I would like to begin mixing my own feed. I have Friesian horses - 4 mares and a colt. I have been advised to mix crushed mielies, sunflower seeds, oil (linseed or canola), 10% meal e.g. Equifeeds, oats, garlic, carrots and soya bean meal to make up a good feed for the breed; however I have no idea of the proportions of each to mix in order to make up a balanced feed. Also, once mixed, how many kilograms do I feed daily? Do I need to add an extra vitamin / mineral mix into their food as well e.g. Codlevine? Please advise. Many thanks.
It is very brave of you to want to mix your own feed and I can tell that you absolutely have your horse’s best interests at heart here, so well done to you!
Feeding horses is a costly business and of course everyone wants to try and save money as far as possible but at the same time not compromise on their horse’s good health and well-being. Mixing one’s own feed, however, is not a cheaper or easier option for the average horse owner I believe. In situations of farms and studs that have large numbers of horses to feed, facilities to mix feed and that are often far from any feed store, mixing their own rations becomes a viable option. These farms always have their feeds professionally balanced and tested and still mix different types of feeds for the different horses they are catering for – ie broodmares, stallions, foals etc. (or they should be!)
By taking a balanced, scientifically formulated ration, like the 10% Equifeeds, and then adding extra mielies, oats, seeds and other grains, causes the ration to become unbalanced. The only way to check the actual levels of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and other ratios of the feed is to actually have it sent to a laboratory to have it tested. That is the ONLY way to know that you are in fact feeding a balanced ration, if you are making up your own ration.
Because you have a youngster to feed, your correct formulation becomes even more important, as young horses have very specific requirements that have to be taken into consideration.
The most important checks we generally use when deciding on a ration are as follows: digestible energy requirements; (ie does the ration provide enough calories or energy to keep the horse alive and provide for the extra work he may be doing.) minimum crude protein measurements; (ie does the ration provide enough protein that the body needs in order to grow and function properly) Calcium:Phospherous ratios; (very important as it affects bone growth and maintainance as well as a host of other body functions) and trace Mineral and Vitamin levels. (too much of any vitamin or mineral can be toxic, too little can cause health problems too.)
Having kept Fresians for many years I can tell you that they are very good doers generally, and require less hard fed than many other breeds to stay fit and healthy. That means that your feeding regime can be simplified greatly and they will still be getting all the nutrients they require.
If I were you, I would stick to a balanced formulation of hard feed – a 10% or 12% general mix will be fine for your adult horses, and your youngster should be getting a mix formulated for his age (for example, try Spurwing’s 14% Supagrowth, Equifeeds’ Roberton 15 % Feed or Vuma’s Vigour 15%) . Pick a feed that is readily available to you, check for high quality and also make sure that the company has professionals available to you that you can approach for advise on their feeds. Add a cup of sunflower oil (or any other vegetable oil, like corn oil or canola oil) to their feed daily as a way of keeping their coats shiny and healthy, especially now in winter when the air is so dry. Garlic is great so keep adding that to their ration as well. Carrots and apples will keep the feed interesting and give a little ‘juiciness’! Provide them with good quality hay (roughage) and that should be enough to keep them in great condition. I have never had a Fresian that needed extra Lucerne to keep in good condition. If you are worried about the condition of the roughage, especially in winter, you can add a vitamin supplement like Super Codlivine or a small slice of lucern to their hay ration at night. I like to feed a probiotic to my horses, as it improves their ability to digest roughage in the gut, absorb nutrients and has a host of other benefits. I have also found that since feeding a probiotic, my horses needed slightly less hard feed to maintain their optimal weights.
I hope that helps you – very often we are so afraid that we are not doing enough that we tend to overdo things and really, it is not necessary! Feed companies have taken the time, effort and costs to make sure that their food is balanced and contains everything your horse needs. In my book it is worth paying extra for and much less effort than trying to source ingredients, test rations and run the risk of harming my horse.