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Full Version: Ration Balancer Rational BY Mrs Hook
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When we think of feeding grain to horses we either think of straight oats, a sweet feed or a pelleted ration.

Sweet feed is an oat based feed that has corn and a vitamin mineral supplement added and molasses. Sometimes it has soy bean meal or other grains. Pelleted grains mixes are the same basic formula as sweet feed but the grain has been ground and processed into pellets. I know I am simplifying this and all brands are just a bit different but that is the basics. To make a "complete feed" the feed companies grind up some kind of roughage filler i.e. alfalfa, bean husks, corn stalks and add it to the grain.

Research has been done on the daily nutrient requirements for horses and analysis has been done on each product so they can do a scientific blend that fulfils all the daily nutrient requirements for horses. When feeding any type of grain (from now on I am going to refer to sweet feed, pelleted ration, and complete feed as "grain"), in order for your horse to get the proper amount of nutrients you must feet the recommended daily amount that is printed on the grain bag. Most feeds require you to feed approximately 1 to 2 pounds of grain a day per 100 lbs of body weight. Translated, this means most 1000 lb horses should be getting a MINIMUM of 10 pounds of prepared grain mix a day. How many of you actually follow the feeding instructions on the bag and feed the recommended amount? I would bet, not very many!! Right???

First of all is the cost factor, that means you are feeding a LOT of grain every day and then most horses will start looking like whales if fed those amounts. Don't forget that an average horse requires 2% of their body weight in hay/roughage/forage a day, so this 10 plus pounds of grain is always in addition to the 20 plus pounds of hay they consume. So, because we don't want a bunch of really porky horses running around we feed them reduced amounts. The really easy keepers get a couple cups and the harder keepers get a couple pounds and the ones that are worked really hard or are very hard keepers may or may not get up to the 10 plus pounds that are recommended. When we reduce the amount of grain fed, we are reducing calories but we are also reducing the amount of nutrients they are getting. If we feed like this for a while then their system becomes depleted in some vitamins and minerals and it starts showing in hair coats and hooves. With broodmares it can show up with babies with growing developmental problems.

Ration balancers are the answer to the above. You can feed your horse the recommended amount so they get all the nutrients required and you don't break the bank feeding them. Ration balancers are basically a vitamin mineral mix in a protein base. They are designed to be fed in the 1 pound to 2 pound range per day. When you first see the small amount you feed, it really does look like you are trying to starve your horse but they are getting all the necessary nutrients. Most of our horses manage very well on 2 lbs of ration balancer and grass hay a day. If one needs to put on a bit of weight then we add oats for calories, or you can add oil or buy one of the prepared fat supplements on the market. The ration balancer always stays constant and we just adjust the oats/oil depending on fitness level and body condition. A bag of ration balancer in Canada (depending on who makes it) runs between $15.00 and $25.00 so if you think of feeding 1 pound vs. 10 lbs the dollar savings is tremendous.

Since we have switched to feeding a ration balancer and our horses are now getting their proper amount of nutrients - rather than being fed only part when we were feeding a regular grain - manes and tails and feet are much stronger.

All feed companies have a nutritionist on staff and you can either call them or e-mail for any feeding help you need. If you want to get more in-depth you can buy the book called Feeding and Care of the Horse by Lon D Lewis. It has charts of breakdown of nutrients of all grains and hays. Our nutritionist said it was the textbook he used in school. We have our hay tested to check for any deficiencies so we can make sure they are addressed immediately.

One note that is important about feeding in general. Alfalfa hay has a high calcium to phosphorus ratio. Oats are high in phosphorous. Most grass hays have a good calcium phosphorous ratio. If you are feeding grass hay and oats you do not have a balanced diet, if you are feeding straight alfalfa you do not have the correct balance. Ed made us a spread sheet and we transfer all these numbers into it to always check and make sure everything looks OK.

About growing babies. There is two schools or thought, one says babies cannot digest grain until 3 to 4 months of age so should be fed milk based pellets and the other says they can digest it. I don't know which is correct but to be on the safe side we bought the milk based vitamin mineral fortified baby food pellets and feed the recommended amount based on age and weight. Babies are prone to growing problems, so keep a careful watch on their legs. If tendons become tight and the baby starts rocking back and forth on their knees you need to address this. By rocking I don't mean after they have ran and played and their legs are tired but normally standing. Also, watch carefully for any signs of epiphysitis, which is an unnatural increase in the size of joints, starting with ankles. This is caused from babies growing quickly but not having enough nutrients in their diet to support the growth.

A lot of vets do not understand the principals of nutrition and will tell you to starve the baby. This is absolutely WRONG but that myth still continues. What you need to do is decrease calories but increase vitamins and minerals. Both Buckeye Feeds and Progressive Nutrition have a foal product that you give to add extra nutrients to support growth. There are other companies that make a similar product but I can't give you names. Another problem some babies have is a lack of copper in their diet and there is a product called Copperquine that addresses this problem.

Most feed companies are now making their version of a ration balancer. In order to find which product, just ask them for a grain that you only have to feed a pound or two a day.

We also feed, free-choice, a mineral mix that does not contain salt. We feed plain loose salt, free-choice in a separate bucket. The reason for splitting these up is that if a horse needs minerals or salt then they can eat the one that is necessary for their body. We use loose products rather than blocks because it is difficult for them to get the amount needed by licking.

Now my disclaimer: I am not a vet, I am not a nutritionist, I have just done lots of research on this subject and have tried to boil my knowledge down into something you can understand. If you have questions and need clarification I will try to help you, but you can also e-mail your grain producer and ask them, their nutritionist on staff should be able to answer all your questions.

Thanks Hook & Mrs. Hook!

I asked in another post but will ask again here... What is the free flowing mineral mix that you use? I couldn't find anything except something for cows here.
Originally posted by PaintGal

Thanks Hook & Mrs. Hook!

I asked in another post but will ask again here... What is the free flowing mineral mix that you use? I couldn't find anything except something for cows here.


We use the loose mineral from Buckeye. They make a mineral for grass forage and another for legume so you can get the one that fits in your feeding program. If Buckeye is not available in your area I "think" they will ship it to you. It comes in 20 -25 lbs bags.
PG, we have used this(link below, hope its ok) but right now I am using a reg. ole trace mineral block. It is good stuff but just a pain in the butt when you are feeding more than 1 horse. We also use the ADM feeds.

Thank you mrs hook for the information. I've been doing a lot of reading on the subject, i constantly worry if my horses get enough or proper nutrition.
Thanks for the info. I feed oats and alfalfa hay, so I guess I need to look a little closer at my feeding program. Haven't had any problems to speak of. I used to feed sweet feed, but it made both of my horses a little "hot" and I can tell the difference since I switched to plain oats. You have given me "food for thought". Thanks!