Read the Label

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

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

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

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

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’s inside and what it will do for your horse.

The regulations and feed laws developed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials guarantee that the product you buy is safe, consistent and meets the nutritional statements on the tag.

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Most state laws require this information 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

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 customer 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.

Commercial feed manufacturers divide equine feed into four categories:

    • Textured concentrates (sweet feed)
    • Processed concentrates (pelleted or extruded feed)
    • Complete feeds (grain and roughage combined in pelleted feed)
    • Supplements (protein, mineral, trace minerals and/or vitamins)

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

“Other factors are also involved in choosing the right feed for your horse,” she says.

Selecting the correct feed depends on the horse’s age, what he is being used for, how active he is and what else he might be eating, like grass 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 it is to be fed to,” Kathy says.

Kathy also does not recommend mixing two commercial feeds.

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“Doing that messes up anything that is on the label,” she says. “Then you have to really go back and put pen to paper and 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 the best feed for your horse is, 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.

See the attached image or download the PDF for more details on reading feed labels.

Nutrena is the official feed partner of AQHA. Check the company's blog, The Feed Room, for more feed and nutrition information.