They are also high in amino acids...which are very important for muscle building and maintenance.
Why to feed Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds have two visible positive effects on horses:
When fed in smaller amounts, they will give your horse a nice shiny coat (and improve hooves, according to some owners) without the weight gain.
However, at 2500 calories/lb. they can also be fed at higher levels to add some calories to your horse's diet and assist with weight gain. They are preferred by many owners over oil due to the fact that they provide fat along with other nutrients.
How to feed Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
BOSS can be fed as whole seeds right along with your horse's other feeds. For some picky eaters, you may have to start with very small amounts and gradually increase to the amount you want to feed. In my experience, most horses love the seeds once they get over the suspicion of it being a new feed.
Sunflower seeds should never be fed at a rate higher than 2 pounds per day.
Usually, they are fed at a rate of 0.5-1.0 cup per day for shine without the weight gain. For weight gain, you usually want to feed at least 2 cups per day, if not more. Of course, you may have to adjust these amounts for individual horses.
The volume of BOSS varies due to seed variation so this is one feed that you should actually weigh out every time you feed. In some bags, the volume to weight ratio will be approximately 5 cups/pound, while other bags will be as low as 2 cups/pound!
So, definitely weigh this feed every time you feed it. You can get a cheap kitchen scale at Wal-Mart or Target and use it specifically for feed use.
Who Should NOT Have Them?
The only group of horses that absolutely cannot have BOSS is horses that are HYPP positive. These horses need to have very controlled amounts of potassium in their diets, and BOSS contain a large amount of this mineral. This also goes for horses that might have HYPP but have not been tested.
Some people worry about the ability of horses with poor teeth to break down the shell. However, the BOSS shell is softer than the coating on an oat (try biting into each yourself if you don't believe me), so any horse that can handle oats should have no problem with BOSS.
There have been reports online of horses colicing when their diets contain BOSS, and having seed hulls show up in the impactions. However, all of these reports have been "unofficial" reports online, and none of them have been able to prove whether or not BOSS was the actual cause of the colic...its very possible those horses would have coliced regardless of whether or not there was BOSS in their diets.
Cost of Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
BOSS have a pretty reasonable price for the nutritional punch they pack...
In most areas of the country you can pick them up for anywhere between $10-20 for a 50 lb bag. This will average out to roughly 30 cents/day if you are feeding 1 pound...but many horses don't need that much.
Since they are marketed for birds, the price stays fairly reasonable since the companies that package them know that people won't pay outrageous prices to feed wild birds...
...at least not prices as outrageous as we are willing to spend to feed our horses.
However, many people have reported the prices raising during the winter months by a few dollars per bag. My best guess is that this is because very few people feed wild birds year-round, so there is probably more demand from the bird-lovers during the winter.
Omega-6 vs. Omega-3
As discussed on their respective pages, omega-6 fatty acids are slightly more inflammatory than omega-3's which have anti-inflammatory properties.
It should be noted, no research has proved what the ideal ratios of omega-6:omega-3's are in the horse...
...the only things we do know for sure regarding horses and omegas are:
So, for the average horse, there is no reason not to feed BOSS simply because of the omega-6 content...at least until more research is done.
However, like I mentioned above, owners of horses with inflammatory conditions (such as arthritis) should evaluate carefully their individual horse and decide whether or not BOSS might play a role in their diet.
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, though a relatively unknown feed to the horse world, provide many benefits.
They are packed with nutrition, amino acids, and calories, so they are a great supplement for almost any horse to one degree or another.
The only horses that shouldn't have them are HYPP positive horses, or those of unknown status.
Now that you better understand the benefits and feeding methods of BOSS, you can better decide whether or not they play a role in your horse's diet.
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