Best Hay For Weanling

Earl Hamilton
• Monday, 04 January, 2021
• 11 min read

We want to share some strategies and equine feeds that can help achieve healthy, sustainable growth while minimizing the risk of developmental orthopedic disease (DOD). If he is growing too quickly, putting on too much weight, or showing signs of DOD, you may need to consider weaning on the early side.

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On the other hand, if the foal has been ill or isn’t a good doer in these early months, you may want to have him continue to nurse. No matter how old the foal will be when he’s weaned, it’s important he has already started eating pasture in addition to equine feed.

We recommend an equine feed with a protein content between 14% and 16%, fed at a rate of 1 to 1.5 pounds a day for each month of age. However, because these swings in condition can stress the young horse’s skeletal system, carefully monitoring his growth is essential.

Also, it should provide key nutrients like lysine (an amino acid), calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, manganese, and vitamin E. Stamina is equally effective in maintaining gestating or lactating broodmares and providing required nutrients to growing young horses.

• Edge 14 : Our reduced-starch equine feed is custom-crafted to support proper skeletal development, replacing cereal grains with super fibers and vegetable oil. Like Edge 14, KG 14 replaces cereal grains with super fibers and vegetable oil and is fortified with Stamp 30.

It’s highly palatable, contains 14% protein, includes beet pulp as a soluble fiber, soy oil to increase the fat level and overall calories and is fortified with Stamp 30 to ensure the weaning receives necessary micronutrients. • Super 16 : This extremely palatable equine feed helps support consistent growth and body condition.

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This can be a stressful time, both emotionally and nutritionally, but keeping these tips for weaning horses in mind can ensure a smooth transition and continued healthy growth. Foals will start to show interest in feeds very early on and, by around two months of age, their mother’s milk will no longer supply all the nutrients needed for optimum growth.

For example, a 3-month-old would ideally be eating about three pounds of feed per day, in addition to milk and free choice hay or pasture. A weaning horse already accustomed to eating an adequate amount of dry feed will transition to life without mom much easier and will be ready to maintain nutrient intake at a level that can sustain optimum growth. Feeds formulated for adults will not provide the necessary nutrients for your baby to fulfill their genetic potential and may cause deficiencies and increase the risk of growth abnormalities.

Purina feeds formulated for growing foals include Cultism ® Growth, Imogene #300 ®, Strategy ® GO, Equine Junior ® and Enrich Plus ®. Plotting your weaning horse’s height and weight over time should show a smooth, steady growth curve with no obvious peaks or valleys.

Weaning horses are growing to their genetic potential when they are being fed a well-balanced diet in amounts to maintain slight cover, so ribs aren’t seen but are easily felt. Most foals are weaned at about 4 to 6 months, just when their nutritional needs begin to outpace their mothers' milk supply.

Designed to provide all of a foal's nutritional needs at birth, a mare's milk yield naturally starts to decline after the first month or two. By the time the foal is 4 months old, he must supplement his nursing with other food sources, such as forage (hay and pasture) and grain.

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Accustoming him to these nonmilk sources well before weaning time not only will help him maintain consistent growth throughout the transition, it will also help to avoid the “kid-in-the-candy-store” syndrome. But because the microorganism populations in newborns' hind guts need several months to develop fully, he will have trouble digesting this forage initially.

If you plan to feed your weaning grain, introduce him to it when he's about 1 or 2 months old, starting with just a handful at a time and increasing the amount incrementally. One good way to introduce nursing foals to grain is with a creep feeder: a four-sided, single-railed enclosure built either in the corner of the fence line or standing alone in the center of the pasture (the latter is preferable for group feeding, as it allows escape on all four sides).

This feeding method thus reduces the risks of digestive problems, such as colic and ulcers, brought on by large meals. If you have only one foal, make the creep feeder sides about 8 feet long, set at your mare's chest height.

If you don't use a creep feeder, offer your foal small meals when his dam is being fed. He can eat out of her feeder?in which case, be sure the feed meets his nutritional needs, which are higher than the mare's in some respects.

Or mount a foal feeder, which has openings too narrow for an adult horse's muzzle to access, for him on the wall of her stall. After weaning, it's easiest to regulate your foal's grain ration by feeding him individually.

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To encourage what nutritionists call “optimal growth,” you can provide up to 60 percent of a weanling's ration, based on weight, in the form of a concentrated feed designed specifically for growing horses. Encouraging even more rapid growth by feeding excessively large grain portions can contribute to long-term development problems, for example in the bones and joints, particularly in certain breeds, such as warm bloods and Quarter Horses.

