Analyzing Your Horse’s Feedstuff

Analyzing your feedstuff is an important part of knowing what is in your horse’s ration.  The foundation of the ration should be based on the science of Analysis. The mission of feed or hay Analysis is to provide you with facts about your feedstuff to scientifically balance your ration. Once the foundation ration is established, then experience can come into play to provide your horse with a well formulated, practical diet.

Analysis results and rations can be evaluated on either an “as sampled” or “dry matter basis”. When all feeds offered are of a similar dry matter “as sampled” results may be used. For example, hay and grain generally average about ~90% dry matter. If they are the only feeds in the diet the ration can be balanced on an “as sampled” basis.

scoop of grain horse feed

Pasture, on the other hand, contains a significant amount of water and is much lower in dry matter. It can vary in dry matter (15 – 65%) depending upon the stage of maturity, season and geographic location. As such, rations containing feeds that are low in dry matter (i.e., high in moisture) are typically balanced on a “dry matter” basis.


With hay there are two types of Analyses that can be performed; visual and chemical.  If you have already purchased hay, then you have probably performed a visual Analysis.  Chemical Analysis is when the hay is sampled and the nutrient content of the hay is determined by a laboratory.

On your feed bag tag you will see a section with the guaranteed Analysis which provides information on concentrations of specific nutrients.

HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_feed tagbasic

By law, feed companies are only required to guarantee 7 ingredients contained in the feed. Feed manufacturers are required to list percentages of crude protein, crude fiber and crude fat (these are minimums), the minimum and maximum percentages of calcium, and percentages for the minimum value for phosphorus, the parts per million for copper, zinc, selenium and vitamin A in International Units per pound.

In addition to the required Analysis, companies sometimes will list other ingredients but unless it is part of the guaranteed Analysis you cannot be certain the feed has the correct amount your horse requires.  This is why higher end feeds have more guarantees and also one reason why they cost more.  Cheaper feeds might list an ingredient, like biotin let’s say, but they could just put a pinch of it in and say it’s in there.  I would rather pay more for quality and assurance that takes the guess work out of my horse’s ration.

The interactions of one ingredient with one another should be considered for a thorough job of ration balancing . Most professionals and feed companies use computer programs to Analyze and evaluate all factors.

If you are uncertain what to make of your hay or feed tag Analysis consult with a nutrition professional like your feed dealer, extension agent, consultant or veterinarian. They have the knowledge of daily equine nutrient requirements and can help you to develop a fundamentally sound, fact based diet for your horses.Here is a link to schedule one with me Click Here

~Peace and Good Feed,

The Nerd

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