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.
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|
|Heavy weight oats||1||41||11|
|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. https://uckele.com/horse/product-categories/vitamins-and-minerals.html .
|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