattle Association and eat free! Call the Madison County Extension Office at 623-4072 to reserve your spot at our annual meeting and join us for an evening of food and fellowship!