Balancing a Horse’s Diet

atv-balancingahorsediet

I am concerned about oversupplementation and imbalances in my feeding program. Is there any place that I can send my feed bag tag and list of supplements that each of my horses get for review? I want to know if there are imbalances or if I am oversupplementing any chemical, mineral or herb. Thanks, G via AAEP Ask the Vet

Dear G,
You left out one important component of your horse’s diet: his forage, whether grass or hay. If you are going to spend the time and money to analyze what your horse is getting from his feed and supplements, you have to include what he is getting from his forage as well, since that is the bulk of his diet.

Also, ration analysis can tell you the levels of protein, various carbohydrates, fat, macro and microminerals, and vitamins that are in the feedstuffs your horse eats. However, they typically do not analyze for herbs, so you will have to look elsewhere for that information. If you are working with a holistic veterinarian to design your horse’s health and nutrition program, he or she may be able to point you in the right direction.

After you receive the results of your ration analysis, you may want to consult with a veterinarian or nutritionist to help make sense of all the numbers. If you have a veterinary or agriculture school in your state, I suggest starting there. Sometimes county extension offices can be very helpful. Depending on the brand of grain you feed and how many horses at your barn are on it, local sales representatives may be able to analyze your forage and work with you to balance the entire ration. My new favorite equine nutrition analysis is from the feedXL folks. Here are some websites to get you started:

www.equi-analytical.com An excellent resource for feed analysis and ration formulation
www.uckele.com Uckele Health and Nutrition offers hay analysis and computerized ration balancing
http://feedxl.com/ A do-it-yourself nutrition calculator that owners subscribe to

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

Posted in Ask the Vet, Nutrition

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