Tag Archive for: feed ingredients

Horse standing in field

Why isn’t Sulfur included in FeedXL?

Sulfur is a critical part of all proteins and horses need it to create protein, particularly the protein of their hooves and hair!

If it’s so important, why isn’t it included in FeedXL you might ask?!

We don’t include sulfur in FeedXL because the chance of a deficiency is virtually zero. Forages contain enough sulfur, so that even if intake was reduced to just 1% of bodyweight, maintenance reuirements would still be met.

My texts suggest possibly that straw based diets could become sulfur deficient, but as long as you use FeedXL to make sure protein requirement is met, the assumption is that sulfur requirement will also be met.



We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!

Click here to join the FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook

Sugarbeet is more SUPER than I realised!

If you’ve been hanging around FeedXL for a while you will know I LOVE sugarbeet pulp!

And last week, while I was doing a consulting job I found another (very important) reason to love beet even more…

And that was?! … you ask!

It’s protein!!

I had not EVER thought about beet protein… in my mind it was a fibre, and a source of energy (calories). And that is still the most important reason you would add it to your horse’s diet.

In fact you don’t add beet unless you need extra calories in the diet (save for those situations where many of us use it to mix supplements into a tiny feed).

I just assumed it would have pretty poor quality protein.

But, here is what I discovered…

Sugarbeet has a really nice amino acid profile, especially given it is only around 9% protein.

If we compare it to another really common source of energy with a similar protein content, oats, you will see two very cool things:

Sugarbeet’s lysine and threonine (two of the essential amino acids we think a horse runs out of the fastest, making them super important to supply in the diet) are considerably higher than what you will get from oats, despite a very similar total protein content. Methionine levels are very similar.

Sugarbeet’s isoleucine and valine (two of the branch chain amino acids that are so important for muscle recovery) are higher than oats. And Leucine levels are similar.

So the protein in beet is pretty neat!

I do want to make it clear though that I would never add beet pulp to a diet for it’s for its protein. It is first and foremost a source of calories!

HOWEVER, I do love the fact that when we add it to the diet for calories it is also bringing in good levels of essential amino acids!

Oats Sugarbeet Pulp
Crude Protein % 9.1 9
Lysine g/kg 3.5 7.1
Methionine g/kg 1.4 1.6
Threonine g/kg 2.8 4.4
Leucine g/kg 6.6 6.3
Isoleucine g/kg 3.3 3.8
Valine g/kg 4.6 6.1

Data from PremierAtlas 2014



We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!

Click here to join the FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook

Is Copra Meal a Good Feed For Horses?

I was asked in our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group recently what is my opinion of copra meal. It’s an interesting ingredient, made from the flesh of the coconut after a lot of the oil has been extracted.

Copra tends to divide people, with some horse owners loving it and some not a fan.

What do I think of copra meal?! Let me tell you…

If it’s quality copra meal, regularly tested for aflatoxin (a mycotoxin that commonly contaminates copra meal) and not burnt during the drying/oil extraction process then I love the stuff.

It has a lovely oil content which interestingly has virtually no omega 3 or 6, so it won’t unbalance your omega ratios. It is also predominantly medium chain fatty acids which are unique and have some advantages over long chain fatty acids for digestion and metabolism.

It is high in phosphorus. It is not unique in this respect. All grains, legumes, oilseeds and their by-products are high in phosphorus. On this, here is what you need to remember… no single ingredient is a perfect diet.

We combine feed ingredients for a very good reason, and that is because they each bring their own unique set of nutrients to the diet. Being high in phosphorus and low in calcium is actually USEFUL because so often we end up with high calcium in diets and phosphorus is a sometimes hard to come by and relatively expensive nutrient. So when we can use naturally high phosphorus ingredients it helps to fill this requirement in a diet.

For example a lucerne/alfalfa, beet-pulp based diet is high calcium, low phosphorus. Add copra and it raises the phosphorus without also unnecessarily increasing calcium. And that helps you both meet phosphorus requirement and keep the calcium to phosphorus ratio balanced (FeedXL works all of this out for you!).

Copra meal is high in fibre and it makes for great fibre diversity. This is why I have recently started adding it to my feeds. My horses get 80 g/day each… it’s a tiny amount and scientifically I can’t tell you what that does to the microbiome. BUT I like having it in there because I do think the more fibre variety the better. I am limited with amount I can give due to all my critters ability to stay fat!

