My Secret Frugal Feed Experiment long, long, long

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Nov 30, 2002
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I did a cost breakdown of my horse expenses and was in complete shock of my totals. I must be out of my mind. Mr Retirement would be having heart palpitations all over the living room floor if he knew what the horses actually cost me to keep above the food costs.I would have to call an ambulance, put him in the hospital on lifei support machines, and then explain to my son why he was there. It would be ugly. So by the time I added in bedding, farrier, wormers, etc. my heart was beating out of my chest, my eyes became glazed, fixed and dilated, and there was this really bad vibration coming from inside my brain. My hands were shaking, my feet became numb, and my mouth became null and void. Thus, my feed experiment:

If anyone knows anything about the way I tend my horses, I spare no expense. They always have the top of the line food, super quality hay, salt, minerals, bedding, name brand de-wormers etc. and the list goes on. I do not cut corners. Like to save money, yes. But do cheap stuff, no. I feed Purina brand and pretty much always have when available and Purina is pricey. At times I have fed Nutrena which is also pricey and sometimes just straight oats with a vitamin.Heck oats aren't even cheap. I wanted to know why in heck I was forcing myself to pay $18.00 a bag. (Purina Strategy). Seems pretty stupid when I am feeding idle horses, no breeding, no showing, no nothing. And I feed it basically to get them to come into their stalls at night with their hay and in the am so they think they are getting something for breakfast besides my big cheerful smile. I know they really don't need food at all since the basis of my program is good forage. I also offer warm beet pulp in winter and cool beet pulp in summer. I'm running an all you can eat buffet in my tack room. I also realize I am paying a premium for a pretty feed bag, a purina website, and all their other propaganda that goes with their food sales. A "lesser" company is going to have a less fancy dancy feed bag or a brown sack. But I HAD to know if feeding "cheap" was going to compromise them in any way. Would it matter?

I left most of the horses on Purina Strategy. Two horses on straight oats ($14.95) and two horses on Tractor Supply Dumor cheap junk food. The Dumor is actually Purina's economy line. I didn't feed the "all stock" which is also for goats and cows, but I bought the cheapest designated horse food they had at $10.95. I was looking at the basic ingredients and as far as oats go, what in the world can someone do to mess up an oat?So guess what the results are? Everyone still looks fine. The ones on oats and the ones on the cheap junk are fine, feeling good, coats good, can't complain and nobody died. Most of all, the weight on all of them has remained the same. More calories, less calories, no change in weight whatsoever. Fancy that.

I took into consideration about recalls and junk found in horse feeds as well, but there have been reports of nasty stuff found in many mills in many companies so that didn't sway me at all. We do have a Farmers Co-op here that is just plain rat infested and dirty and disgusting so that place was never in the running. I won't buy their product.

My conclusion is that I don't feed enough food to accomplish any of them getting the necessary guaranteed analysis of the food in the first place to matter. According to the directions on the back of the bags, I'd have to be feeding one horse approximately some 8 pounds a day of any of it to matter, but I've known that for years.

My secondary conclusion is that feeding "quality" is a problem within my brain. I've never fed cheap before and it bothers me and makes me feel guilty. That's my mother's fault for raising me like that. But to put it in another perspective, we don't exactly dine on filet mignon either, and eat a lot of spagetti and burgers. If Mr Retirement and I can eat cheap, why can't they?

The only exception is my 33 year old Quarter Horse. He has lived and thrived on oats and a vitamin most of his life. He was shown usually twice a month in usually 6 or so performance classes and a couple of halter classes per show for years. He has been on Purina Senior now for a good many years and looks amazing and for that reason, I will not tamper with his recipe no way no how at this stage of the game. And he does require a huge amount of food which is like a mortage payment but he will remain on Purina Equine Sr forever. If it ain't broke, I won't fix it. .

But as for the miniatures, if I can convince myself that its ok to feed cheaper to cut a cost, I should be able to do it and sleep at night knowing no harm is being done. I did the math and the savings would be significant. Will I go for the savings and feed cheaper to save money remains to be seen.
I'm going to be honest. Purina is the bottom of the feed totem pole when it comes to quality.

