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Horse standing in field

Are You Feeding Your Horse Unnecessary Supplements?

One of the pitfalls of feeding your horses without actually calculating what you are feeding is paranoia that maybe your horse isn’t getting enough of the most important nutrients. That maybe he is missing something and this is going to cause problems, or make him sick!

As a horse owner I am sure you experience this feeling of ‘maybe I should just add a little bit more…’ or ‘maybe I should add that supplement I was told about because it sounds important, I meet those requirements…’ or ‘I’ll just add this, and this (and this) and even this just to be sure I am covering everything!..’.

Problem is, feeding like that still doesn’t ensure you actually meet requirements. AND it is So. Very. Expensive!

Which is where FeedXL comes in… when you can feed with certainty because you know what you are feeding is meeting requirements you no longer need to add extras as a ‘just in case insurance’. With FeedXL you can see which requirements are met, and which may not be and adjust your diet accordingly.

This diet, for a mare named Smarty is the perfect example of this. Smarty’s owner has done a great job of putting together a diet that meet’s all of her requirements, but watch as I am able to completely remove one supplement PLUS reduce another supplement by 25%. Meaning every 4 days now she gets essentially a FREE dose… or put another way her supplement bucket will last 25% longer and cost her 25% less!

 

 

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Two Feeds, and Yet Requirements Are Still Not Met…

You have spent time researching feeds and found 2 you really like. You have carefully monitored your horse’s body condition and are only feeding enough of these feeds to maintain good bodyweight. You are feeding a largely forage based diet.

You are doing everything right!.. Except.

The small amount of feed being fed is not enough to cover your horse’s vitamin and mineral requirements… which will eventually result in hoof, joint, performance, immune function and general health issues! Problem is, you won’t see that until something big happens.

This is the problem with vitamin and mineral deficiencies. You can’t see them until all of a sudden the really blow up in your face! Hooves fall apart. Joints break down. The immune system becomes so compromised that it can’t mount an effective immune response to a simple disease challenge. Performance suffers. Infertility shows up.

Watch as I walk through Ash’s diet here. Ash has a lovely diet. Except… it doesn’t meet requirements. So we switch out two feeds for one balancer pellet. And now we meet all requirements with less feed!

 

 

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Horse feeding on the meadow

What to Do When a Hay Only Diet Is Not Enough for Your Horse

Forage based diets are THE best! There are so many reasons why, if you can, you should feed diets that are close to 100% forage. BUT, forage only is not enough. 95% + of the forages I see analysed don’t contain enough of one to several minerals to meet a horse’s requirement.

Plus for horses in heavy work, lactating mares and young, growing horses forages often do not contain enough calories or protein to properly meet requirements.

And this is exactly what is happening here. Watch as I run through an 18-month-old filly’s diet. Her owner plans to feed a variety of hays, which is PERFECT! But the hay alone is not able to support correct growth and development.

We use FeedXL to have a look at a couple of feed options that will fill in all the diet gaps left by the hay!

Simple, just one feed.

Cost-effective, it’s not multiple feeds and supplements.

Balanced, with the right nutrition the filly will grow and develop correctly, hopefully with bones and joints that remain sound for her lifetime!

 

Questions? Comments?

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How to Account for a Hay Slow Feeder in FeedXL

Hay slow feeders come in many sizes and designs. The principle behind them is to a) reduce waste, and b) slow intake of hay.

Our FeedXL members occasionally ask, “how do I take into account the use of a slow feeder?” The simple answer is you probably don’t need to. While slow feeders are a fantastic tool for slowing the intake of hay, they generally don’t limit your horse’s daily intake of hay i.e. it just takes them longer to eat the same amount of hay. This has several benefits including maximising the time your horse spends eating (mimicking grazing behaviour) to prevent boredom and reduce the risk of developing gastric ulcers.

To enter the amount of hay your horse is eating from a slow feeder each day into FeedXL, just weigh the hay you are putting in the slow feeder and enter this amount in FeedXL

If you’re wanting to reduce the intake of hay for weight control, you ideally need to feed a set (restricted) amount in your horse’s slow feeders per day (rather than free access to a round bale or similar). While a slow feeder will be beneficial in reducing the time taken to eat the restricted amount of hay, keep in mind that you may need to still divide the hay into more than 2 feedings per day.

To get a gauge on how regularly you need to top up your slow feeders, spend a day or two observing your horse’s hay intake (from the slow feeder) and take note of how long it takes them to finish the hay. Ideally, you don’t want your horses going longer than 4 to 5 hours without eating.

P.S. If you want to use a slow feeder but you can’t use anything with a net because your horse has shoes, check out The Savvy Feeder, we think they are brilliant!

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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?

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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?

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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!

Bodyweight

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!

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