What are you ACTUALLY feeding?

Looking from the outside, most of us as horse owners are pretty good at knowing how much feed our horse needs. We can see weight change which gives us a visual clue that the horse is not being fed enough (resulting in weight loss), or too much (resulting in weight gain).

What we can’t see are vitamin and mineral deficiencies. And the problem is, these often won’t show up as something we can see until they result in disaster… hooves falling apart, joints breaking down, an immune system so compromised that it can’t mount an effective immune response to a simple disease challenge.

Here is a classic example of a diet where the horse’s owner has done a truly great job in putting together a forage based diet with just enough of a single feed to maintain excellent condition! BUT the small amount of feed is not enough to meet the horse’s basic vitamin and mineral requirements.

Check the video out as I walk you through Lacey’s diet, which perfectly demonstrates what is happening in so many horse’s diets.

The good news is, with just a little bit of time spent in FeedXL and the addition of a single supplement, Lacey’s diet can be fully balanced to keep her healthy and happy in the long term!



Questions? Comments?

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Why a Forage Only Diet Might Not Be Enough for Your Horse

If you can, you should just feed your horse forage. Pasture, hay, haylage, chaff, forage cubes.

Forage is the most natural source of calories and protein for your horse. And it does the best job of keeping your horse’s gut and its bacteria and fungi (the microbiome) functioning as it should.

We know, from mounting research, that keeping all the microbiome critters happy is a HUGE key to keeping our horses healthy.

Many horses (my own included) do really well on a forage only diet. Mine get their pasture, a small amount of alfalfa (lucerne hay) and some grass hay when the pasture is lush (to keep up their fibre intake). Even when they are working pretty hard this is enough to maintain their condition. They don’t need a feed.

BUT, just forage is not enough!

‘What!?’ you say? But you just said feed only forage?!

Yep, I did. But here’s the thing…

Forage only diets, in 95%+ cases, are not enough to meet a horse’s mineral requirements. And depending on the quality of your forage or the age of your hay, it probably won’t meet vitamin requirements either!

So my horses maintain their weight just on pasture and hay. BUT, they would be severely deficient in copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, iodine and sodium all year round. Then depending on the season (like the 3 years of drought we had between 2017 and 2020), they would also be low on vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin B1.

Horses that are low in these nutrients will eventually start to have issues with joint and hoof health, immune function, energy generation and muscle damage during exercise. And the problem is, you often won’t see a problem until something goes really wrong!

So you really must top these nutrients up using a supplement or balancer pellet.

Let me show you how this looks in FeedXL for my horses on our pasture:


So forage only diets are brilliant! But please, to keep your horse healthy and strong, be sure to top up the nutrients that are commonly missing from forage only diets!

And if you want a really easy way to check what your horse’s diet might be missing, let FeedXL show you. FeedXL is completely unbiased and won’t ever push you to buy a feed or supplement product. It simply works out what your horse needs. Adds up what is in the diet and then shows you if his nutrient requirements are met.

Then YOU can pick whatever product you like from any company you choose to fill the gaps! It is simple, accurate and great insurance for your horse’s long-term health!

Questions? Comments?

Click here to join our Horse Nutrition Forum on Facebook

Beautiful laminitis prone Horse wearing a grazing muzzle to control its intake of grass

How to Measure Pasture Intake When Your Horse Wears a Grazing Muzzle

Grazing muzzles are useful for reducing your horse’s pasture intake. They can be used for easy-keepers when you are trying to reduce energy levels within the diet. Or when your horse suffers from a health condition which requires a reduction of non-structural carbohydrates (starch + sugar) in their diet. Grazing muzzles have gained popularity with many horse owners as they allow their horse to socialise, exercise and be continually stimulated through grazing.

Studies have shown grazing muzzles can reduce forage intake by as much as 80%. There are many factors which affect intake including acclimatization to the muzzle, pasture height and type of muzzle used and your individual horse’s tenacity when it comes to getting grass to poke through the hole.