The best proven method for supporting healthy musculoskeletal growth is to provide a properly balanced diet? Be careful not to confuse a potbellied foal (with a bloated belly and no layer of fat over the ribs) with an overweight foal; a potbelly may indicate a parasite overload and/or poor hay quality, especially when accompanied by a poor hair coat.

Weaklings turned out in groups rarely get too fat, even when fed free-choice forage and given adequate concentrate to support growth. Stalled youngsters, on the other hand, may overeat out of boredom and, without plenty of exercise, may become overly fat.

Throughout that time, periodically reevaluate and adjust his diet to address his growing needs, as well as his exercise needs, until he reaches full maturity. Dr. Christine Kelly is an associate professor and equine extension specialist at Michigan State University.

Weaklings have a greater risk of developmental orthopedic diseases (DOD) if fed excessive energy. The weaning has the stress of being taken from its dam, mixing with a new group of young horses, and sorting out the social order, often at a time of year when weather conditions are adverse.

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If the foal is doing too well (growing too rapidly, getting too fat) or has signs of DOD or conformation defects (e.g., getting erect in the pasterns), it may need to be weaned as early as three months so that nutrient intake can be carefully controlled. Similarly, foals that are failing to thrive as expected may either be weaned early to supply a more controlled diet to overcome deficits that might be due to poor milk production by the mare.

Conversely, a foal who has been ill and isn’t doing as well as desired may be left with the mare for a longer period of time. One factor that has a big influence on the growth of weaklings is familiarity with hard feed prior to weaning.

This will provide for supplemental caloric and nutrient intake as well as acclimate the foal to the ration it will consume as a weaning, reducing another potential source of stress at weaning time. In this way you can help to ensure that everyone receives a full serving despite the inevitable shuffling around that comes with feeding horses in a group.

The quality and quantity of pasture available will determine the amount of supplemental forage the weaning needs. The weanling’s protein requirements can be met by a combination of young, green pasture and an appropriate grain mix.

The advent of presale radiographs has focused attention on DOD and other bone problems in young horses. With the correct feed and appropriate intake there is no need for added supplements, which may in fact create nutritional imbalances.

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Key nutrients such as amino acids, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, manganese, and vitamin E should be provided by the hard feed. Weaklings that are too heavy or have early signs of DOD should not receive the traditional grain-based feed, but should have their amino acid and mineral needs supplied by a low-calorie balancer pellet as a supplement to forage.

Weaklings that are not destined for the sales or show ring can be fed more conservatively because they do not have to grow at a maximum rate or look their best at a young age. The amount of feed necessary to maintain a thrifty appearance will vary according to the needs of the individual weaning and the quality and quantity of the available forage.

Young horses need good-quality feeds to meet their nutrient requirements for growth, as well as free-choice exercise in large paddocks. Oats are often the cheapest source of energy for young horses and are best fed crushed to weaklings because their teeth are not fully developed, and they will have trouble breaking open whole grains.

Young green grass or clover pasture contains 15–20% crude protein, but this amount falls rapidly as the plants begin flowering and start to seed. Linseed meal is relatively low in lysine and is not a good source of protein for growing horses, although its high oil content will produce a bloom on the coat.

Bran contains a lot of phosphorus and should not be fed in significant quantities to growing horses. Trace minerals such as copper, zinc, manganese, and selenium are important components in the diet for most growing horses.

weanlings healthy keep season mccarthy westmeath charolais chris farm
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To meet the commercial growth requirements of young horses, you may have to feed them less roughage than desired for optimal digestive function. Therefore, you must use good-quality chaff or hay to maximize the utilization of the fibrous feed in meeting the energy requirements, and also decrease the amount of starch the weaning has to be fed.

Lucerne or clover hay will also supply higher intakes of protein and calcium as well as fiber, so they are often preferred for growing horses. These feeds have higher protein, amino acid and mineral levels to supply the needs of the growing horse.

If you have great quality pasture or are feeding breeds with a good metabolism, such as warm bloods, quarter horses, draft breeds or ponies, a feed balancer pellet or a concentrate such as Bristol Legend is often the best approach. During the cold winter months when pastures contain scant forage, hay is the typical diet for cattle, horses, sheep and goats.

However, there are significant differences in the variety, quality and availability of hay, which can make feeding your livestock a time-consuming chore. But with some planning, feeding hay during the winter months can be a simple and efficient alternative while waiting the return of spring’s lush pastures.

