It’s a horse, of course – so feed it fodder!
Today’s post is brought to you by Kerry King, our Direct Media Specialist. Kerry is the team leader for the development of FodderSystems.com and has been working with our Fodder-Pro 2.0 Feed Systems product line for two years. With degrees in marketing and equine science, FarmTek and fodder have been a natural fit for her passions and skill set.
At FarmTek, we take your feedback seriously. So when Alyssa told me that you wanted to know more about the benefits of hydroponic fodder for horses, I jumped at the chance to write this post.
The nature of the horse and today’s feeding practices
Horses are natural grazers. They are designed to eat small amounts of food and digest it over a long period of time. In the wild, horses would graze for up to 18 hours a day, sometimes traveling great distances to find adequate forage. Grazing is not only their preferred method of gathering food, but it also has many other physiological and psychological benefits that contribute to their overall health.
If you look at the average feed card in your barn, it will be very different from what nature prescribed for horses. While it’s impractical to think that we can exactly replicate what a horse was intended to eat and how they eat it (unless you only want some very large lawn ornaments!), we can do better than how we feed our horses today.
Most of the commercially available feeds for horses have been processed in some way. Processing takes feed that a horse would not naturally eat or be able to digest effectively and turns it into a feed that they can get nutrition from. Some commercial feeds do contain grasses and forage that a horse would eat, but the beneficial enzymes and bacteria that aid with digestion are eliminated during processing.
We all want our horses to be happy and healthy, but for them to be at their best, we need to feed them in a way that simulates their natural feeding process. That doesn’t mean you need to have acres and acres of pasture available year round. All you need is some space in your barn, basement, garage or shed and you can use a Fodder-Pro 2.0 Feed System to grow all of the fresh, green feed you need with hydroponics.
Hydroponic fodder is a living, green food source that is sprouted from grain seed, like barley. Fodder is completely natural and, under the right conditions, can even be considered organic. It is the most comparable feed to fresh pasture and is similar to the forages that the equine digestive system is designed to process. This is the first and most important benefit about fodder: it is a natural feed for your horse.
The health benefits of fodder for horses
Fodder, being a natural feed for your horses and close to what nature intended them to eat, opens the door to a whole slew of health benefits that can be seen from the tip of their ears down to their hooves.
Digestibility – Sprouting grain turns starch into sugar which is much easier for a horse to digest. Fodder is also packed with beneficial enzymes that aid with digestion and nutrient absorption. Grain and concentrated feed can be very starchy. Starch takes a long time to digest and can make a horse feel full, so he won’t want to nibble on his hay all day. Because it takes so long to digest, it may not be completely broken down before it reaches the hindgut and this can lead to serious health problems, like colic and laminitis.
Nutrient availability – Because fodder is so digestible, horses are able to take full advantage of the naturally occurring nutrients. Fodder is packed with vitamins, minerals and enzymes that promote health and contribute to a nutritionally balanced diet.
Increased hydration – Fodder has a high moisture content, which makes it very different from dry feeds. It can be up to 90% water, which will greatly improve hydration. Water is so important for health. It is vital for body functions and contributes to so many things that it would be impossible to list them all!
Higher energy levels – It takes less energy to digest fodder, and the sugar content converts to energy easily. Horses are able to redirect the energy they are not using for digestion and the added energy from the sugar all contribute to increased energy. Amino acids also provide a slow release of energy. Your horse will have consistently higher energy level on fodder (not too much energy, but enough to perk up and work with renewed vigor).
Less recovery time required after hard work – Healing takes energy. With the energy gained from a fodder diet, your horse will be able to recover faster. The amino acids and essential fatty acids in fodder also help with building muscle tissue on top of the vitamins that contribute to natural healing and a boosted immune system. Increased hydration from fodder sprouts also aids in recovery by flushing toxins from the blood.
Reduced instance of colic, ulcers and inflammation – Colic and gastric ulcers are common in horses. These conditions can be caused by many factors, including what and how much a horse eats. Feeding fodder alleviates many of these causes. It all goes back to the digestibility and fodder being a feed that closely resembles what a horse would eat in the wild. Essential fatty acids and the increased hydration from fodder helps to clear inflammation and improve blood flow.
These are just a few of the health benefits for horses. A few others worth mentioning include; improved coat gloss and appearance, better behavior and temperament, stronger hooves, earlier and more consistent heat cycles. Fodder is also calming because it simulates their natural feeding process.
The old idiom ‘you are what you eat’ proves to be true. If you feed your horse natural, healthy feed, he will be healthy. I covered a good amount of the amazing benefits to feeding your horses fodder and hopefully I shed some light on what causes them. There are a lot of benefits that I didn’t cover about the cost savings, the environmental benefits and the benefits to you and your farm – there just wasn’t enough room in one post. If I didn’t cover something that you want to know more about, let us know in the comments!