To enter pasture intake in FeedXL when your horse is wearing a grazing muzzle, subtract up to 80% from the time your horse spends grazing. For example, if your horse is allowed to graze muzzled for 15 hours and is dry-lotted the remainder of the time, you might enter ‘3 hours’ as the amount of time your horse ‘grazes’ into FeedXL (80% of 15 is 12 hours; 15 x 0.8 = 12 hours: 15 – 12 = 3 hours of ‘grazing time’.

Observe your horse grazing pasture while muzzled and watching his body condition over time. This will allow you to get a better estimate of actual intake by your horse. You may find that reducing the ‘time’ grazing in FeedXL by 80% is too much, so adjust it as you see fit.

Questions? Comments?

Click here to join our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Forum on Facebook

Horse eating from a bucket

Should I Enter Ingredients in FeedXL as Wet or Dry Weight?

When using products commonly soaked prior to feeding (things like beet pulp, copra meal, high fibre pellets and hay that is soaked to remove sugars), always enter them into your FeedXL rations as their dry weight.

The Two Main Reasons to Always Enter Dry Weight:

  1. When you add water it increases the weight of what you are feeding, but it doesn’t add any nutrients itself.For example, if you are feeding 500 grams of beet pulp which contains 5.9 MJ of digestible energy, then this is the amount of energy we want to be taken into account in the diet. If you add 1.5 litres of water to that 500 grams of beet pulp and feed a total of 2 kilograms of WET beet and enter THIS weight into FeedXL, FeedXL will not realise the water has been added and think you are feeding 2 kilograms of dry beet and therefore put 23.6 MJ of energy into the diet. Big difference! And a huge overestimation of the actual energy being fed.
  2. FeedXL also won’t be able to accurately estimate pasture intake if you enter the wet weight of the feeds because FeedXL won’t know that a portion of your feeds are water and will therefore count that water weight as feed weight and will reduce pasture intake accordingly.

You might now be wondering why we don’t then allow you to specify you are feeding the product wet – the answer is simply because FeedXL can’t possibly know how wet you feed your soaked ingredients and you will likely make them a bit wetter or a bit drier each time you feed, so it is most accurate to just have everything entered in its dry form.

So, always remember to weigh out your feeds and enter amounts into FeedXL in their dry form in order to accurately develop rations for your horse. Then go ahead and add as much or as little water as you like!

Questions? Comments?

Click here to join our Horse Nutrition Forum on Facebook

Four horses standing at fence

Building Your Horse’s Diet: The Easy Way

Do you want to build a diet for your horse the easy way in FeedXL? This post will walk you through the 4 simple steps to follow to make your life a little easier, and your feeding regime simpler!

Step 1: Enter ALL Forage

First enter ALL of your forage; including pasture, hay, haylage, chaff, and forage pellets or cubes. Now check the diet results. Ignore all of the vitamins and minerals for now (many of these will be low). Just look at Digestible Energy. If this is lower than you would like, move on to step 2. If you are happy with Digestible Energy go to step 3.

Step 2: Top Up Digestible Energy (If Needed)

To top up Digestible Energy you should go back to the Create Diet step and add your preferred high energy feeds. You can either use your own combination of ingredients (like high energy fibres, oils oilseeds, legumes, grains and co-products) or you can choose to use fortified/premixed/complete/commercial feeds. Keep checking the diet results until you arrive at the level of Digestible Energy you are happy with.

Step 3: Balance Vitamins and Minerals

Once you are happy with Digestible Energy levels, it is time to balance vitamins and minerals. To do this, simply click the big button that says ‘Find Supplements to Fix This Diet’. The supplement finder will search the entire supplements database for you and find products that will meet all of your horse’s requirements. Simply choose the one you like best!

Step 4: Meet Sodium Requirements

Add salt to meet any remaining sodium and chloride requirements. Ordinary table or plain salt is simply sodium chloride so it is perfect for meeting sodium requirements.