It's hard to feed horses cheaply and keep the quality.
Very good post Marty! and a VERY brave woman you are too!!! horse people venturing anywhere near a calculator is a NO-NO lol
I pay $50 a bag for progressive nutritions pro advantage, but he only eats 2 cups a day or so. My pony eats $100 in food per month.
I did a similar study a few years ago. The results were not as great. I do have a feed strategy with a particular feed line - and depending on the needs of the animal, it works. I have kept within my budget for 31 head for a few years. BUT I also work out deals and when winter approaches, I buy in bulk and ask the feed store to store it, this has saved me much money and my kids get fed well.

If it works for you- why mess with it? You just have to find a way to keep the cost down. Bulk works for me.
Marty--you crack me up!
Okay, I have to admit that I did the same thing this past winter. I took it one step further though........I actually stopped graining three mares and they survived and look better now then when they were young. Two of those mares have the nicest hair coats that are completely slick and shiny. The other mares were given Strategy and none of them are shed out completely and are seriously overweight. My stallion who was on straight oats and beet pulp looks drop dead gorgeous and could walk into a show ring and kick some major booty. My trainer has kept Hawk on this for the last three years along with sweet feed. I simply dropped the sweet feed and his neck without any sweats is pencil thin.

I think feeding minis could require a phd. When I'm showing them, I have to adjust their feed almost daily. I have way too much pasture and grass is not your friend when you own minis. I must truly love them because having Quarter Horses were much easier to feed and make look good. The minis look at food and gain weight.
50.00 a bag sure seems like a lot of money but it would depend on what is in it and what your horse needs and cant get in his natural inviroment. No grass, hay, selenium. By the time I add up all the additional supplements my guys get along with their Strategy it does get rather pricey not to mention just the price of hay in SWflorida. For some strange reason horses keep arriving but none seem to be leaving ( much against my darling husbands desires ) and that puts me in a position where I really do need to watch prices on feed but I also hate to keep changing feeds and I don't want to have to feed 9 types of food. But Ive always been a "brand" shopper...attracted to pretty bags, the smiling super white teeth on the tube and even the girl with the prettiest fluffy hair for my own shampoos....I never liked generic anything....well except my drugs...medications, sound better.

The addition of more horses though has really made me change my way of thinking...pretty plain and simple...I CANT AFFORD IT!!! So for now my horses will still get what they have been always getting for feed ( except for the mares and foals ) and I hope they will continue to look good and be healthy...knock on wood here. But I am being more frugal with things like horse shampoos. And there is no reason to buy halters every time I order anything on line. I don't need halters for every holiday for every horse nor do I need blankets, sheets and Slinkies in every color...I have yet to wash more than 3 horses in one day and at this age I don't think I can!! Feed buckets are another thing I was addicted to.....and water buckets...cripes I have stacks of these. More fly spray capable of wiping out the entire west coast of anything with wings. My shelves are filled with every type of horsey shampoos, conditioners, eye gunk products, bandages ( that was last years addiction) hair lightening and hair darkening products under the sun. I now use Dawn Dish soap for bath time ( if it worked good enough for the Valdez oil birds it good enough for the horses ) usually Suave conditioner is cheap and works fine, someone posted a pretty good recipe for fly spray which is cheap and seems to work as well as anything in the 20.00 bottles. My goal this year to save money will be to do my own vacs.....that's a huge expense and I need someone to show me how to do it safely...I'll be honest and say I haven't done coggins in 2 years. But my guys very rarely leave the property. So I am cutting back on some things and my barns may not look quite as pretty and color coordinated as they once were but feed will have to stay the same for now.
LittleRibbie... It is a diet balancer that has vitamins, minerals, and protein that supplements grass hay. That way I can feed a larger amount of roughage hay to keep him busy while providing enough protein to keep a good top line on him. So like feeding "grain" without the starches.
My only drawback on oats is that they are so high in NSC - sugars and starches. What are others thoughts?
I had to revamp my feeding program several times. First time was to get away from Purina, the sweet feeds were making my boys fat. Then I went to the Farnam Mini/Pony feed and the first year the boys looked great, and then the next year I had one that had a poor coat, lethargic, and tested him and he was anemic. So I went back to Purina, then had problems with colic with the new formula and went to Kent Dynasty horse feeds, I was happier but not completely satissified. Then Purina came up with their own version of the Mini/Pony feed and was happy for the first couple of months and I soon start seeing my boy looking like the one that got anemic on the Farnam feed. So I've now switched to ADM Glo line feeds. They are rather expensive like $23 a bag but they've never looked better. Also in the past it was all about the grain, horses need grain, well I give more hay now then grain and a couple who are show horses don't get any grain just hay along with a Vitamin/Mineral tub.

