For most horses, forage comprises the largest part of their diet. This means that for most owners, acquiring and managing hay stores is very important. With pasture not always available year-round and prices dependent on the harvest, the hay market is regularly fluctuating. As a horse owner, you make decisions daily, weekly, and monthly regarding how much hay you’re going to feed and when you’re going to feed it. Your priority? Finding a balance between your budget and the needs of your horse.
So, let’s talk about slow feeding. It’s a term you’ve probably heard more and more frequently over the past few years, but what do slow feeding hay mechanisms address?
Your Horse’s Behaviour
Steady access to forage is good for your horse’s brain and body. Why is this hard for the domesticated horse? Pasture availability can be limited due to time of year, space, or lifestyle. Without supplemental forage supporting their desire to graze, horses can easily find themselves getting into trouble with their herd mates or their environment. If horses can’t spend a good chunk of their day grazing, they’ll find other ways to keep entertained! This can be especially hard on lower ranked horses in the herd and even create dangerous situations for both humans and horses.
Your Horse’s Health
With the design of their digestive systems and relatively small stomachs, it is important that horses maintain a consistent intake of forage to meet energy requirements and maintain a healthy digestive system. Forage optimizes intestinal function by preventing colic, eliminating gas and stabilizing hindgut pH. As well, caloric intake and fibre fermentation generates the heat that keeps your horse warm throughout the colder months and helps them maintain a good overall body condition.
Slow feeding is also designed to support physical and respiratory health. The netting keeps your horse from inserting their entire head into a round bale, as that increases the inhalation of dust and other molecules into their airways, contributing to respiratory issues. In addition, the placement of slow feeders often reflects the natural head down grazing position. This means you can slow feed your hay while avoiding the negative neck, back and dental consequences of hay bags or wall hanging hay racks.
No one loves walking out into the field to see half their round bale spread all over the ground. Some horses have a funny habit of being picky, wasteful, and yet, always pretending to be hungry. They tend to eat the “best” hay first, tossing the rest to the ground to be slept or stood on, then stare at you 4 days later demanding to know why you have seemingly provided a lovely bed for them but nothing to eat. Losing hay to weather, ground conditions and spoilage is like flushing your money down the toilet and it can gouge your yearly hay budget. How do you solve this? Invest in a feeding mechanism that will reduce wastage!
So how should you begin slow feeding your horses? Two of our favourite products at System Equine for slow feeding are the “K Bale” and the “Optimizer Hay Feeder”. Each is designed to accommodate different styles of hay.
If you’re feeding round bales, the K Bale is perfect for you. Round bales can save horse owners the hassle of having to feed out hay every day. However, it is easy for round bales to result in a high percentage of wastage and spoilage depending on the weather, your feeding mechanism, and your horses. The K Bale keeps your hay lifted off the ground and the slow feed netting discourages horses from spreading bales, making your bales last longer. With its sensible design, you can get hay easily secured into the K Bale without the use of a tractor, making it a great option for team-run facilities!
Optimizer Hay Feeder
Do you feed small square bales but are hoping to make your horse’s outdoor hay last for more than an hour? If so, the Optimizer Hay Feeder is your go-to slow feeding mechanism. The durable, safe and easy-to-fill manger keeps your hay contained, clean, and available to your horses throughout the day. The Optimizer Hay Feeder is a great to provide group-housed horses with slow-fed hay without needing to fill multiple hay bags each morning. Filling your Optimizer Hay Feeder is quick, easy and allows you to stay within your budget, while still feeding fresh hay frequently.
Both the K Bale and the Optimizer Hay Feeder can help your hay stores to last longer, keep your horses occupied throughout the day and support healthy digestive and respiratory systems through slow feeding.
Which product best fits your farm, horse stall systems and horse barn? For more information, contact our experts at System Equine today. We have a wide selection of products and solutions that can provide the perfect addition to your horse barn and horse farm. From Flex fencing and horse stall systems, to dutch doors, dutch windows, stable wash stalls, and everything else in between.