Feed companies have been around for quite a while (Purina dates back to 1894) but many operations still mix their own feed. There are pros and cons.
A big plus is cost. Even if you give a formula to a mill to mix and bag for you, cost is likely to be half what you now pay for a bagged feed. You get to pick only the ingredients you want and can avoid anything you know your horse does not tolerate well.
Another big plus is uncoupling minerals and vitamins from calories. You can add the supplements you need for your hay to as large or small a serving of “grain” as you choose. You also know exactly how old the mixture is, can avoid things that can accelerate organism growth (like molasses) and can check the quality of individual ingredients before they are fed.
On the negative side, fungal toxins are a concern. They are in commercial feeds also but most companies do having some screening procedures in place. Best to avoid high risk ingredients like corn, seed meals and brewers’ or distillers’ grains in a homemade mixture. You also need to make sure your ingredients are at least balanced for calcium and phosphorus; trace minerals as well if feeding more than 1 kg/day. There is time involved in designing the feed and mixing ingredients daily (or having it done through a mill) compared to reaching into a single commercial feed bag but it’s actually not all that much.
A popular option is to use a vitamin and mineral mix matched to the hay and a fresh mixed feed with a naturally balanced calcium:phosphorus ratio. You can then adjust the “grain” up or down as needed without changing the amount of minerals fed. I use a target Ca:P ratio of 2:1 or less in the feed. Calculating this is relatively easy. Convert the typical calcium and phosphorus percentages to a whole number by multiplying by 100; e.g. 0.25% phosphorus becomes 25. Using some commonly available US feed ingredients it looks like this:
|Feed Ingredient||Calcium Equivalents||Phosphorus Equivalents||Typical Protein (%)|
|Alfalfa meal or pellets||147||28||15|
|Heavy weight oats||1||41||11|
|Split dried peas||12||45||25|
A simple combination is equal parts of beet pulp and oats = 94 + 1 calcium equivalents and 9 + 41 phosphorus equivalents = 95:50 for a ratio of 1.9:1. Another is one part alfalfa and two parts oats = 147 + 2(1) calcium and 9 + 2(41) phosphorus = 149:91 for a ratio of 1.64:1.
A good online source for nutrition information on other possible ingredients is http://www.feedipedia.org.
Maximize feed freshness and quality, improve vitamin and mineral nutrition and do it while saving money.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD