When discussing the profitability and performance of commercial poultry species , the focus is often placed on pushing for feed conversion improvements . While the feed conversion ratio is seldom recorded in laying hen flocks , it is still a critical measure to gain insights into how efficiently hens perform . Key to bird efficiency and all performance measures is gut health . It is often considered the limiting factor to poultry performance , and implementing measures to improve it is imperative for a business ’ success .
5 steps to
your horse’s diet
We always seem to be striving for more balance in our lives. We seek balance between our work and play. We are
(hopefully!) balancing our bank accounts. And, of course, we are balancing our horses’ farrier and vet appointments,
along with their training and show schedules.
When it comes to our horses, the thing that often proves
most difficult to balance is their feed and supplements.
However, balancing your horse’s feed may be easier than
you think. These five simple steps can help you get on the
1. Start with forage
When it comes to feeding horses, lots of people stress out
about grain, but in reality, the majority of your horse’s diet
should consist of hay.
Horses have evolved over millennia into fiber-digesting
machines. Our job as stewards of domestic horses is to
supply them with what they need to perform at their
best, and this starts with forage.
Every horse — no matter their age or performance level —
requires at least 1% of their bodyweight in forage per day
in order for their digestive tract to continue functioning
properly. This means that an average 1,000-pound horse
requires a minimum of 10 pounds of hay per day. If
you consider that a flake of grass hay is between 3 to 5
pounds, you are looking at two or three flakes of hay per
day at a minimum.
A more accurate estimate of forage needs is between 1.5–
2.0% of a horse’s bodyweight — or, for an average horse, 15
to 20 pounds (four to six flakes) of hay per day.
While you may not necessarily need to do so on a daily
basis, it is wise to weigh a few flakes of hay on your own
so that you can become more aware of feeding by weight
rather than by “flake.”
2. Have your hay tested
When evaluating your horse’s diet, it is imperative that
you have your hay tested in order to determine the levels
of nutrients it provides. Since the bulk of a horse’s diet is
made up of hay, these nutrient levels are important to
Choose a quality hay that meets your horse’s
requirements by utilizing a hay test. For instance, if
you have an overweight or insulin-resistant horse, you
should choose a hay that is lower in non-structural
carbohydrates and higher in fiber. This will provide your
horse with the fiber necessary for hindgut function while
also delivering minimal starches and sugars. On the other
hand, a performance horse may require hay that is higher
in carbohydrates and protein for weight management
and adequate energy. On the other hand, if you have a horse that is harder to
keep weight on or that is in moderate to intense training,
you will likely need to supply it with more calories, energy
and healthy fats. In that case, you will be feeding about 5
to 7 pounds of grain per day to meet the horse’s nutrient
requirements. This is the time to consider a feed like
Summit ® Active, which offers both highly digestible
energy and high-quality protein for active horses.
3. Choose the appropriate grain to fill in the gaps Feeds that embrace new technologies, such as probiotics
and prebiotics, will allow your horse to utilize and absorb
nutrients more efficiently. Some of our favorites include:
Once your hay is tested, you will easily be able to see
which nutrient requirements in your horse’s diet are not
being met. This is where grain can help fill in the gaps.
In many cases, hay will not meet a horse’s requirements
100% of the time; nutrient levels vary from flake to flake
and from one section of pasture to the other. Hay will be
different based on the time of day it was cut or whether
or not fertilizers were used.
Often, a great way to start is by choosing a ration
balancer, such as Cool Command ® Balancer 30, which
supplies a horse’s nutrient requirements at low feeding
rates. If you want to feed your horse a “handful” of grain
at night, if your horse is an easy-keeper, or if you have a
horse at maintenance or in light work, a ration balancer
may be the right choice. Ration balancers allow you to
feed 1 to 2 pounds of grain per day and meet your horse’s
vitamin and mineral requirements without the extra
calories, sugars and starches.
THE FEEDING TIMES
4. Read feed tags and look for innovative ingredients
Yea-Sacc ® : This specifically selected yeast culture
allows the hindgut to work better for optimal fiber
digestion so your horse can get every last drop of
value from their hay.
Bio-Mos ® : This prebiotic will help keep good bacteria
at peak numbers while keeping bad bacteria in
Bioplex ® : Organic trace minerals — including copper,
zinc, manganese, cobalt and iron — are absorbed
and utilized at significantly higher levels than the
commonly used inorganic alternatives. Given that
trace minerals are incredibly important for virtually
every bodily function and system, this makes a huge
difference in a horse’s performance.
Sel-Plex ® : Supplying your horse with 100% organic
selenium is crucial for its antioxidant status, muscle
recovery and immune function. Organic selenium
is superior to the commonly used inorganic version
because it can be absorbed at higher levels, making
it more readily available for the horse’s body to use.
SUMMER ISSUE – JUNE 2021
5. Supplement and adjust as necessary based on your
horse’s performance throughout different stages of
Just like us, horses’ energy and nutrient needs will
change based on their season of life (and sometimes
the season of the year!). There may also be times that
certain supplements, such as those offering joint support
or increased fat, may be necessary based on the horse’s
level of training. Be willing to adjust as necessary to keep
your horse’s gut and immune systems functioning at
While balance may be something that we humans are
constantly searching for, don’t fret too much about
balancing your horse’s diet. Simply following the steps
outlined above will not only make your life easier — it will
also help keep your horse happier and healthier.
A native of southeastern Ohio, Dr. Ed Bonnette grew up
milking cows on a small dairy/beef farm and worked
his way through college at a mixed practice vet. His
research he conducted while
pursuing his master’s and doctoral
degrees involved nutrition and
health in pigs.
Hired out of school as a non-
ruminant nutritionist, Dr. Bonnette
started to work less with traditional
farm animals and more with pet
and specialty animals. And those smaller customers
are his main focus in his work as a companion animal
nutritionist for Hubbard Feeds.