And that’s it! Keep following these steps each time you build a diet and it will keep the process logical and simple and give you the best chance of creating balanced diets that are also cost effective.

Questions? Comments?

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Award winning dressage horse

How to Check If Everything You’ve Entered into FeedXL Is Accurate

When using FeedXL you need to remember it is a tool designed to help you assess your horse’s diet. It is really important you look to see if what FeedXL is telling you matches what your horse is telling you from body fatness perspective.

The first thing I ALWAYS do is take a look at a horse’s current diet in FeedXL and compare what the horse is doing WEIGHT WISE with what FeedXL is telling me from a Digestible Energy perspective.

This will give you an indication of whether or not you have entered your horse’s details, and diet details, accurately. And it gives you a great place to start to build a new, balanced diet.

How to know that the horse and diet details have been entered accurately:

Digestible energy is LOW and your horse is losing weight

If you input your horse and his CURRENT diet and find that the digestible energy amount is LOW (less than 85% of daily requirement) and your horse is losing weight, this tells you that this is accurate. Most horses would lose weight with their daily energy intake that low. So you can be confident you have entered both your horse’s and diet details accurately.

Digestible Energy is GOOD and your horse is maintaining weight

If your horse’s digestible energy is about where it should be (somewhere between 85% and 105% of requirements) AND your horse is maintaining weight, this also tells you your horse’s details you have entered and the diet you have entered is accurate.

Digestible energy is HIGH and your horse is gaining weight

If your horse’s digestible energy is high (more than 105%) and your horse is gaining weight, this is also accurate.

Potential Red Flags

Some scenarios that raise red flags for me and suggest I need to go back and check either a horse’s details or the diet details I have added are:

Digestible energy is LOW but the horse is maintaining or gaining weight.

If FeedXL is telling you your horse’s digestible energy is too low BUT your horse is maintaining or maybe even gaining weight, something you have entered may not be correct.

Things to check here are:

  • Horse’s bodyweight – if you have the bodyweight too high this increases the calculated energy requirement and will make the digestible energy in the diet appear low. Check your horse’s bodyweight using the girth and length measurement in FeedXL. For more info on how to enter your horse’s measurements to calculate bodyweight, click here to read our post ‘Accurate Information In, Accurate Diets Out’.
  • Workload – if you have your horse’s workload set higher than it actually is this will increase digestible energy requirement and make your horse’s digestible energy in FeedXL appear low. Double check you have entered an accurate workload.
  • Keeper/Doer Status – If you enter your horse as a hard keeper this increases estimated energy requirement. If your diet appears low in energy but he is actually holding weight, try changing keeper status just to ‘normal’.
  • Underestimated pasture quality or quantity – if you enter your pasture at a lower quality than it actually is, or say it is overgrazed when its not, this will reduce the estimated contribution of digestible energy to the diet. If you are not sure how you should enter your pasture head on over to our FeedXL Nutrition Forum and post some photos. Lots of our members or our nutrition team will happily help you out!
  • Inaccurate weight of hay or feeds being entered – If you haven’t weighed your hay or feeds you may have entered less than you are actually feeding. Go get yourself some scales (luggage scales work great for the hay) and weigh everything so you can enter the weights you are feeding accurately.

Digestible energy is HIGH but the horse is losing or only maintaining weight.

If FeedXL is telling you Digestible Energy is high (above 105%) but your horse is only just maintaining weight or possibly even losing weight, something may be not quite right.

