Draft Horses Section III – On Feeding

Draft Horses Section III – On Feeding

Draft Horses Section III – On Feeding in this section which relates to the rearing of young horses, and the general management of breeding mares and stallions, the necessity for a supply of food proportionate in supply and quantity and quality to the requirements of the individuals and their circumstances has been considered.

The equally essential element, and one affecting the interests of every horse-owner, is the feeding of animals employed in the general routine of agricultural and commercial operations.

The essential principle of economical horse-feeding consists in the just apportionment of food to the demands created for it by labor, and in the maintenance of health, having due regard to age, condition, season of the year, and robustness. What is a suitable amount of food, and proper amount of work, for one horse, may be either too great or too little for another? Long continued overwork is most pernicious; its primary influence affects condition, secondarily health is impaired, and, finally, the constitution is ruined.

Undue waste of tissue, caused by an inordinate amount of work, cannot be compensated by corresponding excess of food supply. It is quite as reasonable to expect a steam-engine of 10 horsepower to perform the work of one double its strength, by providing fuel and water sufficient for the more powerful one, as it is for a horse to be worked and fed beyond the limits of his power of endurance and capacity to assimilate food.

On the other hand, insufficient work, associated with a superabundant supply of rich food, is equally prejudicial to the horse’s welfare and his owner’s interest, first, by loss in labor through idleness; secondly, by waste of food, through the excess being stored in the form of accumulations of fat; and, thirdly, by a predisposition to disease being engendered through plethora and enforced idleness.

When in low condition, a horse will eat more and requires food of better quality, than when the system has for some time enjoyed the possession of good muscular tone.

Principles of Food.

Universal experience has established that food fitted to sustain an animal must contain an association of azotized and non-azotized substances—the former necessary to supply material for the reparation of structural waste, the latter to furnish the element combustion requisite for the maintenance of animal heat and the performance of the respiratory functions.

Chemists and physiologists have theoretically ascertained the relative value of feeding stuffs, and whilst admitting that the correctness of their deductions are endorsed by the results of practice to an extent sufficient to admit the acceptance of their dicta as guides to the uninitiated in the selection of proper horse-food, practical experience demands from me a reservation of unqualified submission to the principles laid down by scientists, that the amount of azotized matter contained in a given article of food is the invariable standard of its flesh and condition-producing qualities.*

The subjoined table approximately sets forth the constituent parts of a series of articles commonly used as food for horses:

repair waste caused by the unceasing functions of respiration and transpiration. A portion of any excess in this class of constituents taken with the food is stored up in the form of fat, to be re-absorbed and appropriated Whenever there is a deficiency in the supply of non-azotized matter to meet an existing demand for it.

The fourth column, representing the relative proportions of muscle-forming material in feeding-stuffs, possesses especial interest to the horse-owner, for upon a due supply of nitrogenous matter in a form capable of being assimilated, the reparation of nervous and muscular waste and the functions of general nutrition alone depend.

Unless the food contains a sufficient proportion of these substances, the body must be inefficiently nourished and physical strength diminished, even if all the other elements of food are abundantly supplied.

Unlike the elaborations of starchy and fatty matters, an excess of nitrogenous material cannot be stored to meet future demands, any superabundance being re” moved from the body by the various processes of excretion. Should an excess of this material be given for any length of time, and no requirement created for it by corresponding increase of work, disease must result.

The woody fiber contained in varying proportion in diverse kinds of provender, although possessing in some degree a composition similar to the non-nitrogenous constituents, cannot be considered as aliment; its function in the animal economy is to stimulate digestion and separate the richer particles. The ash and saline’s furnish material for renewal of the bodily frame and assists in the elaboration of secretions.

Every treatise upon the management of farm-horses contains formulae of food allowances applicable for use at certain seasons, and during the performance of certain agricultural operations. If such formulae are intended to have an object beyond that of demonstrating what combination of grains, roots, and fodder may be considered as typical of an effective food supply they are almost useless.

Some of them would no doubt be very serviceable if each farmer tilled his land in the same manner, worked his horses in the same way, and could produce or purchase his horse-food at the same cost ; but the circumstances which influence the relative value of articles of food are so numerous, and operate in such a variety of ways, that fixed standards of ration for horses upon the same farm are not in all years relatively economical : how much less then must they be considered reliable when applied to diversities of locality and altered systems of management !*

Selection of Food.

A knowledge of the feeding properties of each article of food, and a careful study of their fluctuating and relative market values, must alone guide the horse proprietor in his selection of the cheapest aliment capable of sustaining the health and condition of his teams. A brief summary of the qualities of the various grains, roots, and fodder will therefore not be out of place.

Oats being better suited for the maintenance of condition, has no doubt led to their general recognition as equine food par excellence, and although horses moderately worked can be kept in good condition by a liberal oat diet, the practice of using them unassociated with other grain is extravagant, and always so when the work is severe. When the price of oats offers no inducement to the producer to sell and buy other food in substitution, they may be economically consumed by his own teams; but to ensure an accurate appreciation of their relative feeding value their market worth must from time to time be considered.

