Making Your Own Feed

Interest is high in mixing up your own grain recipe. There are some good reasons for doing this, but also some precautions.

In the plus category are:

  • Cost saving. Even if you run a large stable and pay a local mill to mix your recipe a ton at a time, your cost is likely to be around half of what you would pay for a brand name feed.
  • Quality. Because you can inspect each individual ingredient, you know your horse is getting only high quality.
  • Simplicity. Avoid additives and preservatives you don’t want.
  • Flexibility. Vary ingredients to match your horse’s taste preferences.
  • Control over mineral and vitamin levels. Supplement only what you need.

On the negative end are:

  • Time. It takes a little bit longer to assemble your feed – but not much!
  • Supplementation. A heavily fortified commercial feed will provide about 50% of your horse’s daily mineral and vitamin requirements if you feed the recommended amount, which is usually about 5 pounds. It’s easy to add this back in on your own.
Fungal Toxins

With anything you feed, single items or commercial feeds, get in the habit of checking the smell, looking for caking or clumping, color changes in pellets, pellets crumbling. These can all be early signs of molding. Also listen to your horse. If an otherwise healthy horse is refusing to eat something, there’s a reason.

The ideal and least expensive way to do this is with a hay analysis, so that you can add in only the things your horse actually needs, and also correct imbalances that can interfere with efficient absorption. Next best is to make a phone call to the Department of Agriculture of the state university of the state where your hay was grown. Ask them for common deficiencies and the typical calcium, phosphorus and magnesium levels of your hay type.

The vast majority of typically fed grass hays will meet the calcium and magnesium minimums and will be close but not quite there for phosphorus. If you keep your homemade grain mix at a Ca:P ratio between 1:1 and 1.5:1, you will make up that deficit for hays that need it, without going over for those that don’t.

The following table has taken the average analysis figures for some commonly available ingredients and converted them into whole numbers that are easier to use. Remember, your first step is create a blend of ingredients that has a Ca:P ratio of between 1:1 and 1.5:1. All this means is that when you add up the total calcium and phosphorus equivalents, your calcium equivalents should be equal to or no more than 1.5 times higher than phosphorus.

Feed Ingredient Calcium Equivalents Phosphorus Equivalents Typical Protein (%)
Alfalfa meal or pellets 147 28 15
Beet pulp 94 9 9
Heavy weight oats 1 41 11
Rice bran 7 178 15
Wheat bran 13 118 18
Flaxseed 22.5 57 27
Split dried peas 12 45 25

For every pound of the ingredient you feed, use the full equivalents number – 1 lb alfalfa = 147 Ca equivalents and 28 P equivalents. For smaller amounts, decrease appropriately – 4 oz of flaxseed (¼ pound) = 5.6 Ca equivalents and 14.2 P equivalents. The higher the equivalents score, the more mineral dense the feed is.

Sample Combination Ca Equivalents P Equivalents Ca:P Ratio
4 oz flax, 1 lb each oats and beet pulp 100.6 64.2 1.5:1
4 oz flax, 2 lbs oats, 1 lb alfalfa 154.6 124.2 1.2:1
4 oz flax, 1 lb each alfalfa and wheat bran 165.6 160.2 1.03:1
4 oz flax, 1 lb alfalfa, 1/2 lb rice bran 156.1 132.2 1.1:1
4 oz flax, 1 lb each alfalfa, beet pulp and rice bran 254 215 1.1:1

Lots of possible combinations here, one to suit any horse’s individual tastes. All contain flax to meet the essential fatty acid requirements.

Tip: If you are watching calories, brans are actually higher calorie than plain oats. Beet pulp and oats are roughly equivalent, and the alfalfa is the lightest calorie fare on the list.

To round out this diet you need iodized salt, minimum of 1 oz/day; 1000 to 2000 IU/day of vitamin E and your mineral supplementation.

One is to go with a multi ingredient supplement. You should know that hays across the country are marginal to deficient in copper and/or zinc, rarely to never deficient in iron and usually excessive in manganese. Iodine requires supplementation and unless your hay is from the midwest you need selenium too.  Uckele has a range of equine supplements to fit any need and an array of single ingredient products (e.g. Poly Copper, Poly Zinc) for tweaking. .

One of the biggest advantages to feeding this way is you uncouple the link between calories and supplementation. All hay based diets need some supplementation. By adding your minerals separately, you can easily adjust the amount of bucket feed you give without changing the minerals.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

About Dr. Kellon

Graduate of University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. Owner of Equine Nutritional Solutions,, industry and private nutritional consultations, online nutritional courses. Staff Veterinary Expert at Uckele Health and Nutrition.
This entry was posted in Equine Nutrition and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Making Your Own Feed

  1. Rebecca Wolmarans says:

    Good day,I need help!I live in Mozambique and want to change my horses food from 12percent no grain pellets to home made feed.Its really unnerving to run out of pellets and then struggle to import them.The big problem I’m facing is things like beet pulp and split dried peas are not a real common entity in the middle of Africa.What can you suggest in terms of a similar product?

    • Dr. Kellon says:

      What do you have available?

      • Rebecca Wolmarans says:

        This I’ll have to investigate as we have tons of farm lands but of course only food for the people.My horse lives on basically an island with rich natural estuary and lots of green grass in the summer that’s cut and we have rice grass in the winter.We have nothing like alfalfa naturally but we are working on that and it’s currently being grown.Would something like cassava /almost like a sweet potatoe be similar?Is Beet actually beetroot?We do have a brewery where we can get brewers meal?We just import everything!My horse lives in Macanetta in Mozambique.

      • Rebecca Wolmarans says:

        Search Results
        Featured snippet from the web
        Maize and cassava are the major staples; other food crops include sorghum, millet, rice, beans, groundnut, sweet potatoes and a wide variety of vegetables. Maize is grown in all regions of the country by about 79 percent of rural households and occupies about 35 percent of total planted area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.