Things to check here are:

  • Horse’s bodyweight – if you have the bodyweight too low this reduces the calculated energy requirement and will make the digestible energy in the diet appear high. Check your horse’s bodyweight using the girth and length measurement in FeedXL. For more info on how to enter your horse’s measurements to calculate bodyweight, click here to read our post ‘Accurate Information In, Accurate Diets Out’.
  • Workload – if you have your horse’s workload set lower than it actually is this will reduce digestible energy requirement and make your horse’s digestible energy in FeedXL appear high. Double check you have entered an accurate workload.
  • Keeper/Doer Status – If you enter your horse as an easy keeper this lowers estimated energy requirement. If your diet appears high in energy but he is actually losing or holding weight, try changing keeper status just to ‘normal’.
  • Overestimated pasture quality or quantity – if you enter your pasture at a higher quality than it actually is, or don’t indicate it is overgrazed when it is, this will increase the estimated contribution of digestible energy from pasture to the diet. If you are not sure how you should enter your pasture head on over to our FeedXL Nutrition Forum and post some photos. Lots of our members or our nutrition team will happily help you out!
  • Inaccurate weight of hay or feeds being entered – If you haven’t weighed your hay or feeds you may have entered more than you are actually feeding. Go get yourself some scales (luggage scales work great for the hay) and weigh everything so you can enter the weights you are feeding accurately.

There are other, more complex reasons why digestible energy may appear high or low and not match what your horse is telling you. For example, you may be feeding an ingredient like raw corn that will reduce your horse’s ability to digest fibre. Or you may be feeding too much feed and increasing passage rate through the gut and in doing so reducing digestion.

Questions? Comments?

If you aren’t sure how to interpret what you are seeing in your diet jump on our Horse Nutrition Forum on Facebook. Lots of our members and our nutrition team will be happy to help!

Woman's hands on laptop keyboard

Accurate Information In, Accurate Diets Out

Are you ready to start using FeedXL to build a balanced diet for your horse? Entering accurate information on your horse and what you are actually feeding is so important for making sure the diets you get out are accurate. Here are the most important things you need to get right!


Your horse’s bodyweight is the most important piece of information used to calculate your horse’s daily nutrient requirements.

  • If it is too heavy, nutrient requirements will be overestimated and you will end up over feeding your horse.
  • If it is too light, nutrient requirements will be underestimated and you may end up under feeding your horse.

The best way to get a bodyweight for your horse is to weigh him. BUT, when weigh scales are not available, we recommend using our bodyweight calculator.

The bodyweight calculator lets you enter the girth and length measurements of your horse and it calculates the bodyweight for you. We highly recommend that you measure your horse’s girth and length, and whenever possible weigh your horse on a set of scales to calibrate or confirm the girth and length weight measurement method. All you have to do is measure your horse as shown here and then enter the measurements into FeedXL and we calculate the weight for you. Easy!

You can change the horse’s weight after it has been saved by using the Retrieve Horse button and editing the weight. It is important to check and update your horse’s weight regularly and update the diet if the weight has changed.

Tip: To get to this screen, click the ‘Bodyweight Calculator’ button when entering your horse’s details.

Image showing how to measure a horse around its entire girth and measure body length from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttock. When entered into FeedXL these measurements give you the horse's estimated bodyweight.


Weight of Hay

It is really easy to over or underestimate the weight of hay you are feeding. If your horse has access to Free Choice hay, enter it here at the ‘Free Choice Forages’ step.

Forage builder tool in FeedXL

If you feed hay in specific amounts each day, get yourself a set of fish or luggage scales and weigh each type of hay you feed so you can enter the weight accurately. This can then be entered in the ‘Prepare Diet’ step where you will add any other items fed by weight.

Weight of Feeds and Supplements

It’s also very difficult to accurately estimate the weight of feeds and supplements you might use as their weight per volume is so different depending on the ingredient. Get yourself a set of $20 kitchen scales and weigh everything you feed so you can get a really accurate assessment of your horse’s diet.

Entering accurate information means the assessment of your horse’s current diet will be accurate. And of course, when you make adjustments and create your preferred diet, you should also weigh accurate amounts when you are feeding to make sure what you are feeding is the right amount!

Now you’re ready! Have fun!

We are always here to help. If you have any technical difficulties using FeedXL please email help@feedxl.com OR if you need to ask a nutrition question jump on our FeedXL Nutrition Forum on Facebook.

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Missing Data in FeedXL? What Now…?

In FeedXL you may notice that feed ingredients are shown as having ‘Partial Data’. This means that this feed ingredient’s label provided by the manufacturing company does not contain information for all of the nutrients examined by FeedXL.

Keep reading to learn why you’re seeing ‘Partial Data’, how to see which nutrients are ‘missing’, and what to do about it!

What Does ‘Partial Data’ Really Mean?

When adding feeds to our database, we use the most complete information the manufacturer provides. If they don’t provide all the nutrients, you will see it listed in FeedXL with ‘Partial Data’. That means you can include it in your diets, however, you will be working with incomplete data.

For ingredients that are shown as ‘Partial Data’, you can help us make the data better by contacting the manufacturer and asking them to provide missing data.

If you find data on packaging or online that we don’t have in FeedXL, you can ‘edit’ the ingredient and add it yourself for our review, or you can email us at support@feedxl.com with the missing information and we’ll add it for you.

How To Know Which Nutrients are ‘Missing’ and What You Can Do About It



If you want to see which nutrients are ‘missing’ information, simply click the ‘Partial Data’ link. A ‘light box’ will open that shows the nutrients we have a value for, indicated by a green tick. And which nutrients are unknown, indicted by a yellow ‘?’.



Then, if you want to see the actual values, tick the ‘I am not a robot’ box in the top right corner, play its game and you will see the actual numbers for that feed ingredient. And notice there is an ‘Edit’ button on this screen… remember that, we will come back to it in a minute.



So by now you know which data we have for a particular feed ingredient and which we don’t. Let’s look at what happens when we put this particular feed into a diet.

This horse is an 1100 lb (500 kg) horse in moderate work grazing average quality ‘Autumn’ pasture. When we add 4.5 lb of this feed to the diet, this is what our nutrient graph looks like:



Notice the little yellow triangles on Iodine, Sodium, Vitamin B1 and Folic Acid. This is telling you that at least one ingredient in this diet is missing data for this nutrient.

If you switch to the nutrient table and look at Iodine as an example, you will see a note telling you exactly which ingredients are missing data for this nutrient. In this case, it says:

Please note: This may or may not be a true deficiency. Purina Omolene #500 Competition may contain iodine but information on the amount is not currently available. In the case of commercial feeds you could contact the manufacturer(s) and request more complete information so we can include it in the FeedXL database.


How To Know if It’s a True Decifiency Or Not

This is where the tricky bit starts. How do you know if it is a true deficiency or not? And what can you do about it?

Knowing if it is a true deficiency is tough. In this case, because the feed is meeting copper and zinc as well as vitamin E requirement, you would be reasonably safe in assuming that the feed will meet the requirement for iodine, vitamin B1 and Folic Acid.

Selenium is low though and this may throw some confusion in. But remember in many places the addition of selenium is regulated and feed companies are cautious with the amount they add so they don’t exceed requirements for horses on high selenium forages. So I largely ignore selenium when I am making my mental estimations about what to do with diets like this.

What To Do If Your Diet Contains Feeds with Partial Data

What would I do with a diet like this?

First, I would contact Purina and say ‘Hey, can I please have the data for the nutrients that are missing from your label analysis’. In many cases companies are willing to supply this. If they do give you the additional data, you can then use the ‘Edit’ button I mentioned, to add the nutrients yourself. Or you can simply email the information to us at support@feedxl.com and we will enter it for you.

If you get the additional data this will make it really easy for you to balance the diet as you will know exactly what you are working with.

If you don’t have complete data, here is how I would proceed:

  1. Top up selenium levels. You will find selenium supplements in the blue ‘Balancers & Supplements’ tab.
  2. Add enough salt to get the sodium level to around 50% (the feed will contain some salt, so you don’t want to take this right up to 100%). And THEN, make sure your horse has access to free choice salt. You could use iodized salt in this case to give some iodine as well.
  3. If I have chosen a manufacturer I trust, I would then trust that there will be enough Vitamin B1 and Folic Acid in this formulation to meet these requirements.