I know the frusteration trying out different grains but glad I found the right brand. One thing is for certain will never go back to Purina again.
I should perhaps look into it as I think I tend to feed too much hay b/c even w/slow feeder they gobble it right up and Im forever feeling as though they are bored and should be given more. I do feel they may be getting too much of the starches.

P.S. Disneyhorse...isn't it about time we see some of your little baby pictures?
We feed alfalfa hay we get from the San Xavier Mission that also contains something they call 'water grass.' They also have access to trace mineral blocks and, of course, water. We feed a 12% sweet feed to the lactating mares and their foals (4 each). Normally, we would give the mares a 14-16%, but since we're feeding almost straight alfalfa, they don't need the higher protein sweet feed. When we wean the babies, however, we will be putting them on Equine Junior as that seems to be where we get in the most trouble with weanlings and yearlings.

Everyone is in good shape, neither fat nor thin... Well, we do have one little porker... <g> However, we live in this fireplace called Tucson and their coats are bleached out and their manes & tails are brittle... Can't wait to get moved!

We've tried the more expensive 'kibble' feeds and sooner or later we run out of money or we don't see any improvement, or the supplier runs out or stops supplying the brand we've been feeding... So, I got sick and tired of having to bounce back and forth between brands, so we go with a 'stock' 12% sweet feed and hay... The only thing I may go back to in the future is BOSS and flax... I did see an improvement on my two geldings when I gave them those two items. I also have seen an improvement with beet pulp when we need to fix top lines. BP also helps the stallions if they lose weight during breeding season. However, this year, the stallions haven't lost much weight during breeding seasons.
I'm going to post a different thread about my oats findings later on which will include my final decision on what I'm going to be feeding there. .
Can't wait to see your oats post, I'm curious what you found. I can pretty much only get whole oats around here, and dang they are expensive; especially considering how little the farmer seems to get for them out of the field. I'd love to get rolled oats, but the closest I can find is crimped and they look pretty much like whole oats.
Well Marty, after I stopped breeding and sold my broodmares, I too won't to cheaper feed. They all lived, lol. TSC in this area charges $15-$16 a bag for Dumor horse feed, so I actually feed their brand producers pride in the purple bag and top dress my one year old gypsy vanner gelding's with calf manna for extra calories, some get some oil top dressed as needed also. The only one with a bit of a rough coat is my senior mini gelding's shedding coat, but his coat underneath is a nice shiny yellow (palomino). My husband's workplace shut down in sept. and he found steady work again in February. He did have intermittent jobs in his field on an as needed basis while he was out of work, unemployment was a joke he chose to work when he could and only collect when absolutely nessecary, but in the meantime, I needed to make some changes. I stuck with them after he started his new position. They are fine, kept up with everything else, I just needed to make some changes to save a bit of cash. The most important thing, I still have them, it never came to having to make a detrimental decision, and they are none the worse for it.
Okay, Littleribbie... Twins photos are on The Back Porch. But Marty's already seen the pics because she's a friend on Facebook
I'll go so far as to say that most horses don't need anything beyond pasture grass and/or good quality hay. I took my 3 younger horses off ALL feed in the early spring of last year (2012). Over the winter I did supplement with a ration balancer, but not every day. Even now, I'm following this feeding schedule.

The results? My horses are in good shape, their coats are glowing...especially the smokey black 5 yr old mare. I still feed Purina's Miniature/Pony to the hard keeper because she does need the extra calories. If I could get her to eat something like Ultium, I'd feed her that instead...just to get the extra calories into her.

My experiment proved to me that I could forego any feed with my girls and they are just fine.

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