This and That - Mixing Horse Feeds
Eleanor Richards

         Are you a Mad Scientist at feeding time?   A dab of this; a shake of that?

         Horse owners, stable managers and trainers think they can make a better product in the privacy of their own feed room than a reputable feed manufacturer can make in their state-of-the-art lab or research facility.

        Here's an example.

        Scotchie-poo's owner loves him dearly and wants to do the best for him.  But he gets a little hard to handle on the trail and he is overweight, so she has designed her own feed program.

        He gets a half scoop of sweet feed and a half scoop of oats. Plus the standard two flakes of hay at each feeding.

         She believes the oats dilute the molasses in the sweet feed, there-by reducing the sugar content or energy.

         Let's address the practice of feeding by scoops instead of pounds.

          I have yet to see feeding directions that say: "Feed 1 scoop for every 1,000-pounds of body weight".  Feeding directions may read: "Feed 0.50 to 1.0 pound for every 100 pounds of body weight per day."

         Every feed room must have a scale!

         Oats can dilute the energy molasses provides…but is it a good idea?   While the oats are diluting the energy, they are also diluting the vitamins and minerals provided in the balanced ration.

         For example the calcium level in oats is approximately 0.07 percent.  The calcium level in a well-balanced commercial mix may be around 0.70 percent.  According to the National Research Council a 500 kilogram mature horse (1100-pounds) at maintenance activity level requires about 20 grams of calcium per day.

        If Scotchie-poo is eating two pounds of oats and four pounds of the commercial mix per day he is getting 13.34 grams of calcium - not enough calcium.

        Here's the math.

        Change the percent values of the two calcium levels to decimal values.  Do this by moving the decimal point to the left two places. 

Oats:  00.07 percent equals 0.0007
Commercial mix: 0.70 percent equals 0.007

        Now change the amount of the two feeds being fed from pounds to grams.  Do this by multiplying by 453.6 (there are 453.6 grams in a pound).

Oats: 2 pounds of oats times 453.6 equals 907.2 grams
Commercial mix: 4 pounds times 453.6 equals 1814 grams

         The next step is to determine how many grams of calcium is being fed for each type of feed.  Do this by multiplying the grams of grain times the amount of calcium.

Oats: 907.2 grams times 0.0007 equals 0.64 grams of calcium
Commercial mix: 1814 grams times 0.007 equals 12.70 grams of calcium

          Now add the two together for the total amount of calcium being provided by the two pounds of oats and four pounds of commercial mix per day.

.64 grams plus 12.70 grams equals 13.34 grams of calcium.

          If Scotchie-poo was eating the minimum amount of the commercial mix per day recommended by the feed tag for his age (mature), weight (1100 pounds) and activity level (maintenance) he would be getting five and a half pounds per day.  Let's calculate how much calcium five and a half pounds of the commercial mix is providing.

Percent of calcium converted to decimal point = 0.007
Pounds of grain converted to grams = 2494.8 grams
2494.8 times 0.007 equals 17.46
Amount of the calcium in the feed = 17.46

           This is low, but keep in mind the forage will be providing some calcium.  To correctly balance the ration a forage test should be conducted and more calculations completed.

           The point is, the oats are going to dilute the calcium in the diet - along with other vitamins and minerals.

           If a balanced commercial mix is making the horse too fat or too hard to handle then another type of feed needs to be offered.  Or (gasp!) no grain is needed at all!  A vitamin/mineral supplement designed for the geographical area along with free choice salt, fresh water and plenty of forage is all that is needed. 

           Horses do not require grain - contrary to what Scotchie-poo thinks!

            Don't dilute, unless you compute!

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