Here is how my diet looks after making these adjustments:


Diet After Adjustments

Diet Graph After Adjustments


Advanced Nutrient Graph After Adjustments

Final Thoughts

Personally what I would actually do is really insist on the feed supplier providing the information, OR use a feed supplier that does supply full information.

The days are gone where feed companies should expect you as their customer to be happy to use a feed without knowing exactly what is in it. So speak up, ask for information and let your feed supplier know how important it is to you to know exactly what is in the feed or supplement products you are using! If they get enough people like you asking for this information you will create change!

We do ask for it as well, but it is far more powerful when you as their customer asks for this information.

In the meantime, if you are stuck or worried about how to interpret missing data in your horse’s diet, jump on our FeedXL Nutrition Forum and post your horse’s details, diet and the nutrient graph and tables and we will help you with what we think is best to do for your specific case!

Questions? Comments?

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How to Add ‘Free Choice Hay’ to FeedXL

If your horse has access to unlimited hay (from a roundbale, for example) you can enter it into FeedXL and the system will automatically estimate your horse’s daily intake for you.

We’ve put together a video to walk you through how to enter ‘free choice hay’ into FeedXL. (Scroll down and press play to watch!)

Want to learn more?

Click here to join our ‘FeedXL Horse Nutrition Forum’ on Facebook!

Q. Do You Need to Get Every Nutrient to 100% On The FeedXL Graph?

A. No. And in fact it would be impossible to create a diet that met exactly 100% of your horse’s requirements for every nutrient shown here.

Q. So if not 100%, where should the nutrient levels be sitting? And what is normal? Because some of the amounts on this graph look really high?! Isn’t that dangerous???

A. Good question! And the answer is it depends on the nutrient. Forages, for example, contain high levels of some nutrients like iron and potassium. Because diets often have lots of forage, these nutrients will almost always be high in the diet.

BUT that doesn’t mean it is dangerous. In fact if you push a nutrient to a dangerous level, the bar for that nutrient will turn red, like this, to warn you that the nutrient is now at its ‘upper safe limit’ and needs to be reduced.

Q. OK, that’s good! So I know if I get a nutrient WAY too high FeedXL will warn me. BUT I still don’t know what is normal for all of the nutrients. Where should I expect to see them?

A. Yep, let me walk you through them all! Let’s use this graph and go through each nutrient.

Digestible Energy

This should sit, for most horses, somewhere between 90% and 105% of requirements. SOME horses have a lower or higher need for digestible energy (calories) so you may see the odd horse sitting below 90% or above 105%.

BUT, if you do enter a horse and the Digestible Energy is low or high and this does not correspond accurately with what you are seeing in your actual horse (meaning if the Digestible Energy is low in the diet you enter into FeedXL, normally you would expect to see weight loss. If it is high, normally you would expect to see weight gain) you MAY need to double check the information you have entered into FeedXL as this is a small red flag that something has not been entered right.

For example, if you have entered bodyweight that is too high, the Digestible Energy level will be low and vice versa. Or if you haven’t weighed your feeds and hay or classified your pasture correctly and you have entered amounts or qualities that are too low, then Digestible Energy will appear low and vice versa.

Quick Tip: If Digestible Energy in your horse’s diet is below 90% or above 105%, check that you have entered your horse’s bodyweight and weights of feed and forages correctly.

Crude Protein

The Crude Protein level in the diet should always be at or above 100%. And it is best to try to keep it less than 200%. For performance horses that are stabled and in work I like to try to keep Crude Protein below 160%, if I can… it is not always possible!

Depending on your forages, you may see Crude Protein go very high (well above 200%). Is this an issue? Generally it’s not, but there are some situations (like very hot, humid climates or when a horse is stabled) that it is not ideal. Sometimes, if it is your pasture for example that is high in protein, there is not a lot you can do about it. If the horse is stabled and fed hay, you should try to switch some of the higher protein forage (e.g. alfalfa/lucerne) for a lower protein forage (like a meadow/grass hay), to bring the overall amount of Crude Protein in the diet down.

