How Much Do Ranch Horses Eat? A Lot!
Think your family eats a lot? Learn about how much the ranching family at Drowsy Water Ranch in Colorado consumes... horses included!
by Gretta Fosha
The time of year for feasts is here! At Drowsy Water Ranch, this feasting business is nothing unusual. Sure, we make sure our guests are well fed while they are here, we even serve them the traditional Thanksgiving feast meal on Sunday night when they first arrive, but the main feast at the ranch is not in our dining room. If you really want to be impressed by massive quantities and the all-hours of day and night feasting, you'll have to head down to the barn and out to pasture to see the the animals enjoying their daily meals. The feast out there might not include the traditional dishes, but you'd better get ready to see more food go down than you've ever imagined.
On one recent day, we fed 10 hay bales that weighed about 1050 pounds each.
We took one bale to the horses that are at a pasture at the ranch, one to the horses that are in the pens, one to the cows, one to the bulls, and six bales to the herd of about 80 horses up in Walden. We also fed about 50 pounds of grain to the calves, 50 pounds of grain to the horses at the ranch, and an assortment of grains and feeds to the chickens, the ducks, the goat, and the rabbits. We dropped off a 200 pound protein tub and a salt lick for the cows, a mineral lick for the horses here, and a salt lick and a mineral lick for the horses in Walden.
There is some science and math behind all this feed. Between years of experience from Ken and Randy Sue, Ryan's keen animal sense and constant research, and Justin's tendency to science and math the heck out of almost anything, Drowsy Water seems to have a feeding formula that works. The formula is broken down by animal and then by food source. Read on for a summary of the breakdown.
First, by far the largest feasters around the ranch are the beautiful and beloved herd of 120 horses. This time of year, most of the herd is out to pasture. They've been grazing on hay meadows all fall and living the life of a horse on vacation. Most are fat and happy as the days start to grow shorter. As the snow flies, we start to feed them hay. We figure that at our altitude, each horse averages a consumption of about 32 pounds of hay a day.
Multiply that by about 120 horses and you get about 3,840 pounds of hay per day. Yep, almost 2 tons. Every. Single. Day.
In addition to hay, a handful (okay, two or three handfuls) of horses get fed grain daily. This time of year, we feed grain just to those that are older, have a hard time keeping weight on, or have special nutritional or physical needs. In the summer, we feed grain to the whole herd. At peak season, we feed around 500 pounds of grain per day. And those pounds are carried by the wranglers, portioned out in 5 gallon buckets and dumped into individual feeders. Just thought I'd clarify that...it helps explain why our wranglers always have defined arm muscles. Like mentioned above, this time of year we're feeding grain just to the special group so we're down to about 50 pounds of grain per day--yep, only 50 pounds. (Please read that last bit with sarcasm).
All-in-all, we go through about 48 tons of grain per year.
The horses also get salt blocks and mineral blocks year round as well as a supply of 200 pound protein tubs throughout the winter. Those little nutrients add up--we have our feed and minerals customized to our area to make sure our horses are getting everything they need to run happy and healthy while living outdoors at 8,200 feet.
Then we have the cows. Like the horses, the cows get fed hay daily once the snow flies. Again, each cow and calf averages around 32 pounds of hay a day. We have about 31 cows, 29 calves, and 3 bulls. That means we get to feed an additional 2,016 pounds of hay to the cows each day--we just added another ton of food to the daily total. We also feed pellets to the cows in the winter--about 50-100 pounds a day when they need it. And we feed grain to the calves, about 50 pounds a day after they've been weaned.
All told, we have about 4-5 tons of grain plus 1-2 tons of protein tubs each year for the cow herd.
Finally, we have the "small animals". We have a goat, Corona. She eats hay, grain, and anything else she is allowed really. She is pretty easy to keep as she'll eat along with the horses. She would prefer to eat inside at a dinner table with humans, but that is another story. We have 10 chickens and 2 ducks. They lay around 6 eggs a day and eat about 15 pounds of feed a week. The rabbits (we have two of those) eat what seems like nothing compared to everything else, but adds ups to be about 25 pounds every few months. The dogs eat too, and so do the cats. Since those are more "normal" animals, I won't review their portions. (And, because we have so many darn dogs around here, going over their daily rations would be a sure way to make an already long story endless).
So while you think your family can out eat the next one, I think our family may have you beat. Enjoy your holiday season with your family and friends. Our family at Drowsy Water wishes you a happy a safe and happy season!
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