The last three decades witnessed a great explosion in manufacturing pelleted feeds. These feeds are mainly propagated by the manufacturers and also by the participating veterinary science.
These feeds do not represent, as a priority, the interests and well-being of horses but they mainly represent the interests of feed companies. In other words: “Let’s make the most profitable pellets without killing the horse”. Ludicrous? Yes, but to some point true. After all the food companies do it to us, why not the feed companies to horses, especially when the government interest in horses is almost non existent since we do not eat them, something to grasp at. I will include several reasons gained from my travels and experiences why feeding pelleted feeds is not and will not be my choice of horse feed.
I had the chance to be part of the feeding industry for about four years, when I have owned a feed store as side business. This came very handy at that time, since I had over one hundred horses in my care on three different farms and on the track. During that time I have learned several interesting things about the industry. First of all, the profit margin must be one of the lowest in the business world. On the average there is only 10% profit margins on the grains in the retail part of it, and in wholesale even less. Simply said, as one manufacturer (no names mentioned) told me: “It is a very tough business and we must cut corners in order to make it”. Here is where I’ve found out why the pelleted feeds are so much propagated. One can hide in the pelleted feeds poor quality grains, add all sorts of things under “grain byproducts” and with a little soybean and minerals one will meet the label requirements. According to the manufacturer and in his own words to me: “Don’t feed the pelleted feeds but use the feeds that have the least pellets in them. As you will see they are also more expensive, even though they require less labor in manufacturing.”
In conclusion I will add some more reasons why I would not feed pelleted feeds to horses:
- One has no idea what he is feeding to his horse, since everything gets crushed into fine powder and pressed through the machine.
- Grain byproducts includes everything that comes with the grain, dirt, dust and all sorts of debris from the mill (feed company cannot afford any waste). What do you think that happens to the feed that you have returned?
- The pellets will turn back into fine powder while chewed by the horse, sometimes resulting in choking, often due to insufficient moisture (saliva) in the food passing into the esophagus and getting stuck in as form of thick dough-like mass. Hence, pay attention especially after hard work when the horse’s system was depleted of water. Preferably feed mash in such cases. During last year I came across about seven horses that were choking, all from pelleted feeds and some were not “greedy” eaters as it’s often contributed to.
- Since one does not know what he is feeding, he cannot take care of his horse properly. Horse feeds are not only about proteins, fiber, carbohydrates, mega cal etc. but they present many other values that are not all known, like in case of oats and others.
- The pelleted feeds are not good for the digestive system (too fine) and many of them contribute to colic (impaction) there where there is slight dehydration of the horse, where when normal whole grains would be fed, the horse would more likely not colic.
- I have witnessed that 50% of impaction colic was on places that fed pelleted feeds, sweet feeds containing high percentage of pellets and/or other compressed feeds like hay cubes.
- The feed companies are more concern with the labels rather than with quality grains in the pelleted form. Meeting the label requirements does not necessary mean good grains or feed. This can be achieved with various inexpensive additions to the pellets.
If you need to feed your horse energy feeds, there is no substituted for good quality whole grains like oats! Don’t believe otherwise!
If you cannot see and evaluate what your are feeding to your horse, don’t feed it to him.
Don’t believe everything you read. Learn from your horse and from the millennia of human experiences with horses.
Do you know what’s in it?
You need to rely on the information given to you by the manufacturer, whose profit margin is very low and primarily interest is to stay in the business and make money. I don’t trust in labels with my health nor with the health of those who are in my care, which includes animals.