For detailed information on whether too much protein is an issue or not read our article here: https://feedxl.com/37-protein-can-you-feed-too-much/


Lysine is your indicator of protein quality (you can read about Protein Quality here https://feedxl.com/30-understanding-protein-quality/). Lysine should sit between 100% and 150%. If it is lower, it indicates your protein quality is low and your horse will struggle to do things like build muscle or make milk. In fact, when lysine is low in a diet you will likely see your horse losing muscle over his topline… it’s an important nutrient to get right in the diet.

Lysine may get quite high in some diets depending on the amount and source of crude protein. But if you follow the guidelines above for Crude Protein, you will find Lysine levels will adjust accordingly.


Calcium should be at or above 100% in the diet and I like to keep it below 200%. Ideally, I like it sitting below 150% but depending on the feeds and forages being used, it is not always possible to achieve this. The amount in the diet shown here is lovely, more than the horse needs but well below 200%.

It is important with calcium to also check the calcium to phosphorus ratio in the diet (look in the Nutrient Table) to make sure it is within the right limits with phosphorus. And if you like to use the extra ratios, you can also check its ratio with magnesium, which as a guide, should be 3: 1 or less.


Phosphorus should be at or above 90% and ideally below 150%. You may see some diets with high phosphorus ingredients like Rice Bran pushing phosphorus higher than this. If it is above 150%, be sure to check the calcium to phosphorus ratio on the nutrient table to make sure this is still balanced (there MUST be more calcium in a diet than phosphorus).

NOTE: You cannot calculate the diets calcium to phosphorus ratio off the numbers on the graph. It is always best to read the ratio off the nutrient table. FeedXL will warn you if the calcium to phosphorus ratio is too high or low!

Copper, Zinc, Selenium and Iodine

I am grouping all of these trace minerals together because they all share the same characteristic that they are almost ALWAYS at low levels in forages. Which means they are nearly always deficient in diets before you add fortified feeds or supplements.

This means that you can aim to keep these nutrients as close to 100% as possible. The diet shown here uses a single vitamin/mineral supplement to meet trace mineral requirements.

This is what the diet looked like before I added the supplement:

You can see these 4 minerals are all low. I used the Supplement Finder (i.e. The BIG PINK BUTTON) to find a supplement that would fill all of these gaps. Ideally what you want to see when you use a single supplement is that at least one of these minerals is sitting very close to 100%. That is your green flag that you have the amount of supplement at the right level. Increasing the amount from this point is just a waste as all requirements are already met, while reducing it would mean the amount of this nutrient (selenium in this example, which is sitting at 101%) would no longer be meeting requirements.

The same rules also apply when using a fortified feed to meet vitamin and mineral requirements. Except that you also have to consider the amount of Digestible Energy the feed is adding.

This is not a super simple concept, so if you are confused, please keep asking questions, as the more you understand this, the easier it will be to use FeedXL effectively.

Quick tip: You can try to keep copper, zinc, selenium and iodine as close to 100% of requirements as possible. If these nutrients are above 200% I would be trying to find ways to reduce them. This may mean switching feeds or supplements!

Manganese, Iron, Magnesium and Potassium

These minerals are almost always HIGH in forages. Therefore you will almost always see them sitting well above your horse’s 100% level in the diet. Is this a concern? No. There are always exceptions, but for the majority of horses, no, it is not a problem when these minerals are well above 200%.

Thing is, because these nutrients are rich in forages, it is almost impossible to get them closer to the 100% mark. You could reduce the amount of forage, but the downside of that (higher risk of ulcers, boredom, compromised hindgut health, higher risk of dehydration and colic) far outweighs any potential upside. In fact unless levels in the forage are extreme and the bar for a nutrient goes red, there really is no upside to reducing forage.