Copra also tends to be quite rich in trace minerals, particularly copper and zinc which are often in short supply in horse diets because pasture and hay tend to be low in those nutrients.

Last is protein. Protein is an interesting one. Copra has a reputation for being a poor quality protein. And yes, if you compare it to soybean it is poor quality. BUT, and this is a big but, we don’t ever use copra for its protein. As in we wouldn’t recommend you use copra for a horse that needs extra protein in its diet because there are better options.

So what’s the BUT?! Well, we use copra as a source of energy… and compared to OTHER energy sources like cereal grains and beet pulp, copra has BETTER quality protein… so it’s like an extra little bonus, in adding energy you also get more essential amino acids than if you had used say cooked barley or beet pulp.

So I like copra’s protein! As long as it is being used as a source of energy and not being used for protein as such.

For me, copra is a beautiful ingredient on two conditions; one, that it is high quality copra meal you are using. And two, that you feed it as a part of a balanced diet, which FeedXL makes easy! 😊


We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!

Click here to join the FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group

What is the Safest Form of Flaxseed – Whole, Ground, Heat Treated or Oil?

Confusion around what form of flaxseed (linseed) is best/safest to feed our horses is nothing new. While many of us thought the concerns around cyanide poisoning for horses were laid to rest, recent safety issues around flaxseed supplementation in human diets, more specifically for toddlers and children, has warranted us to look at this again (EFSA CONTAM Panel, 2019).

There are very few published research studies available in horses around the safety of feeding flaxseed. And there are no published reports of cyanide poisoning that we are aware of. Most safety information is extrapolated from other species including humans, rats, dogs, cattle and pigs. Although information is limited, we aim to answer three questions for you:

  1. Should we be concerned about the potential of cyanide poisoning in horses?
  2. What is the safest form of flaxseed to feed our horses?
  3. Does form then affect the fatty acid composition of flaxseed?

How is Flaxseed commonly fed?

Currently, whole and freshly ground flaxseed are the most common ways of feeding flaxseeds to our horses.

Whole flaxseeds are deemed relatively safe from the point of view of cyanide poisoning as the two things (more scientifically, the precursors for cyanide production; cynanogenic glycosides and the glycosidase enzyme) that combine to produce cyanide are contained separately within the intact whole seed. Once eaten, the chewing action grinding the seeds can allow for cyanide production, but it is thought that this is quickly halted once the flaxseed reaches the stomach and the enzyme becomes deactivated by the gastric acid.

Anecdotally horses owners have found that whole flaxseeds can pass undigested through the gastrointestinal tract presenting in manure, with some finding flaxseed plants growing in their paddocks (great for biodiversity in the pasture, but not so much benefit to our horse in getting those added fatty acids in the diet as we had hoped).

Freshly ground flaxseed has become popular for this reason – with limited time for cyanide to form, preservation of fatty acids and to ensure our horses could access all the goodness within the seed coat freshly ground flaxseed is an excellent option.

Realistically, what is the likelihood of cyanide poisoning in horses?

It appears not likely.

Extrapolated from other species, a horse’s maximum ‘safe’ intake of cyanogenic precursors is 0.4mg/ kg body weight… or 200mg for a 500kg (1100lb) horse (Dusica, I. et al., 2012).

So, even if a flaxseed product contained the highest concentration of cyanogenic precursors reported in the European Food Safety Authority database (407mg/kg) (EFSA CONTAM Panel, 2019), it can be still be safely fed at up to 500g (~1 lb) per day for a 500kg horse.

How much flaxseed can I feed safely?

There is no established recommendation, but we can be guided by amounts that have been safely fed in a few horse specific studies.

In a Canadian study, horses were fed 100g (3.5 oz) per 100kg (220 lb) body weight per day (500 grams for a 500 kg horse). This study looked at the supplementation of flaxseed for reducing skin reactions like ‘sweet itch’ (O’Neill, W. et al., 2002). The authors reported no negative effects of feeding milled flaxseed at this level and reported reduced skin reactions in response to the induced skin irritation in the flaxseed supplemented horses.

