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The Important Economics of Nutrition

When keeping a horse a big part of your expense is feed and looking at what feeding costs is a part of good management. While you donít want to waste money you also donít want to underfeed your horse.

There are many different feeds offered by the many feed companies. The value of the feeds does have significant differences and you will often find that you get what you pay for. A bag of feed may cost either $5.75 or $12.75, but the difference between these foods is a lot more than just the $7.

If you spend a little bit more money per bag on a feed product or per bale for a forage product you can reduce your overall costs of keeping a horse by keeping your horse healthier, looking better and performing better.

Protein is not the most expensive component of feed contrary to what popular belief says. What are expensive in feed are calories. Providing your horse with adequate energy intake will cost you more dollars in a year than any other nutrient requirement. You can judge the value of the different feeds much easier if you keep this fact in mind.

A good example is you might find grass hay that has six hundred calories of digestible energy per round and pay about $137 per ton. But on the other hand you may find grass or a grass/alfalfa combination that has nine hundred calories of digestible energy per pound and costs $173 per ton. In this example it actually costs less to feed the better quality hay since you need to look at the fact that you are feeding eighteen thousand calories of digestible energy per day to the horse.

This example also helps to show why forage feed products are increasing in popularity among horse owners. This option reduces the problem of hay waste while at the same time addressing the issue of forage consistency. If high-quality hay is difficult or impossible to find in your area then this is a great way to go. The incidence of colic can even be reduced if you use a feed with consistent fiber, protein and energy content.

When choosing bagged feed the same economics apply. For $6.25 a bag you can buy some sweet feeds, but there are other feeds that are about double the price. So what should you spend more for these feeds? When mixed feed contains higher energy levels the price increases. To your horse these high-energy ingredients are higher in value and quality feed costs. With these feeds you are getting higher-quality ingredients such as added fat; concentrated vitamins and minerals; better protein quality; metabolic acids such as organic minerals; digestive acids such as yeast cultures; and appetite enhances such as herbs.

To meet the performance horses increased energy requirement it is often easier to use feeds that contain higher fat and energy levels. To reduce the problem of orthopedic disorders many of these feeds also contain state-of-the-art vitamin and mineral fortification. For horses with sensitive stomachs some of these feeds come with appetite aids. Other feeds are specially designed for older horses. Still other feeds are specially formulated for the horse that need extra vitamins and minerals but less energy and protein.

All of these special feeds cost the manufacturer and they are going to charge for this. What the horse owner needs to decide is whether or not they need this feed. To do this you should consider if you are getting a good value for the money you are spending.

The first thing you need to do is visually evaluate the feed products and feed tags. Although this isnít the only thing to consider since feed may not look like the best value for your money even after all the extra ingredients are added. Therefore, it is best to look from a different angle as well.

A good example to use is choosing between two ten percent protein feeds for a mature horse that has a moderate work level. One of these feeds costs $6.95 a bag while the other costs $9.75. If you find that there is more corn in the cheaper feed and that the oats are of a different size you will already be accounting for a fifty cent to a dollar different between the two feeds. You may also find that on the cheaper feed the fat guarantee is three percent while on the more expensive it is four and a half percent. Thirty-five to forty cents can easily be accounted for in this one and a half percent increase in fat content.

Next consider the fiber guarantee which may be twelve percent in the basic feed and the other has a guarantee of seven percent. This means the basic feed has a larger amount of filler that is cheaper than the standard oats or corn and can reduce the cost of the feed by about a dollar per bag. There may be trace minerals in the more expensive feed which accounts for another ten cent difference. Consider just a few of the difference that can occur from some minerals. A difference of fifteen cents can come from 75 milligrams of Vitamin E, forty cents can come from yeast cultures, fifteen cents can come from mineral proteinates, and fifty cents can come from B vitamins.

So what should you learn from this example. Better ingredients added to a feed could cost as much as $3.70 more per bag than a basic feed. While there is still a difference of $2.80 you donít have to feed as much since it has more benefits than the basic feed.

For mature performance horses using added fat and higher-quality ingredients in feed can provide about twenty to twenty-five percent more energy per pound of feed with the more expensive brands. Although compared to basic feed these horses may use the more expensive feed as much as ten to fifteen percent more efficiently due to the yeast cultures and elevated vitamin and mineral levels.

Some horse owners may decide to purchase various vitamin and mineral supplements to go only with the cheaper feed they by. These supplements which are provided in the more expensive feeds can often cost an additional fifty-six cents per day for the horse owner. In addition, these supplements still donít offer the same amount of nutrition for your horse as the more expensive feeds.

When you are selecting your feed do it as you would when selecting a veterinarian for your horse. When choosing a veterinarian you do so based on how well they work on your horse. You likely didnít look around to try and find the cheapest veterinarian you could find. If the veterinarian is the best for your horse you are likely willing to pay them more. You choice should be no less important when it comes to your horseís nutrition.



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