OK, time to get serious looking at these diets for these malnourished yearlings!
We are almost 4 weeks into the journey with Domino and Delingr, and so far my main priorities re diet have been:
- Get them used to being hand fed. Even hay seemed foreign to them in the first few days.
- Get them eating plenty of lucerne (Alfalfa). I figured having never been wormed (I know, shocking!) and having not shed her winter coat, Delingr (little brown) was so protein deficient that she couldn’t even grow her summer coat! Lucerne was one way to get a lot of protein into her without shocking her gut or the rest of her body too much!
- Introduce their gut to grain based ‘hard feed’. Having never been fed, starch I wanted to take a very slow/cautious approach to adding grains to their diet. I started with about 200 grams per day each, divided and fed in two meals per day and built this up super slowly over 3 weeks to close to 1 kg per meal now. The grains are (ofcourse!) well cooked and as per my PhD research I am adding enzymes to assist with starch digestion so I can be as certain as possible that the starch is all being digested in their small intestine and not ending up in their hindgut!
- Get them wormed!! We had to wait until we could actually handle them before we could worm them, and judging by the number of worms (small strongyles) in their manure post worming (photo below), they were carrying a heavy worm burden! Any wonder they looked the way they did!
My next priority is to get the diets properly balanced! I haven’t been too worried about that up until this point. Let’s face it, ANY nutrition was going to be better than what they were getting and I had a lot of groundwork to lay in terms of getting them eating, adapting their gut and getting rid of the intestinal worms!
Their Pasture Only Diet Wasn’t Great!
To give me an idea of where they were at I ran their diets with my best estimate of what they were getting at their previous home. It’s more a case of what they were not getting… using FeedXL, I entered Delingr as a 12 month old filly, weighing 250 kg (my best estimate) eating a native pasture only diet set to ‘good quality’ because the season has been a good one and the grasses in the area are typically green at this time of year (spring) when it is wet!
Here is how her diet looked in FeedXL… as expected digestible energy was low, protein requirement may have just been met, but with energy being so low she would have been chewing up a lot of her protein to use for energy! Hence creating herself a protein deficiency. AND lysine is low, indicating poor quality protein (which sort of means that crude protein level is meaningless as she was critically short of the most essential amino acid, lysine). PLUS with the worms sucking the life out of her she would have had a higher requirement for protein!
Minerals were also very low which would have been affecting her ability to actually grow because she simply doesn’t have the building materials to create bone!… one really interesting question is how this malnutrition will affect her later in life?! I’m not sure on the answer to that, but two previous horses of mine that had less than ideal starts to life did end up with severe arthritis later in life, from age 20+ so it’s possible this is how this may end up. But they may have also been genetics or coincidence so for me it will be a case of (long) wait and see!
What Their New Diet ‘Looks’ Like
My priority now is to get energy and protein levels up and to meet those mineral requirements!
Here is how I am doing it:
Their diet is now 2 kg/day of an extruded grain + soybean based breeding feed, plus 2 kg/day of lucerne (alfalfa hay) and 500 g/day lucerne (alfalfa) chaff. Plus some full fat soybean because there is a LOT of muscle and bone growth that needs to happen!
The only supplement they are getting is a gut supplement, predominantly there to provide starch digesting enzymes. And I will soon give them access to free choice salt! For now I am just putting a small (10 g/day) amount of salt in their daily feeds because I figure they would never have had access to salt before and will potentially be quite salt hungry.
Plus they have 24/7 access to abundant pasture which is a real mix of grasses, here is how I have it entered into FeedXL:
And here is how the new diet looks:
It doesn’t take a nutrition expert to see this is a LOT BETTER than what Delingr was receiving, and her condition tells the story already with the top photo here taken on the 22nd October 2021 and the bottom one 3 weeks later on the 12th November 2021. The bottom photo was also only 2 days after she was wormed and I hadn’t yet built her fully up to this new diet. I expect in the next month we will see MASSIVE change!
I’m not 100% happy with this diet yet… the energy could be higher as I want to push the envelope with her a bit and get some significant growth happening while she is still young enough to really grow (she must be a long way behind where she should be!). And the Calcium to phosphorus ratio is not ideal, sitting just above 3: 1 (for growing horses it should be below 3: 1).
I hesitate to change anything just at the moment because they have had so much change in the last month, so I’m just going to let myself be OK with where this diet is at and I will reassess in a couple of weeks to see how I can increase the energy and phosphorus (or decrease the calcium) without increasing the total amount of grain!
I was looking at her this afternoon when I was feeding them and she has improved again on the photo above. Her coat is genuinely shiny now and she is much brighter in her eye! Domino is also looking a lot better, her hips don’t poke out anymore and she is definitely feeling better… I’ll have two high energy yearlings on my hands before I know it!! And then I’ll REALLY be asking myself whatever was I thinking!! 😂
Will keep you posted!
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