not all grain fed is the same

I watch a great deal of conversation on the web about agriculture and food. I see a lot of criticism of cattle being fed grain – even charges it’s akin to feeding them poison! It’s wasteful – cows should graze. While I personally agree on pastured animals I can see some merits in some situations of feeding a small amount of grain. However there’s another realm I never hear criticized.

I hear much on the waste of feeding grain to livestock. I balance that with an appeal for money I got this morning on email from a horse rescue place listing typical costs of caring for an animal. It listed a bag of feed every 2-3 days. Let that sink in – a 50 pound bag of feed every 2-3 days is 15-25 pounds of grain *per day* – these are not hard working animals but even that…is a lot of grain! Rescue horses, if starved or doing without, do need to gain weight but high amounts of grain can cause metabolic issues from founder to colic.

Yet I don’t recall critics ever mention feeding grain to horses even at much higher levels than is fed to cattle or hogs. I wonder why that is. Horses, being an animal designed by nature to eat most of the time, are a pasture based creature (or hay) if there was a model for one. Yet the same people not wanting to put 50 cows on an acre think nothing of 50 horses per acre! They think nothing of denying the horse access to pasture and those large amounts of grain. But one can’t criticize horses – we don’t eat them so it’s ok? Moderation in all things is important!!

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2 thoughts on “not all grain fed is the same

  1. That’s a 50 pound bag of feed, not grain. It does not have to be grain to be bagged feed. Most bagged livestock feed is high in things like pelleted alfalfa and other legumes. It includes minerals and vitamins needed for the animal is cannot get just from grass. For horses it will include a good dose of oats (just like the oat meal you eat). Oats is high in fiber when it is still in the hull as this surely is.
    Horses are not built like cows. They do not have a rumen to digest the large amounts of grass that cows do. They are built for eating more seeds and legumes.
    Pigs are omnivores like us. In the wild they eat grains, fruits, nuts, fungi and meat (usually insects and worms, but will scavenge dead animals).
    Most of what is fed to livestock is stuff you would never eat. Even the corn fed to livestock is not the sweet corn or pop corn you eat. It’s not very tasty. Cattle in confinement eat mostly chopped up corn stalks, alfalfa and very little grain.
    Please don’t assume those folks you read on the web know what they are talking about. Ask a vet or you local farmer.

    • Valid points and with all due respect have spent 40+ years around livestock including horses. No assuming here at all! And agree it could be a complete feed – and the differences in digestion. And the types of corn. My point was that no matter what type of grain or feed horses are often overlooked as “exempt” from criticism heaped on other types of livestock, fed at a much lower level of grain.

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