Interpreting Horse Feed Tags

Introduction

Feed selection is one of the most important decisions horse owners make, and depends on the age of the horse and the amount of work the horse is expected to perform.  Understanding how to interpret the feed tags attached to feed bags can help owners make good decisions about which feeds to purchase to ensure they are meeting all of their horse’s nutritional requirements.

Information on Feed Labels

1.Product Name and Purpose Statement– Reflects the intended use of the feed, such as growing foal, mature horse, or lactating mare.

2.Commercial Feed Class– Equine feeds are divided into four categories; textured concentrates, processed concentrates, complete feeds, and supplements.  Textured concentrates are sweet feeds, or grains mixed with molasses to improve palatability.  Processed concentrates are pelleted or extruded to increase digestibility.  Complete feeds combinations of concentrates and forage, are high in fiber, and used when forage is in short supply.  Supplements include protein, minerals, and/or vitamins.

3.Guaranteed Analysis– Provides concentration information of minimum levels of crude protein and crude fat, minimum and maximum values of calcium, and minimum values of phosphorus, copper, zinc, selenium, and vitamins A

4.Ingredient List– Indicates all ingredients from greatest to least amount.

Guaranteed Analysis Section

Crude Protein (CP)– Needed for muscle maintenance, enzyme synthesis, and hormone synthesis.

Crude Fat (CF)– An indicator of feed energy content.  The higher the minimum percentage of CF, the higher the calories provided by the feed.

Crude Fiber (CF)– Best indicator of energy content. As fiber increases, energy decreases.  CF ensures normal digestive tract functioning, and mixes containing less than 7% CF are energy dense and require more management.

Calcium (Ca) and Phosphorus (P)– Vital for development, maintenance, and repair of musculoskeletal systems.  Ratios should remain within 1.1:1 to 2:1 parts calcium to phosphorus.

Copper (Cu), Zinc (Zn), and Selenium (Se)- Micronutrients required in small amounts, but just as important as macronutrients such as Ca and P.

Remember that horses are fed based on body weight, and feed should be measured in pounds, not scoops.

References

Anderson, K.P.  2007.  Basics of Feeding Horses: Reading the Feed Tag.  University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension