Since building the feed troughs, I have experimented with keeping some straw in front of the donkeys all day - cut out a hay feeding so they are only getting a hay bag first thing in the AM and last thing at night, around 9 PM and then lots of barley straw (not weighed) throughout the day. Very limited grazing.
But, my oh my - they are HUGE! Am I am freaking out! They will eat anything and everything, including the fences and I really don't like how they look - very wide, kind of like oil drums on legs. Borderline obese, even! I'm even embarrassed to post photos of them! A bit of white line separation going on too. Awckgh@#^)!!!!
So this past Friday, I gathered samples from 12 bales of barley straw and sent it off to a lab. There is SO much controversy about feeding straw - many people on the equine nutrition circuit suggest that:
a) it might be really high in starch and sugars and b) straw in North America might be quite different to what is called straw in the UK. I really don't know so I figure I'd better have it analyzed.
I would love to be able to feed free-choice - many people do - but these
minis are a challenge, gaining weigh so quickly. I confess that I've
never really understood how to feed free choice - I mean, how much would you put out for them at one time? And doesn't this contradict feeding a % of their body weight? My gang would do well on a maximum of 4 lbs. each mixed hay/ straw per day (even that might be too much if you were feeding by optimum body weight) - but they would gladly eat waaaaay more than that, if it were offered. And I'm afraid I have been offering way more to see how they would do on straw if it is always there for them.
In the meantime though, I'm afraid I am cutting back their feed somewhat - not withholding food, that would be wrong, but trickle feeding smaller portions frequently and cutting back on the amount of straw, except overnight, when I am really generous.
Increasing their exercise too - they really need jobs to do but it's winter! In any case, we do "something" every day, a bit of trotting or jumping or walking. Right now I'm going to halter up Heather and head out for a walk.