Reading a Feed Tag

By Theresa Cannavo, Marketing Manager

How long has it been since you really looked at the content of your horse’s concentrate feed? Like most  of us, you probably stand in line at the feed store, ask for “three bags of the 12%,” load into the back of your truck, and drive on home without as much as a second glance at the ingredients or the nutrition in that ration.

Each tag attached at the bottom of each bag of KENT horse feed can supply a wealth of information to the consumer who reads the fine print. Learning to interpret the information can tell you whether the feed you’re buying is truly the best choice for your horse.

An ingredient list–which might list every ingredient in the feed, but more often is deliberately vague. There are two reasons for this: First, some feed formulas are designed to be variable, so that one ingredient (providing similar nutrition) can be substituted for another as grain market prices fluctuate. So, instead of specific ingredients like soybean meal or cottonseed meal, you might see phrases like “plant protein products” listed on the feed label; instead of brewer’s yeast, wheat bran, or corn gluten feed, you might see a listing for “processed grain by-products.” This approach also known as “Collective Terms” helps manufacturers keep costs down–but it can make it difficult for consumers to evaluate what they’re buying. Does the formula stay consistent or are they reducing ingredient costs by changing them weekly?

LOCKED FORMULAS–At Kent feeds we take pride in listing all of our ingredients on each feed tag.  And we will take it one step further by locking in our formulas.  Our products are manufactured using the same ingredients day after day to ensure the safety of your horse. And we all know why consistency is important in the health of our horses.

Directions for use— These guidelines usually are calculated so that, along with an appropriate forage, the feed will provide complete nutrition when fed in the recommended amounts. Feeding reduced quantities ‘dilutes’ the nutrition of a feed product. Try to stick to the feeding directions as much as possible—as they are calculated for the health of your horse.

Guaranteed Analysis on the feed tag

Crude Protein – The percentage of crude protein on a feed label is calculated from the nitrogen content of the grain; nitrogen is contained in amino acids, the “building blocks” of protein. The most critical of these amino acids is lysine, often called the “first limiting” amino acid because it must be present in sufficient quantity in order for the horse’s gut to absorb and utilize any of the other amino acids in the protein chain. Our Dynasty products have great levels of lysine. Junior has 0.8% for growing horses, Pro has .75% for Active horses and Senior has .65% for mature horses.

Crude Fat  – Fat is energy-dense, providing almost 2 1/2 times as much energy, pound per pound, than do carbohydrates or protein; the higher the crude fat value, the higher the calories provided per pound of feed–so fewer pounds of grain might be needed for the same amount of energy and weight maintenance.

Crude Fiber – The crude fiber value of a feed plays a major role in determining the energy content of a feed. Generally, as the fiber percentage decreases, the calories per pound go up; and as fiber levels increase, the calories go down. High-fiber feeds (those with fiber values higher than 10%) usually are designed to be “filling,” low-calorie feeds for mature horses which are idle or in light work.

Minerals and Vitamins  – Calcium and phosphorus are probably the two most crucial mineral levels to note on a feed tag. This is because they are so important for the development, maintenance, and repair of the musculoskeletal system, and because they both must be present in sufficient quantity in order to fulfill their functions.

Copper, zinc, and selenium are trace minerals which are needed in much smaller quantities in the horse’s diet than are calcium and phosphorus. Nonetheless, they play an important role in the horse’s overall health.

Vitamin A, found in your forage tends to break down rapidly after hay is cured, therefore supplement it in our feeds.   It is important for vision, bone and muscle growth, skin tone and health, and the reproductive health of mares.

If you have questions about the information on the label, contact our Customer Service department.