Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Basics of Horse Nutrition – Processed Feeds

Processed Feeds are not always but usually pelleted feed usually purchased in 50 lb bags. Major manufactures of processed and pelleted feed are Purina, Nutrena, MannaPro and Hi-Pro. One benefit from feeding these products are that they are usually fairly balanced and can provide the horse with nutrients such as vitamins, amino acids and minerals that the horse may not get on pasture or from dry hay. However processed and pelleted feed is not a completed ration. It should be used only to supplement hay.

The daily amount given to a horse should be spread out through the day with at least two feeding sessions. Most feed sources will tell you not to feed more than 5 pounds at a time and that processed feed should not make up more than 50% of the horses feed (in weight). Other sources will tell you to feed .5% to 1.5% of the horse’s body weight in processed feed (also called processed grain). If you fed 1.5% body weight of a 1,000 lbs horse – this would be 15lbs of processed grain a day. Not only do I think these numbers are too high, I think they are crazy high.

I think 2 lbs of processed feed at any given time is enough and should make up no more than 20% of the horse’s daily nutrition content. You have to remember that horses did not come into this world being feed by humans. They are designed to eat (graze) small amounts of forage all day long. When we insist on putting them in a pen and feeding dry hay in large amounts plus processed (and therefore not natural) feeds then we increase the likelihood of feed related problems like colic and founder.

Having said that, I do feed processed feed. Hi-Pro Opti 12 (12% protein) to be specific, but in relatively small amounts (about 1.5 lbs per horse twice a day). I feed Hi-Pro as opposed to the other brands simply because friends of mine own a feed store. That’s the brand they sell and I want to help them out, plus the cost savings is greater than the quality difference between Hi-Pro and Purina Strategy which I used to feed.

I feed process grain for several reasons: I use it as a medium to introduce other products like joint and hoof supplements, and it gets the horses used to processed feeds so I can more easily adapt them to a greater percentage of processed feeds when their energy needs go up after long work days or being on the trail for a substantial amount of time, or packing into the back country where grass is sparse and bringing more feed in is a necessity.

Sometimes if I’m on a horse all day long, where his energy needs may almost be twice what he normally gets, I’ll increase his processed grain slightly over the next couple of feedings and well as increase his grass hay. I have also used corn oil quite a bit in the past to provide the horse with a 100% digestible energy source. When I use corn oil, I’ll pour no more than about ½ cup into their processed grain ration. Corn Oil has more than doubled in the past two years, so I sorta came off using it routinely.

I don’t recommend feeding sweet feed. That is processed grains made heavy with molasses, as the chances of that feed molding are much higher than the dryer grains.
If you introduce new feeds to your horse and even different cuts of hay, Alfalfa or grass, you would be wise to slowly integrate- let the horse’s gut and digestive track get used to it.

For more information on Processed Pelleted feeds visit the Feed Manufacturers links.

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