Other studies in 2009 & 2012, fed a much lower amount of milled flaxseed, estimated to be 150-165g (5.5-5.8 oz) per day. Between these two studies, positive changes in blood and muscle omega 3 content and improved immune function were reported in those supplemented with flaxseed compared with control groups (Vineyard, K. et al., 2009; Hess, T. et al., 2012).

Based on these few studies and figures extrapolated from other species, up to 100g (3.5 oz) per 100kg (220 lb) or 500 grams for a 500 kg horse per day can be fed safely.

Most horses (65% according to Facebook Poll conducted on the 15 October 2020 by FeedXL Horse Nutrition Calculator) receive 100-250g (3.5-8.8 oz) flaxseed per day.

If you are concerned about cyanide toxicity, what can you do?

Research has shown that heating flaxseed can reduce the amount of cyanogenic precursor present.

One study showed microwaving flaxseed for just over 4.5 minutes on microwave power of 400W reduced precursor by 25% (Dusica, I. et al., 2012). Beware though, you can burn flaxseed in the microwave! Microwave power > 560W for 6 minutes caused samples to burn.

Other studies have also shown that microwave roasting achieved the highest level of precursor reduction (83.3%) in flaxseed (Feng et al. (2003).

Happily, this study also showed that there were no major changes in the main nutrient and fatty acid profile caused by microwave treatment.

Similarly, extrusion (140 degree Celsius) significantly reduced cyanogenic compounds (84%) but did not significantly change the fatty acid content – even after storage for 60 days (Imran, M et al., 2015). Limited information is available on micronized flaxseed specifically.

Interestingly, the perception that fatty acids in raw ground flaxseed deteriorate quickly is not supported by various studies, all showing minimal difference in fatty acid composition after 2-4 months storage (Khalesi, S., et al. 2011).

What about oil?

The good news is that oil doesn’t contain the cynangenic compounds of whole or ground flaxseed. It can be less stable in terms of fatty acid composition, therefore must be stored correctly and used in a timely manner. But if the reason you are feeding flaxseed is for the oil content, then using the oil may be an option worth considering.

With flaxseed oil products though, you do not get the benefit of other nutrients whole, ground or milled flaxseed provides to a diet including like protein, fibre, minerals & vitamins.


So, are we any closer to knowing what is the best and safest form of flaxseed to feed our horses? Honestly, we think it comes down to personal preference.

With cyanide toxicity appearing to be less of an issue for horses due to the low amounts commonly fed in comparison to body weight – whole or ground flaxseed is acceptable. Due to anecdotal evidence of whole flaxseeds passing undigested through the gut, freshly ground flaxseed is favourable to ensure fatty acids can be absorbed.

Ground flaxseed also offers the benefit of providing the wonderful fibre and other nutrients along with the omega 3 fatty acids compared with flaxseed oil.

Practically, freshly grinding flaxseed is not for everyone.  If this is the case for you, using a stabilised (pre-heat treated) flaxseed product may be a better option.

If you are still concerned about cyanide poisoning, microwaving your flaxseed  should significantly reduce the cyanogenic precursor and is unlikely to affect the fatty acid content. Be careful microwaving though to make sure you are not burning the flaxseed.

And do your own research on the safest way to microwave them based on your specific microwave. As a guide you should be able to safely microwave them at 400W for 5 minutes. But the quantity you microwave at any one time will have an effect on the appropriate time you should use.

Feeding rates will vary depending on a horse’s energy requirement and amount of omega 3 within the diet however up to 100g per 100kg body weight appears safe…the economics of feeding this much we are less sure about!



Dusica, I., Kokic, B., & Tea, B., Colovic, R., Vukmirovic, D. & Slavica, S. (2012). Effect of microwave heating on content of cyanogenic glycosides in linseed. Ratarstvo i povrtarstvo. 49. 63-68.

EFSA CONTAM Panel (EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain), Schrenk, D., Bignami, M., Bodin, L., Chipman, J.K., del Mazo, J., Grasl‐Kraupp, B., Hogstrand, C., Hoogenboom, L.R., Leblanc, J‐C., Nebbia, C.S., Nielsen, E., Ntzani, E., Petersen, A., Sand, S., Vleminckx, C, Wallace, H., Benford, D., Brimer, L., Mancini, F.R., Metzler, M., Viviani, B., Altieri, A., Arcella, D., Steinkellner, H. & Schwerdtle, T., (2019). Scientific opinion on the evaluation of the health risks related to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides in foods other than raw apricot kernels. EFSA Journal 2019;17(4):5662, 78.

