This month I decided to review Freedom’s feeding regime. Sure, it’s working, but I wanted to compare different feeds to determine what would give me the best nutritional profile, the amount of calories he needs to hold his weight, and low enough starch — non structural carbohydrates, or NSCs — to keep him from getting too hot.
I’ve been using http://www.feedxl.com as a starting point and it’s a darn good program for making some basic comparisons. The $15 fee for a one-month subscription makes it easy to play with quantities and feeds without subjecting your horse to the experiment. But the deeper into this I got, the more I wanted to know.
Quart measurements are misleading
One of the most confusing things about feeds is that they do not all weigh the same amount. So, if you feed by quarts, changing feeds could mean that your horse either ends up with a calorie/nutrition deficit or is fed too much. The differences are significant with some feeds weighing close to 1.5 lbs per quart and others weighing in at less than a pound. Calories per pound are also an important component of the equation so once you figure out how much a quart of a specific feed weighs, you have a better idea of how many calories you’re feeding.
NSC % varies significantly among feeds
For a horse like Freedom who is sensitive to starch, the NSC % of a feed is an important component. Some of the higher calorie feeds (he needs calories) are undermined by their high starch content. In fact, it’s difficult to find a high fat feed with an NSC lower than 16% (that’s where Ultium is on the scale). So to increase calorie consumption, you either need to feed more of a low NSC source . . . or add straight fat, like oil.
To help me figure out my plan for the winter, I’ve pulled together a chart that shows the feeds in my geographic area with their calories/pound, NSC rating and lb/quart. This is a work in progress. Feed companies like Blue Seal and Triple Crown helpfully publish this data on their websites; Purina does not. I’ll be sending an email to Purina to verify some of this data and will fill in the chart as I learn more.
In the meantime, let me know if you have information to add.
What am I considering? To increase Freedom’s calorie content I introduced some Triple Crown Low Starch feed into his diet about a month ago. I’m still feeding alfalfa pellets, beet pulp and a ration balancer (although I’ve been able to cut back on how much of that I feed). I had the choice, really, of feeding five pounds of TC Low Starch and no ration balancer or 2.5 lbs of TC and a pound of the ration balancer). Since he’s holding his weight right now I went with the smaller amount of complete feed plus the ration balancer with the knowledge that I can add more as needed if he starts to drop weight over the winter.