If you are concerned, because sometimes it does look scary, just read the notes in the Nutrient Table or the hover box on the graph to put your mind at ease. For example, Iron in this diet is at 331%. Which seems really high! But, the notes will tell you:

“While Poet’s iron is higher than it needs to be it is still within the safe range. Poet’s upper safe level for iron is 6,019 mg or 943% of his RDI”

So the upper safe limit is 943%. This diet is a long way off that, so even though 331% seems high, it is very much within the safe zone!

For those of you who like to look at the iron: copper: zinc: manganese ratio, it is calculated for you in the Nutrient Table.

Sodium and Chloride

Sodium and chloride are the two components of ordinary table salt. So together they can make a feed taste very salty. If a feed gets too salty your horse may stop eating it, because it simply doesn’t taste good (and can’t blame them!). So I like to keep sodium as close to 100% as I can, by adjusting the amount of salt in the diet.

There are a few exceptions. If your horse is in a very hot and humid climate you may need to feed more (more info here https://feedxl.com/40-electrolytes/) or if you are trying to increase water intake for some reason, more salt is useful. But under normal conditions, sitting sodium at or very close to 100% is best. BUT also always make sure your horse has access to free choice salt!

Chloride is a bit of a lucky dip and its final level in a diet will depend on the amount in your forages. I don’t pay too much attention to where chloride ends up. In fact I don’t think I have ever had to adjust a diet specifically to change the level of chloride (for any dairy nutritionists reading this, it does play a big role in DCAD, but that is another story for another day 🙂 ).

Vitamin A

If you are obsessive about getting nutrients close to 100%, Vitamin A is your friend! You will notice it is nearly always sitting on 100% of requirements. Why?

Well, in forage, the ‘vitamin A’ content is not active vitamin A. It is in the form of Beta Carotene which can be converted to vitamin A IF your horse needs vitamin A. So they will only convert it if they need it.

FeedXL models this physiology and takes into account ALL vitamin A from feeds and supplements as this will be an active form of vitamin A (which can become toxic so we need to count all of it). But then FeedXL will only convert vitamin A to active form from forages IF your horse needs more vitamin A.

For example, if your feed + supplement provides 80% of your horse’s requirement for vitamin A, FeedXL will just top up the remaining 20% of vitamin A from forages to meet 100% of your horse’s requirement. Which is why Vitamin A is very often sitting right on 100%.

If your feeds and supplements provide more than 100% of your horse’s requirement for vitamin A you will see it above 100%. This is OK, as long as it is within safe limits (though personally I would keep it under 200%).

Vitamin E, Vitamin B1 and Folic Acid

I am grouping these three together because they will often be low in diets before you add some kind of fortified feed or supplement. And they are all relatively expensive nutrients, so for the sake of cost, you want to make sure your horse’s requirement is met, but if levels of these vitamins go above 200%, you may be paying a lot for nutrients your horse doesn’t really need. I like to keep them between 100% and 200% if I can. In the case of this diet, the supplement I used was rich in Folic Acid so it has tipped above 200%, but the E and B1 are at nice levels so I am not going to worry about the Folic Acid in this case.

Quick Tip: Keeping these nutrients below 200% will make sure the diet is not excessively expensive!

Vitamin B2, Niacin, Vitamin B5 and Vitamin B6

This crew are all grouped together because forage is OFTEN high in these vitamins so you will normally see levels WELL ABOVE 100% for all of these vitamins. Is that something you should be concerned about? Not at all. In fact all of these except vitamin B6 are considered non-toxic. And the vitamin B6 upper safe level is very high (in this diet the upper safe limit is 5000%!!).

Quick Tip: I essentially ignore these nutrients as long as they are ‘green’. They will almost always be well above 100%, but it is nothing to be concerned about!

I hope that helps you a little to read the graph and to put your mind at ease about what is and is not normal for certain nutrients. If you have questions, please be sure to ask in the FeedXL Horse Nutrition Forum on Facebook!! We truly want you to know as much as you can about what FeedXL is showing you!

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