Oats contain about 30 per cent innutritious husk, an item which must not be overlooked when comparisons of feeding value are made; and it is worthy of remark that light oats weigh less than 40 lb. to the bushel furnish as much if not more husk than heavier samples.

Good oats should be heavy, have thin skin, and be free from musty smell. Damaged oats produce injurious effects upon horses, and fatal results caused by their use have been repeatedly recorded. It is common in some counties to cut into chop Un thrashed oat straw. With a good and well-ripened crop, and fair price obtainable, this practice is not economical; but when the crop has not been fully matured, or the sale value is exceptionally low, there is less objection.

Malting samples of barley are too expensive, and inferior qualities are better adapted for cattle than for horses, except when corn is given in association with grass, in which case barley appears to be superior to maize.

Rye is better than barley for horses, and although nutritious and palatable it is deficient in vigor-giving properties. Both barley and rye are, however, wholesome, and may sometimes be advantageously given in conjunction with other articles of food.

During the last fifteen years the use of maize as a diet for horses has become almost universal, and its value in this respect is now fully recognized. Reference to the analytical table demonstrates that compared with oats maize contains more heat-forming and slightly less nitrogenous elements, whilst its proportion of indigestible material is very much less.

Maize is especially adapted for cart horses, and unaided by other grain it can maintain them in fair working condition; its feeding properties are sensibly increased by association with a small proportion of more highly nitrogenous food. So combined, it forms one of the best and cheapest diets for working horses. Maize has been blamed for producing greasy heels, and other ailments usually caused by ‘ heating ‘ diet; so, it will, if the use of it is abused, as what rich food will not 1 But when given with consideration to age, constitution, and work, no greater evils will follow its use than other stimulating foods will produce

It is well to remember that maize and rye possess laxative properties to a greater degree than other cereals or legumes but are more deficient in saline. * As offered in the market, the quality of maize can be readily appreciated; the bulk should be inodorous, and unmixed with husk, the grains extremely hard and free from mildew.

The benefit resulting from the use of beans and peas in rearing colts up to two years old has been previously adverted to. Leguminous seeds, on account of their highly stimulative properties, are not admissible for young horses after youthful development has been achieved, but for hardly worked horses upwards of six years old, they form an excellent and highly nutritious diet, re- quiring, however, to be supplied with judgment in quantity proportionate to the amount and severity of the work.

English beans are too expensive to admit of their economical consumption by farm horses, but clean, dry Egyptians are extraordinarily little inferior in quality, and always rule lower in price.

Peas, being sometimes weight-for-weight cheaper and equally nutritious, may often be substituted for beans, with pecuniary advantage. Beans and peas should never form the chief part of the grain allowance, unless the conjoint articles of provender are extremely poor; they are especially adapted for adding mixture with cereals, and particularly with maize.

The improved wheat-dressing machines of the present day leave so little flour adherent to bran, that it can scarcely be considered an ailment. It is, however, palatable, and its silicious ingredients and laxative properties render its use beneficial.

For healthy horses’ linseed-meal is not a desirable addition to their regimen, but the use of linseed-cake water for the purpose of moistening the manger food whenever the latter possesses constipate properties is of high value. The cooking-house of every stable is incomplete without a trough for the preparation of this useful adjunct.

For the feeding of working horses, most practical men agree that restriction to one kind of grain is injudicious and uneconomical. It is true that many large studs are exclusively maintained upon maize, but horses appreciate a change, and are invariably benefited thereby, even though each alternation is a reduction from a higher to a lower standard.

Where only two grains, like maize and beans, can be economically used, an alteration between the relative proportions of the two is always productive of good. Mr. Hunting’s remarks on the benefits resulting from the use of mixed grain are corroborated by practice. He says: ‘ Both chemistry and physiology, then, suggest that more than one kind of grain is advisable if we aim at economy and high condition. But the full economy of mixed feeding is only seen when we consider the monetary value of the different articles of provender in relation to their nutritive constituents.’*

It is important to note that all changes from constipation to laxative diet, and the converse, are to be brought about by gradual substitution.

Hay and straw are essential for the maintenance of healthy and vigorous horses during the winter months. The excellence of these articles, and more especially the hay, depends on the cost of keeping it and immunity from disease. The quantity of bad hay got rid of—consumed it is not—by some teams is enormous, and, if calculated at its lowest value, costs as much as a sufficiency of good hay. Added to the excessive amount used, account must be taken of the additional loss by good corn being mixed and wasted with the unpalatable chop.

As the hay-growing farmer cannot afford to use one of his most profitable crops for the maintenance of his horses, he must consume the least saleable portion of it upon his own farm. Whether it is profitable for the grower to use the inferior article is a question for individual estimation; but to buy bad hay for consumption by horses is certainly not economical.

