How to Read a Horse Feed Tag

How to Read a Horse Feed Tag

There is valuable information on your horse's feed tag.

horse eating from a bucket (Credit: Canva)

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Learning how to read what is on a feed tag is important when it comes to knowing what you're feeding your horse.

"Understanding the horse feed nutrition label can help you provide the correct diet for your horse," said Kathy P. Anderson, Ph.D., University of Nebraska Extension horse specialist. "There is so much valuable information on there."

Information Featured on a Horse Feed Tag

Just like in human food, every commercial ready-mixed feed is required to have a tag attached or printed on the bag that tells you what is inside and what it will do for your horse. The regulations and feed laws developed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials guarantee the product you buy is safe, consistent and meets the nutritional statements on the tag.

Most state laws require this information to be on the tag:

  • Product name
  • Purpose statement
  • Guaranteed analysis
  • Ingredient statement
  • Feeding directions
  • Precautionary statements necessary for the safe feeding of the product
  • Manufacturer name and address

how to read a feed tag bag

Each state is responsible for ensuring feed manufacturers comply with the AAFCO feed laws. State inspectors periodically make calls on feed stores and manufacturers to pull random sample tests of feed. These tests are then compared to the feed tag to make sure the information being provided to the consumer is correct.

"If the bag fails the test, then the company risks being shut down or not being able to produce that particular feed," Kathy says.

Product Name and Product Statement

The product name usually reflects the intended use of the feed. The purpose statements indicates what type of horse the feed is manufactured for. 

how to read a feed tag bag

Guaranteed Analysis

The guaranteed analysis provides information on the concentrations of certain nutrients in the commercial feed.

Each tag is required to state:

  • Minimum percentage of crude protein
  • Minimum percentage of crude fat
  • Maximum percentage of crude fiber
  • Minimum and maximum percentage of calcium and minimum percentage of phosphorous
  • Minimum values of copper, zinc and selenium in parts per million

Besides the required analysis, some companies will also list the value of other ingredients, such as biotin, lysine, thiamin and certain vitamins, on the label.

how to read a feed tag bag

Ingredient Statement

The ingredient statement will list all of what is inside the feed. Just like on human food labels, the first ingredient is in the greatest amount and the last is the least amount. 

For grain, companies can list them individually by name or by "grain products."

Collective feed names are used to avoid having to make new labels if one or more of the ingredients are changed. Collective feed terms include:

  • Group grain products – barley, corn, oats, wheat, rice, rye
  • Animal protein products – fish meal, hydrolyzed poultry feathers, meat meal, bone meal, dried whole milk, skimmed milk, dried whey
  • Plant protein products – cottonseed meal, linseed meal, soy bean meal, soybeans (heat processed), yeast (cultured)
  • Process grain by-products – brewers dried grains, distillers dried grains, corn gluten feed, wheat millings, bran (rice and wheat)
  • Forage products – alfalfa meal (dehydrated or suncured), grass hay (species name included), lespedeza meal
  • Roughage products – apple products (dried), barley hulls, beet pulp (dried), hulls (oat, peanut and rice)

how to read a feed tag bag

Other Information

Most labels will list feeding directions, suggestions on amounts to be fed and the type of forage the feed will supplement. They will also have the manufacturer's name and address as well as the net weight of the bag. 

how to read a feed tag bag

Types of Horse Feed

Commercial feed manufacturers divide equine feed into four categories:

  • Textured concentrates (sweet feed)
  • Processed concentrates (pelleted or extruded feed)
  • Compete feeds (combines grain and roughage in pelleted feeds)
  • Supplements (protein, mineral, trade minerals and/or vitamins)

Feeding to the Label Instructions

Kathy cautions horse owners to remember that the tag represents only what's in the bag.

"Other factors are also involved in choosing the right feed for your horse," she said.

Selecting the correct feed depends on:

  • The horse's age
  • What he is being used for
  • How active he is
  • Additional feed or forage, like gray hay, alfalfa, pasture or supplements

"That is why the labels are so important, because many times if you're buying a 12 percent balanced feed from a reputable company, it's balanced for the base minerals and nutrient requirements for the horses that is to be fed to," Kathy says.

Kathy also does not recommend mixing two commercial feeds.

"Doing that messes up anything that is on the label," she says. "Then you have to really go back and put pen to paper to recalculate to know what you're really feeding because you've just messed up that whole nutritional balance of those diets."

For help determining what is the best feed for your horse, Kathy recommends consulting with an equine nutritionist or contacting a local extension office.

"And you can always contact the feed manufacturing company too if you have questions about the feed," she says. "Most have websites or area representatives that are happy to help answer questions."

What's Inside Your Horse's Feed Counts

For a horse, proper nutrition plays the biggest role for a lifetime of health and happiness. That’s why horse feeds from AQHA Corporate Partner Nutrena are specifically formulated for every life stage and activity level.

Nutrena feed isn’t just grown, it’s crafted. Real science goes into putting the nutrients animals need into each Nutrena® feed product. And quality is so important because Nutrena knows people are relying on them to stand up to their exacting standards each and every time. What’s inside the bag counts. That’s why you can count on Nutrena feeds for the animals you care for.

Learn more at www.aqha.com/nutrena.