In northern parts of the United States, timothy is widely grown because it tolerates cold weather and grows early in spring. There is always some risk of nitrate poisoning, however, if cereal grain hays are harvested after a spurt of growth following a drought period.

cattle hay
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Legumes used for hay include alfalfa, various types of clover (such as red, crimson, alike and Latino), lespedeza, birds foot trefoil, vetch, soybean and cow peas. Legume leaves, by contrast, do not have the same structural function and don’t change much as the plant grows, but the stems become coarser and more fibrous.

About 2¼ of the energy and 3¼ of the protein and other nutrients are in the leaves of a forage plant (whether grass or legume). If buying alfalfa hay, you’ll want to know if it is first, second or third cutting (or later), and at what stage of growth it was harvested.

Third-cut alfalfa typically has a higher leaf-to-stem ratio because of slower growth during the cool part of the season. If buying grass hay, maturity at harvest will also make a difference in its nutrient quality.

Important factors to keep in mind for horse hay are the nutritional needs of the animals (mature horses will not need high protein or calcium levels unless they are mares nursing foals), and the way the hay was harvested. If it was rained on after it was cut, baled too green or too wet or too dry, it may not be safe to feed.

Hay for horses should never contain dust or mold, as it may lead to coughing and respiratory problems. Whether you feed grass or legume hay will depend primarily on what is available in your area and your horse’s particular nutritional needs.

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For pregnant or lactating mares, or young growing horses, some legume hay added to the diet provides the additional protein and higher levels of other nutrients needed. At the other extreme, overly steamy alfalfa that is well past bloom stage may be too coarse for horses.

It also tends to have relatively coarse stems (supplying the fiber a horse needs for proper digestion) since it grows the fastest. These cuttings are too rich (too many nutrients per pound, with very little fiber) for most horses, unless you are just adding a little of it to the diet of a young orphan foal or an older horse that has poor teeth and cannot chew steamy hay.

The later cuttings will have the finest stems, growing more slowly during the cooler fall season. Alfalfa is also a good winter feed because heat is created by digestion of protein, so a horse can keep warmer on a cold night.

Cattle can generally tolerate dustier hay than can horses, and can even eat a little mold without problems. Mature beef cattle can get by on rather plain hay of any type but lactating cows will need adequate protein.

They do best with fine, soft hay that’s cut before bloom stage; it not only contains more nutrients, but is also much easier to eat. Most dairy cows will not milk adequately on grass hay, nor on steamy, coarse alfalfa that contains few leaves.

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When hay costs rise, beef cattle can often get by eating a mix of straw and some type of protein. Straw (byproduct from harvest of oats, barley or wheat) provides energy, created by fermentation breakdown in the lumen.

In cold weather, horses generate more body heat from digestion of extra protein, but cattle do better if fed extra roughage (grass hay or straw) since they have a larger “fermentation vat” (lumen). Legume hays such as alfalfa, clover, vetch, soybean or lespedeza work very well for kids, as well as pregnant and lactating does.

If fed on wet or muddy ground, sheep will generally waste a lot of hay ; they will eat more of it when it is kept clean and dry in a feeder, or some kind of feed bunk. When fed on dry, well-sodded, snow covered or frozen ground, however, sheep will clean up fine hay better than cattle because of their smaller mouths and ability to pick up the leaves.

Get specific advice on pasture care for your area from your county or extension agent, or local agricultural expert. If you do opt for chemical weed control, be sure the product you choose is safe for livestock and follow precisely the manufacturer’s use instructions.

Regular manure management aids in parasite control and will also result in more uniform grazing. Factors that can affect nutritional value include plant species in the hay, fertility of soil, harvesting methods (whether the hay was conditioned or crimped to dry faster and lose fewer leaves and nutrients during drying) and curing time.

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Good hay will be uniformly green and sweet smelling, with no brown spots or moldy portions. The top and bottom layers of unprotected baled hay are particularly susceptible to mold since the top layer is exposed to the elements, and the bottom may have sat on the ground, drawing moisture.

A hay shed is ideal because you can build up the floor with gravel for good drainage, so the entire haystack is kept dry. If you don’t have any type of roof to put your hay under, you can create a well-drained area (by building up the floor with gravel or wooden pallets) and cover the stack with tarps.

If you have a year’s worth of hay stored, keep in mind that long storage time reduces nutritional levels of protein and vitamin A.

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