Analyzing Feed and Forage for Horses

Awareness of what your horse is eating can help you determine if his dietary needs are being met and, if not, what can be added to meet those needs. With respect to the nutritional needs of a horse, it is important to know the meaning of the chemical analysis on the feed and supplement labels and the chemical analysis results.
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How do you know if your horse is getting the nutrients he needs if you don’t know what’s in his feed?

Awareness of what your horse is eating can help you determine if his dietary needs are being met and, if not, what can be added to meet those needs. With respect to the nutritional needs of a horse, it is important to know the meaning of the chemical analysis on the feed and supplement labels and the chemical analysis results.

A horse's daily nutrient needs will vary because of several factors, including age, activity or performance level, health status, and, in broodmares, stage of pregnancy or lactation. Estimates of dietary requirements can be found in a variety of publications, such as the National Research Council's Nutrient Requirements of Horses, 6th Edition (NRC, 2007), in extension publications such as https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G2807, on websites such as www.extension.org/pages/Nutrient_Requirements_for_Horses, or in materials produced by state extension specialists or equine nutritionists.

Once you determine a horse's requirements, you can analyze feeds for what nutrients they provide. This will help you decide if what you're feeding meets or exceeds the horse's needs

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Written by:

Janice L. Holland, PhD, is an Associate Professor and Director of Equine Studies at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. A graduate of both Penn State and Virginia Tech, her equine interests include nutrition and behavior, as well as amateur photography. When not involved in horse activities she enjoys spending time outdoors enjoying nature.

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