Ag Notes: Like children, horses bicker over food

March 09, 2004|JERRY LITTLE

Do you know children who squabble over food at home, perhaps to get the largest piece of pie? Horses bicker over food in the pasture as well.

Herds have a definite pecking order. This hierarchy ranges from the most dominant horse to the most shy or timid one. As a horse owner, observe each animal to determine which one is the dominant horse and which one might be on the bottom of the pecking order so you can provide the opportunity for every horse to eat its grain ration.

When feeding horses on pasture, avoid putting grain directly on the ground, because you will lose feed and horses might get colic from ingesting sand.

One problem with using a feed trough is that dominant horses can take a bite of feed and then chase away the more timid horses, unless you have long feed troughs or enough of them to allow ample feeding space. Without adequate space, "bossy" horses get too much feed, while the timid ones don't get enough grain.


Another problem is that some troughs might have sharp corners that could cause injuries to horses. Although some commercial feed troughs have rounded corners, there's still the problem of herd members getting unequal amounts of grain from the trough.

If you put feed containers on the ground, use rubber tubs rather than metal or plastic ones. If a horse steps into a rubber tub, the animal isn't injured. Metal tubs, and some plastic ones, might break and cause an injury.

University of Kentucky researchers studied how closely to place rubber food tubs to allow each horse to gets its feed without too much disturbance from the more dominant horses. Putting tubs 12 to 24 feet apart was best.

Putting the tubs more than 24 feet apart results in inequitable grain consumption. As soon as you put feed in the first tub, the most dominate horse begins to eat. Putting tubs further apart takes more time so timid horses have less time to eat. After eating from their tubs, dominant horses chase timid ones away and eat their grain, too.

Another part of the UK study was whether to put feeders in a straight line, or in an equilateral triangle. This comparison showed that submissive horses had more time to eat when feed tubs were placed in a triangle with angles 12 or 24 feet apart, instead of a straight line.

When feeding grain to outside horses on pasture, place tubs 12 to 24 feet apart to improve your horses' chances of getting their daily grain allowance.

Having fun

A farmer and his pig were driving down the road when a cop pulled him over. The cop asked the farmer, "Didn't you know it is against the law to ride with a pig in the front of your truck?"

The farmer replied, "No, I didn't know that."

The cop asked the farmer where he was going and he said, "To Memphis."

The cop said, "I will let you off the hook this time if you promise to take the pig to the zoo when you get to Memphis." So the farmer promised he would.

Several days later, the cop spotted the farmer with the pig driving down the road, and he pulled him over again. The cop said "I thought I told you to take this pig to the zoo when you got to Memphis."

The farmer replied, "I did and we had so much fun, I'm taking him to Kings Island now."

Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.

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