Horse feed is a big business, and competition is intense. Instead of investing large sums in advertising, packaging, web site design and big name endorsements, it would be nice if more effort was put into being consumer friendly.
Instead of (or in addition to) the often difficult to interpret Julian date code stamped on the bottom of the bag, put a “best if used by” date somewhere clearly visible on the bag. Yes, we know storage conditions also influence whether a product is suitable to feed but this date would still be a useful piece of information.
American horse feeds also conspicuously lack any information on calories. For every pound, or per recommended feeding rate, it would be good to see both Mcal (megacalories) and % of daily requirement for maintenance and medium work for at least one weight class; e.g. “The daily intake of 5 pounds of Best Ever Equine feed provides 75% of the calorie needs of an 1100 pound horse at maintenance (no exercise) and 54% of the daily calorie needs for an 1100 pound horse in moderate work”. Note: Example is for a fat added feed providing 2.5 Mcal/lb.
It would be nice to see the same information for protein and calories. If this was a 12% protein feed it would provide 273 grams of protein which is 43% of the maintenance needs and 35% of the moderate work category requirements for our 1100 pound horse. There is quite a gap there between the % calories met and % protein requirement met, but that’s a topic for another day.
At their higher feeding rates, supplemented feeds provide from 50% to 100+% of the daily requirements for major and trace minerals (except sodium chloride – salt) and most are fairly well balanced in terms of their own mineral ratios. You will still need additional minerals to balance the profile in the hay and make sure all minerals are also at least at the minimal requirements.
Providing mineral levels per pound will also help people who think that even small amounts of a supplemented feed is going to benefit their horse substantially. For example, one pound of a 35 ppm copper feed provides 15.9 mg of copper which is 15.9% of the daily minimum requirement of 100 mg before balancing while a full five pounds provides 79.5 mg or 79.5%.
A statement explaining that the guaranteed analysis refers to only guaranteed minimums and is not actual amounts would be informative for the consumer. Many people also do not realize the guaranteed analysis does not include all minerals. Magnesium, manganese and iron for example rarely appear on analyses but are present in the ingredients themselves and may also be added in supplemental form. Potassium is of concern with HYPP horses. Grains are low but other common ingredients like molasses, brans, forage products and soybean meal are not.
Finally, while feed bags must include an ingredients list by law, most web sites do not. This makes it difficult for people trying to avoid things like soybean or alfalfa because of feed sensitivities/allergies or other concerns. Along the same lines, least cost formulated feeds which change their ingredients depending on cost use terms like “forage products” which don’t give the consumer much information. A more detailed list of which forage products might be in there would be beneficial.
None of these things are industry standard. It would be nice to see that change.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD