A British maker of a slow feeder hay net has launched a free online forage calculator to help horse owners tackle the equine obesity epidemic.
The Forage Calculator has been developed by Trickle Net, and uses data pulled from the latest available research in approximating the dry matter forage requirements of horses and ponies on a grass and hay diet.
Built with guidance from Louisa Taylor BVM BVS (Hons) BVMedSci (Hons) MRCVS of Vetrition, the calculator asks horse owners to input their horse’s weight, hours of turnout and the type of pasture with the amount of hay fed and the feeding goal. The results are instantly available to the user and displayed with recommendations and advice around feeding horses on a weight-controlled diet. It is a useful ‘quick guide’ tool that can be used by feed merchants, livery yard owners or any professional who is providing guidance to horse owners in forage feeding. The calculation will be adjusted as new, relevant research becomes available.
It also tells the user how much money they will save if they have been over-feeding forage. The tool can provide a good starting point for owners, although it does not replace working with an equine nutritionist; owners are directed towards the services of Vetrition and Practical Equine Nutrition for personalised weight loss plans for their horses.
The Forage Calculator was the brainchild of Ellen Chapman, founder of Trickle Net. “Owners often ask us about the amount of forage to feed and we found ourselves repeatedly running through the same calculations when giving advice,” Chapman said.
“I thought it would be ideal to have an online tool for owners to do this themselves and learn more about dry matter intake (DMI) requirements. I then wanted to make this tool more comprehensive and useful for owners, so I began to look more closely at pasture DMI and started reading the research.”
Chapman said that the calculator gives owners a good baseline to start from. “Using the specific feeding goal, weight loss, maintenance or weight gain the calculator takes the numbers we know work. It then approximates the DM requirements based on the owner’s information, and the research data.”
“Each horse is an individual, but it is a very good ‘ballpark’ calculation, which is a big step forward for owners who could not easily access this important information before,” Chapman said.
The calculator is supported by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), Redwings Horse Sanctuary, The Laminitis Site and Care Equine Education. Information on diet and nutrition, laminitis prevention, management and weight control can be accessed from supporters via the calculator page.
University of Liverpool researcher Dr Tamzin Furtado said that owners often struggled to calculate exactly how much forage they should be feeding their horse, and the new calculator would “help lighten the load”.
“It’s also great for determining how much your horse is overeating by – using the calculator made me realise that it’s no wonder my boy is getting fatter as spring comes!”
Chapman said the feedback from horse owners had been positive, and new innovations were in the pipeline. This included a new owner-focused equine weight calculator, based around ideal body weight, with owners accurately fat scoring their own animals. “We feel this could also be incredibly valuable.”
» Try out the Trickle Net Forage Calculator