For cart horses, rye grass and clover hay, containing a larger percentage of both heat and flesh-forming ingredients, is much superior to meadow hay. Analyses by Professor Voelcker, Professor Tanner, and Mr. Pringle demonstrated that Mr. Hunting’s estimate of hay as a flesh-producer is too low.

Professor Voelcker states the proportion in clover hay to be 9*3, the two other authorities 13*52 for clover and 8*44 for meadow hay. The value of no other crop is so much enhanced by careful harvesting as hay. Good rye grass and clover hay is known by its freedom from dust and mold, by an agreeable smell and sweet taste, and especially by the bright light guinea-gold color of the cut ends of the truss, by the adhesion of the seeds to the rye-grass spikes, and by the uniform interspersion of clover stalks; it is hard and firm but not harsh to the touch.

The qualities of hay are only secured in perfection when it is mown before the rye-grass seeds are fully ripe, and when it is gathered free from rain or dew at the right moment, after sufficient but not too prolonged exposure to sun and air. Slight deviation in either direction inevitably results in loss of quality.

Rusty or moldy hay is unpalatable, innutrition’s, and detrimental, whilst heated or mow-burnt hay—namely, that which has undergone too much fermentation in the stack—palls the appetite, and when very black and brittle in texture its use is essentially injurious to horses, acting as a powerful diuretic and producing excessive thirst, with the usual concomitants of debility and emaciation.

On the other hand, hay that has become ‘ weathered ‘ from too prolonged exposure to sun and wind, as well as that made from grasses that have been allowed to become too ripe before being mown, is inferior; it is harsh and brittle, weighs lightly, is devoid of brightness, deficient in nutriment, and is thus uneconomical to use though it is not absolutely pernicious for horses.

Hay when harvested under the most favorable circumstances should not be used until the following November and is in the best condition from June to September in the following year that is when from eleven to fourteen months old. Horses like new hay as a change, but until the fermentative action has completely subsided, it has a purgative effect, and is innutritious and debilitating. Under circumstances where it is absolutely necessary to use the new crop before the middle of October, it is preferable to consume over-ripe or even slightly weathered hay rather than heavy juicy samples.

As a general rule, hay deteriorates and becomes dry after being stacked for upwards of eighteen months; though when grown upon rich soil, mown and gathered under conditions calculated to ensure super-excellence of quality, it is often after that age more nutritious than the succeeding year’s crop.

Managers of large studs are wise when they secure a stock grown in years that have been favorable to successful harvesting; there are seldom two consecutive summers of this kind, and close observers know that seasons very greatly influence the quality of hay.

Beyond being a good judge of quality, the purchaser of hay for town horses should possess a knowledge of the class of land upon which it is produced; that grown on poor soils will be at least ten per cent, less nutritious than the produce of rich and well-tilled land, yet to the ordinary senses little difference may be appreciable.

Many persons have discontinued the use of hay as rack food, and no doubt it is more economical to give the greatest proportion in the form of chop, with grain; yet a small allowance, put in the rack late each night, is highly appreciated. To prevent waste, only an exceedingly small quantity of long hay should be given, and that of the best obtainable quality.

The clover hay grown upon arable farms being required for rack food, the use of chopped straw in place of hay chaff becomes almost an absolute necessity. Oat straw is usually preferred for horses, but many good keepers use wheat straw; they say it produces a finer coat, and I allow that for horses with defective wind it is undoubtedly better than any other description of fodder. Bean straw is comparatively rich in feeding properties; when cut for chop, and steamed for some hours, it affords an agreeable addition to manger foods.

Where hay chop is not at all, or only partially, given, the difference in nutriment between it and straw chaff must be balanced by an increased corn allowance. Under all conditions, the substitution of some sweet, chopped straw of any kind for a portion of the hay chaff is an economical and otherwise beneficial practice, but the relative proportions must be determined by exceptional circumstances.

The seeds that fall from the hay in the loft and cutting room after being separated from dust by washing, during which process the seeds float and the impurities subside, should be steamed and given with ordinary cooked food.

In districts where potato cultivation is used the use of this root as an article of equine diet is extensively adopted, especially in seasons conducive to the development of the disease peculiar to the tuber. Potatoes are usually given after being steamed or boiled, mixed with the chop, and a small allowance of corn.

Theoretically they possess only a very small amount of flesh-forming principle, yet some authorities credit them as being about one- third as nutritious as oats, and in practice it is found they are capable of sustaining horses in good condition with but little help from the corn-bin.

Turnips and mangolds of sound quality are useful addenda to dry unpalatable winter keep. They are wholesome and nonstimulant but provide little support to hard-working horses. On the contrary, they ought, associated with cut hay or straw, to form the basis of food for idle horses, living in stables and yards. Many people boil or steam these roots, but for town horses I am in favor of giving them pulped and uncooked, during the months of December, January, and February.

The cost of carrots is usually prohibitive of their routine use for draught teams. In my opinion they are the best adapted of all roots for horses, and even when at a high price are economical for an unthrifty animal.

The Breeding and Management of Draft Horses

Best Wishes

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