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Feed Tags: Part 2

Written by: Jenna Tranter

Published on: 03/15/2022

In our second and final installment on feed tag information and determining what your horses needs are we are going to have a deeper look at ingredients, processing, precautions and directions. We have already talked about the individual components like fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals so if you are looking for that information have a look back at our previous blog.

What’s actually in my horse’s feed?

Different feeds use different ingredients to achieve the levels of fat, fibre etc. they are stating on their feed tag. These ingredients are listed in one of two ways on your feed tag depending on where you are located or your manufacturer. Ingredients that are listed as a ‘fixed formula’ will list all the ingredients individually such as whole oats, soybean meal, rice bran etc. Ingredients that are listed as ‘collective formula’ use general terms such as grain products, plant based products etc. These general terms are set by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). Both ways are acceptable on a feed tag however if you are dealing with a horse with food based allergies or sensitivities it becomes extremely important to have ingredients listed using fixed formula terminology so you can ensure your horses dietary safety.

One of the things to note on collective formulas is that the manufacturer can change the quantity of certain ingredients as long as it doesn’t change the guaranteed analysis when grain prices fluctuate. An example of this would be if the price of corn went up the manufacturer could reduce the amount of corn and add more oats. If you are looking to limit the amount of certain ingredients and know that every bag is identical, collective formulas may not be the right fit for you.

This is also generally the space where, if important to you, it should annotate whether or not a product is GMO or non-GMO. GMO’s have gained attention in the human food industry and have definitely become more, and more important to horse and pet owners alike as well. As a general rule, non-GMO and organic feeds usually come with higher price tags so if this is something of importance to you just note that your bill is likely going to be more. Non-GMO and Organic are two separate things- Organic is non-GMO because the use of GMO’s is prohibited in organic production (again this can vary depending on what country you are in. Non- GMO however does not immediately mean the product is organic. Most non-GMO plants do not tolerate pesticides and herbicides that GMO plants do and the use of them would kill the crop. Even when it’s just ‘Non-GMO’ the resulting product is often much ‘cleaner’ than a GMO alternative.

Do I need Textured or Pelleted Feed?

Extruded or Pelleted feed, in a nutshell, means that all the ingredients are blended down and together and are pressed, usually using high pressure and temperatures, to the pellet form you are used to seeing in your horse's feed tub. Extruded feed can be more digestible as the steam breaks down some of the components structures to make the nutrients more readily available. The downside of this process is that the processing may damage some of the natural vitamin content which may then necessitate the addition of vitamin premixes.

In a textured feed you will find most of the ingredients in their whole whole loose form. While there may be some processing (rolling, crimping, cracking etc) these feeds are not pushed through an extruder and generally do not use the same levels of heat or pressure. Often in a textured feed you will find pellets as well- these pellets usually contain the added vitamins and minerals that are advertised on your feed tag. Often any form of textured feed gets labelled as ‘sweet feed’- todays feeds contain significantly less molasses than we have seen historically and many textured feeds are even safe for horses with metabolic disorders.

Precautions: Read the warnings!

Most feeds will contain a section on the feed tag with precautions and warnings. It’s very important to read over these sections to ensure you are not harming your horse by offering them a specific food stuff. Some feeds need water added as they expand tremendously and are not only a choke risk, but a colic risk if fed dry. Some feeds may not be suitable for pregnant or lactating mares or for horses with specific disorders eg. metabolic conditions. Most people ‘glaze over’ this section but it is so important to read and understand this information as well.

Camelina Oil for Equine

✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

Camelina Oil for Equine

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

Okay I’ve picked and I’m ready to feed…How much!?!?

Every feed label will have the feeding instructions contained on the label for you. To figure out what your horses needs are you need to have a rough idea of their current weight as well as their individual needs eg. a horse in heavy work vs. a pleasure horse vs. a broodmare. Most horse owners have never had their horses actually weighed as having access to a scale is not common. Weight tapes are available at most feed and tack shops and will give you an idea of your horse's current body mass.

Feed directions often give you a broad range for feeding e.g. ____lbs to ____lbs for every 250kg’s of body weight. You will need to purchase a scale to confirm the weight of what you are providing- often owners will state that they feed ‘one or two coffee cans’ of feed a day. If you don’t know the weight of the feed in your coffee can it can become very easy to over or underfeed grain. Some feeds now offer a scoop or a cup that has the weight of the specific feed marked at different levels on the scoop/cup- I personally think these are fabulous as it makes measuring out feed very simple!

With all this talk about grain and feed tags we want to reiterate that forage should always be first in your horse’s diet and make up the majority of what they are receiving daily. Omega 3’s are lacking in hay and are often lacking in grains as well. Smart Earth Camelina oil can help be the final step in your feed program to ensure your horse is getting everything they need all the time.

We hope you enjoyed our series on feed tags and grain- we would love to hear your feedback and what is important to you when formulating a feed program for your horse!

Meet Jenna Tranter

Jenna Tranter is Smart Earth Camelina Corp's equine nutritionist. She is the owner and operator of Four Corners Equestrian and has been involved in the industry for over 20 years.

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About the Author

Jenna is a lifelong equestrian and lover of all animals big and small. She has both studied and worked within the industry for 20+ years in both the feed sector as well as being a coach and hunter/jumper facility owner with time spent in the UK and Canada. She holds a number of equine certifications from universities in both countries. She also has completed numerous courses in equine body work, including equi-bow, but is not a practitioner at this time due to there just not being enough time in the day! Jenna lives on her farm in Ontario, Canada with her husband, 19 horses, 2 goats, a flock of ducks, a flock of chickens, her barn cats and her 3 loyal dogs, Bosco, Evaa & Eeyore.