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Forage & Water

Forage and watter is of course a very important topic for the horse owner! It must be available in sufficient quantities, offer a high quality and needs to be stored accordingly. In your own open stable you yourself are responsible for it and this means at first a fair amount of work. Besides the "usual" hay, straw and oats there's a hole lot of other animal feedstuffs, e. g. various mueslis, hay cobs, lucerne, pelletts and many more. Regarding these we can say only very little because our horses don't get such feeds. Arabians are quite frugal and light-feed, so that they get by on the classic three very well. Apart from that we do feed special complementary feeding stuff only if required, e. g. Plantagines for the respiratory tracts. In addition one should provide his horses with a salt lick. In detail:

 

Hay

Concerning the "model": Hay is available as round bales, large square bales and HD-balles. Meanwhile the latter are - due to the larger work associated with the production - to some extend quite poorly available, often the farmers have converted to other production machines. However, due to their low weight HD-balles are actually the best to handle for the open stable owner without machinery and they can be stored space-saving. Round bales may be handled without tools as they could be rolled to their "usage site", which can be done quit well in pairs. Large square bales are to all intents and purposes not manageable without machines and therefor bow out for the open stable to a large extend.

And then the quality must be OK: On no account toxic plants like e. g. ragwort, meadow saffron, etc. must be pressed in. Due to drying many toxic plants loose their bitter taste that prevents the horses from eating them in a green state, however they retain their toxicants so that they are ingested together with the hay. In case you discover something rather poisonous in your hay this is essential: Feed the hay in no case, immediately change the supplier. Likewise the hay should not contain any mildew spots. And don't believe in statements like "The cows do eat it, too" or "You remove the outer layer and underneath you'll find good hay". Since a fairly long time it has been proven that the mould spores of a scruffy bale do sit in the apparently good area of the bale, too, and that they are as unhealthy for horses as they are for humans. Here applies: Onto the dungpile with the hole thing and if you have mouldy bales more often change the supplier as above. Then there are quality differences that don't immediately make up a KO-criterion but that are problematic likewise. Given that, the horses don't eat an apperently good looking and smelling bale for incomprehensible reasons. Or the hay is unbelievably dusty. Or much useles stuff has been mowed in that the horses don't eat. In addition the whole topic fluctuates from harvest to harvest. Was it a bad hay year as recently you'll have to settle with shoddy hay due to availability reasons, whilst in good years you may choose according to quality. A good thing is if over the years you are able to find a good, reliable farmer off whom you know that he delivers good hay.

 

Straw

For straw in principle rather similar things are valid as for the hay, both concerning the "model" and the quality. If you use straw as litter for the boxes a considerable amount of it will be eaten by the horses, so that above criteria are by all means legitimate. Luckily, in case of straw you normally needn't worry about toxic plants, the producing farmer will by inherent self-interest watch that no such thing grows on his grain fields. However, mouldy straw is to be equally shunned as mouldy hay. Even if many horses don't eat the straw, after all the spores nevertheless are stirred up while muckrackeing in the litter and do stress the respiratory system of animal and human. Here as well it is imperative: Hands off from any scruffy commodities! Unfortunately there are many farmers that indeed produce good straw and hay, but who lack the respective storage area or who don't care a lot about quality ("The cows...", see above). Given that, freshly pressed bales lie around outsides for days, sometimes for weeks and in case of fould weather it will rain on them repeatedly. Quality surely does not improve by this and we don't quite understand why the hay and straw harvest isn't brought in speedily. In many cases you'll see on the fields bales piled up and covered with canvas, mostly due to a lack of storage space. Here you can only hope against hope that the farmer has worked properly, that is the lowest bales haven't been placed directly into the dirt and the canvas has no holes that still allows rain to infiltrate. In case of covered bales you take a greater risk that something's wrong than if finding a farmer that has sufficient storage area at his disposal. If the bales are stored in the dry and are placed onto pallets as a moisture guard towards the bottom (Particularly against condensation moisture due to temperature fluctuations) then you're already halfway there. Unfortunately we also had to see real bad counterexamples to a good storage: Poorly covered hay bales on a precipitous field, the canvas too short for the terminal bales, the lowest rows places directly into the mud and on the aslope hillside a downright creek ran smack through the middle of the hay stash - "No thanks, we'll continue to search somewhere else" - "But why? The cows..." What's more, indeed there are coevals that could get really upset if you announce them that you are not taken with the offered quality and would like to browse around otherwise!

 

Oats

Of course there are quality differences with oats, too. If you buy oats e. g. at Raiffeisen (German only) you'll get very good quality, expurgated, low dust, no contamination with foreign particles - the price however understandably is higher than at the farmer around the corner. But also at the grower around the corner you absolutely can get a good quality. You should mind the oats not to be choked with too much dust (a small dust content is unavoidable without a special purification process). Besides of course no foreign objects should be contained (e. g. dead beetles, everything experienced already!). All-important: Here as well mildew or even the poisonous ergot have no business. Then concerning the often asked question squeezed or unsqueezed oats: It is often recommended to feed squeezed oats because it is said to be easier to digest and the nutrients could be better decompsed. According to recent findings however this effect is by far not as distinct as claimed. Indeed, squeezed oats have the big detriment that they taint very, very quickly. Thus, if you don't have the opportunity to squeeze the horses' oats immediately before feeding on a daily fresh basis you should unconditionally keep your hands thereof. Hence as a matter of principle oats should not be bought squeezed. Definitely store your oat well protected from mice at your stable. For this purpose we use the typical blue plastic garden casks that can be securely closed with a cover plate and a tension belt, but of course there are many more possibilities.

 

Water

Clean water should be steadily and freely available in sufficient quantities for the horses. Yet, without a water supply in your own open stable the water has to be delivered. On the one hand you have the possibility to have a fountain drilled. Don't imagine a conventional fountain with a diameter of a meter or something. Rather this is about a drill hole with a relatively small diameter. Depending on the required drilling depth to encounter ground water you must in part expect substancial costs that can't be estimated very well beforehand. Plus you need electricity to haul up the water with a pump from a correspondent depth. Usually you'll have to drill considerably deeper than just a couple of a few meters, so that an aspiration of the ground water bows out and the pump needs to be lowered into the fountain. So the whole thing is rather expensive and complex and as we didn't have any electricity in our open stable for many, many years a fountain dropped out in any case. Indeed the water would have been there but no possibility to produce it existed. Thus we decided for the second alternative, we bring it with us from home which is connected with a certain effort not to be underestimated. Luckily we have an underground parking with a car washing lot where we could tap the water. With it on the one hand we refill a mobile meadow trailer with a drinking trough and a capacity of 1m3 we bought years ago. One charge suffices for up to five days for our frugal horses. On the other hand our standpost allows the easy fill up of buckets and barrels placed in the luggage compartement, this saves a whole lot of haulage! Who lacks the luxury of an in-house hydrant must sidestep to a garden hose. Additionally we have mounted roof rails onto our sheds, we direct rain water into barrels and troughs via them. You can cover at least a part of the water demand of the animals with the collected rain water. Water supply is most critical hoever during cold winters. As the drinking holes are unheated they'll eventually freeze over unavoidably. From then on you have to sidestep to a supply via troughs that will of course freeze over quickly, too. This means to break open the ice every morning and evening and to haul in fresh water more often and instead in smaller quantities. At the end of the winter you are rather glad once the frost season finally has ended!

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This page was last modified on 19/01/2015 from Sabine Brockamp