Feng, D., Shen, Y. & Chavez, E. (2003). Effectiveness of different processing methods in reducing hydrogen cyanide content of flaxseed. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 83. 836 – 841.

Hess, T., Rexford, J., Hansen, D. Harris, M., Schauermann, N., Ross-Jones, T., Engle, T., Allen, K. & Mulligan, C. (2012). Effects of two different dietary sources of long chain omega-3, highly unsaturated fatty acids on incorporation into the plasma, red blood cell, and skeletal muscle in horses. Journal of Animal Science. 90. 3023-31.

Imran, M., Anjum, F., Ahmad, N., Khan, M., Mushtaq, Z., Nadeem, M. & Hussain, S. (2015). Impact of extrusion processing conditions on lipid peroxidation and storage stability of full-fat flaxseed meal. Lipids in health and disease. 14. 92.

Khalesi, S., Jamaluddin, R. & Ismail, A. (2011). Effect of raw and heated flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum L.) on blood lipid profiles in rats. International Journal of Applied Science and Technology. 1(4). 84-9.

O’Neill, W., McKee, S. & Clarke, A. (2002). Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation associated with reduced skin test lesional area in horses with Culicoides hypersensitivity. Canadian journal of veterinary research = Revue canadienne de recherche vétérinaire. 66. 272-7.

Ratnayake, W., Behrens, W., Fischer, P., Labbe, M., Mongeau, R. & Bearerogers, J. (1992). Chemical and nutritional studies of flax-seed (Variety Linott) in rats. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 3. 232-240.

Vineyard, K., Warren, L. & Kivipelto, J. (2009). Effect of dietary omega-3 fatty acid source on plasma and red blood cell membrane composition and immune function in yearling horses. Journal of Animal Science. 88. 248-57.


Meet The Author: Samantha Potter, MSc

In 2009, Sam completed a Bachelor of Equine Studies and it was during this time she developed an interest in equine nutrition. Pursuing this passion, Sam went on to complete her Honours followed by her Masters degree in equine nutrition at The University of Melbourne. Since 2015, Sam has worked as an independent nutritionist and enjoys supporting horse owners manage their horse’s nutrition in her role with FeedXL. To learn more about Sam and to ‘meet’ the rest of the FeedXL team, check out our About Us page here.


Do you have a question or comment? Do you need help with feeding?

We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!

Click here to join the FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group


Horse looking out from his stable

Q&A: Original Grain or New Regimen?

Question: I brought a new horse home that has been on grain with his previous owner. I do not feed grain. Instead, I give free choice alfalfa/orchard and grass. Should I continue his old grain or is it ok to keep him on my regime? His body score is low 4 with just a few ribs barely showing. He is an 11-year-old Appendix with no health issues.

Watch the video below with FeedXL founder Dr Nerida Richards and SmartPak’s Dr Lydia Gray for the answer!


Do you have a question or comment? Do you need help with feeding?

We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!

Click here to join the FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group


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!


Do you have a question or comment? Do you need help with feeding?

We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!

Click here to join the FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group


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.


Do you have a question or comment? Do you need help with feeding?

We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!

Click here to join the FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group


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!


Do you have a question or comment? Do you need help with feeding?

We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!

Click here to join the FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group


Are Soybean Hulls Safe For Horses?

Are your soybean hulls safe? Because some of them definitely are NOT!

I love soybean! The protein is amazing and year in, year out we feed it to horses with stunning results in muscle, bone quality and milk production.

BUT… it MUST, MUST, MUST be heat treated correctly to make it safe to feed!

Why Must Soybean Be Cooked Before It’s Fed To Horses?

Uncooked soybean has a few anti-nutritional factors. The most significant one is trypsin inhibitor. Trypsin is a protein-digesting enzyme made by your horse. Your horse uses trypsin to cut up protein into amino acids so they can be absorbed.

