Feeders Tips



There are many types of hay and grain feeders; choose the easy-to-clean ones. Many horsemen just use buckets or plastic corner feeders in a stall for feeding grain. Aluminum corner or wall-mounted feeders are also popular. Flat-backed buckets are handy for hanging against a wall. Over-the-fence feed buckets can keep the feed off the ground. Foal feeders can attach to a stall wall. Smooth bars across the opening leave room for the foal’s small muzzle but keep the mare from eating the grain. There are also hay rack/grain feeder combinations, and some manufacturers of steel stall panel fronts offer a feeder built into the panel. The feeder section can swing to the outside of the stall so you can feed the horse without going into the stall. Horses in stalls can be fed hay on the floor, in a manger or hayrack, or with a hay net. Hay nets are dangerous if a horse gets a foot caught and they must be hung high enough to prevent pawing, but not so high that leaves and dust fall into the horse’s eyes. If stalls are kept clean, there is no harm in feeding hay on the floor (the most natural position for a horse to eat) unless he urinates and defecates in his hay.

If a floor is sandy or gravelly, it is safer to feed in a manger or rack, since a horse may eat sand and gravel when cleaning up the last wisps of hay.
A walled-off manger or bunk at floor level — kept clean — can avoid this problem. A major drawback to any type of elevated feeding system for hay is the unnatural position for eating, resulting in improper development of neck muscles (this can cause problems in performance horses). A stall corner feeder enables the horse to eat at ground level without taking up much stall space. One sheet of plywood makes four feeders.
 A corner feeder saves hay, since the horse will generally stand and eat over the feeder, making hay less likely to drop on the floor. By contrast, a horse eating from a standard hay rack or off the ground may waste up to 30 percent of his hay by tromping and mixing it with manure or dirt. If you break open the flakes and shake them as you put them in the feeder, the horse won’t shake and sling it around, and most of the hay will stay in the feeder.
When using hay racks, locate them in a corner out of the way, with no protrusions that might injure a horse. Put them high enough that a horse cannot get a foot caught if he paws, yet not so high that he must reach up to eat. A feeder hung too high is apt to cause respiratory problems since dust may fall into his nostrils. A hay rack should have a bin underneath it to catch the bits of hay or alfalfa leaves that fall down, so they can be eaten later and not wasted nor mixed with manure. Some horsemen use automatic feeders that dispense a designated amount of grain or concentrate at programmed times during the day. This eliminates the chore of measuring feed and feeding the horses and makes it possible to provide small frequent meals at regular intervals, whether you are there or not. This equipment needs monitoring and maintenance to make sure everything continues to work properly.
The automatic feeders handle pellets and dry grains quite well but some types of feeds, such as sweet feeds with a high concentration of molasses, leave residues in the delivery system, encouraging mold growth. The uniformity of the feed mixture necessitated by most feeding units is also a drawback if you have some horses in the barn that need a different ration. An automatic feeder can never take the place of overseeing a horse’s mealtime; perhaps the biggest drawback is that you might be tempted to let it do your chores for you. There can be no substitute for personal attention at mealtime.
 You need to make sure the feeding system is working and that each horse is actually getting the proper amount of feed and is healthy and eating with a normal appetite. Feeding time is the best time to check your horse’s physical condition and to pick up on subtle signals that may indicate the early stage of illness.

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