Your Horse’s Feed: From Field to Feed Bag

Equine nutritionists share details about how your horse’s feed is made and what quality controls are in place to ensure he’s consuming a safe product.

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Grain in bucket
Ingredients go through rigorous quality-control and processing steps before ending up in your horse's feed. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Learn how your horse’s dinner arrives nutritionally balanced and quality-control tested

Horses have long enjoyed the addition of concentrates and complete feeds to their forage rations. We take regular trips to the feed store to pick up these products—packaged neatly in brightly colored, sweet-smelling bags—or, perhaps, we have the feed supplier deliver them to the farm. But have you ever wondered how your horse’s feed is made and what quality controls are in place to ensure he’s consuming a safe product? In this article, two independent nutritionists who have worked with a variety of feed manufacturers will share what they’ve learned.

Horse feed manufacturers range from small local mills to large ones that can produce hundreds of tons of feed per day. At some mills people produce the feed by hand, while at others mechanized equipment controlled by the latest technology does the job. And it’s not just the largest feed mills that are most advanced. Clair Thunes, PhD, owner of Summit Equine Nutrition, in Gilbert, Arizona, recalls a small mill she visited that was completely computerized, while a larger feed manufacturer still relied on manpower for its bagging line. Neither method is better than the other because every mill must abide by the same regulations and quality assurance practices.

“Our feed, just like our food, is safer than it used to be,” says James Lattimer, MS, PhD, assistant professor of equine nutrition at Kansas State University, in Manhattan. “We continually come out with new processes that allow us to use new ingredients to increase the performance and digestibility and improve intakes

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Written by:

Sarah Evers Conrad has a bachelor’s of arts in journalism and equine science from Western Kentucky University. As a lifelong horse lover and equestrian, Conrad started her career at The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care magazine. She has also worked for the United States Equestrian Federation as the managing editor of Equestrian magazine and director of e-communications and served as content manager/travel writer for a Caribbean travel agency. When she isn’t freelancing, Conrad spends her free time enjoying her family, reading, practicing photography, traveling, crocheting, and being around animals in her Lexington, Kentucky, home.

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