Trypsin is like a little pair of scissors whose only job is to cut up (i.e. digest) protein. The trypsin inhibitor in soybean effectively ties a piece of string around the end of these protein-digesting scissors so they can no longer cut any protein up.

The end result… decreased protein digestion! So you can be feeding plenty of protein but if any soybean products you are feeding have active trypsin inhibitor, protein digestion will be reduced! A lot! And the problem is it reduces protein digestion from ALL protein in the diet, not just from the ingredient containing the trypsin inhibitor (i.e. the soybean hulls).

How To Know If Your Soybean Product Is Safe For Horses

I recently picked up two samples of soybean hulls from a large riding horse stable. The horses in the stable were being fed two different brands of soybean hull. The stable manager had gone to long lengths to balance these diets using FeedXL. To look at the diets on paper I expected lovely, rounded, well-conditioned horses.

But they weren’t. The horses being fed the most feed had little muscle. Spines were tent-shaped, rumps were flat and shoulders and chests thin and narrow. I was scratching my head. Something was wrong but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what… until I tested the soybean hulls!

Using a rapid colour test to check for likely active trypsin inhibitor, I tested them to make sure they had been heat-treated enough to destroy all trace of trypsin inhibitor. When heat treatment has been done well, the samples tested should show no trace of a colour change. If heat treatment was not done properly, and active trypsin inhibitor is still present, the sample turns pink. How pink determines how active the trypsin inhibitor will still be… more pink = more active trypsin inhibitor (which is not what we want to see).

And the results, to be honest, are scary! The hulls in the photo at the front lit up like a Christmas tree! Bright pink everywhere indicating lots of active trypsin inhibitor. These ones I suspect have received no heat treatment at all and are totally unsuitable for horses. Yet they were packaged and sold specifically for horses.

The ones in the back, you could see had received enough heat on the outside of the pellet to deactivate the trypsin inhibitor. BUT inside the pellets there was still pink indicating active trypsin inhibitor.

I called the stable feeding these and told them to stop feeding the first pellet immediately. No wonder their horses had no muscle! This product, which they had been feeding for close to 8 months, would have been stopping a lot of protein digestion. And this is not theory… you could SEE how much these horses were deficient in protein, despite their diet containing plenty of it.

The second pellet (in the back) I personally wouldn’t feed either. It will put your horse in a bit of a two steps forward, one or two steps back situation… helping with energy intake but partially blocking protein digestion.

When soybean is PROPERLY cooked, there should be ZERO trace of pink, as shown in the sample on the right here of well extruded full fat soybean. The sample on the left is raw, ground full fat soybean. It is, of course, bright pink… just to show how much the bean itself reacts with this colour test BEFORE it is cooked.

THIS extruded soybean (on the right) is how ALL soybean products SHOULD and in fact MUST look to be safe to feed to horses.

By now, if you are feeding soybean hulls you may be feeling a bit anxious…  wondering if the brand you are feeding is OK or not… it might be, but it may not be either.

How To Test For Trypsin Inhibitor in Soybean

And it is a little bit hard to advise you on what you should do. First step is probably to contact your soybean hulls supplier and ask them to provide any photos they may have of this quick color test check for trypsin inhibitor. Or for a lab analysis for likely trypsin inhibitor activity.

If you are in Australia, Symbio Labs in Brisbane (https://www.symbiolabs.com.au/) can test soybean hulls for you to show you if they have been heat treated enough to be safe to feed.

If you are in North America, you can order a test kit and test your soybean products yourself (https://canadianbio.com/Store) or we can ask around some laboratories for you to see who tests for trypsin inhibitor activity.

If you are elsewhere in the world please get in touch with a local feed or food testing laboratory and ask if they are able to assess soybean hulls for trypsin inhibitor activity.

Unfortunately yet another case of buyer beware. I have contacted the manufacturers of both of these products. Hopefully they will begin to heat treat their products correctly AND take a much more active role in testing products properly before selling them.


Do you have a question or comment? Do you need help with feeding?

We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!

Click here to join the FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group


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!


Do you have a question or comment? Do you need help with feeding?

We would love to welcome you to our FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group. Ask questions and have them answered by PhD and Masters qualified equine nutritionists and spend time with like-minded horse owners. It’s free!

Click here to join the FeedXL Horse Nutrition Facebook Group


© FeedXL