Originally the sweet feeds were not designed to be fed straight as a main grain
feeding. They were used primarily as an addition to plain grains like oats to
make it more desirable for the horse to eat, hence the molasses in it. Usually
the sweet feed was added to the oats (grain) making about 10 – 20% percent of
the mixture. In this day and age however, it became very popular by many horse
people, especially by the back yard folks who like the appearance of the feed,
the bag and believe what they read. (There are no complete horse feeds made by
any manufacturers, unless they make grass).
Avoid sweet feeds containing large amount of pellets.
You cannot buy a feed in a bag and believe that it is suitable for your horse just because it says so. The idea of balance feed in a bag is a first class bull....
All in all, the sweet feed is not a good choice to be fed to your horse straight. Similar like the pelleted feeds, the manufacturers can hide with the added molasses the lesser quality grains, as well as all the dust and debris from the fields and the mill. The sweet feed does not keep well during the summer and if you are buying brand name products you never know when it was made, unless the manufacturing date is posted on the bag.
I have fed sweet feed to horses in the above-mentioned ratio (20%), but I
tried to stay away from the brand name products if I could. I went to a
local mill, gave the man the recipe I wanted and he made me a sweet feed.
I knew what was in it and I knew when it was made. If the feed mill did
not have a better quality oats (I preferred Canadian) I brought it in and
they added it to the mixture. It was less expensive, better for the horse
and I have helped the local economy. This also had another advantage. I
could have my sweet feed mixed according to seasons. During winter I like
to add more corn to the sweet feed and the turned out horse received 50
– 50 mixture of the sweet feed with oats during that season. During the
summer I have cut out the sweet feed to less than 20% and reduced the corn
in it. Most local mills will mix your feed and the manufacturing companies
sell the mineral mixtures to be added to your sweet feed. Usually 50
pounds bag will be added to ten bags of sweet feed (100 lb each).
Notes: Sugar and molasses are not good choice to be fed during
summer months. The addition of both during cold winter months is more
practical, especially for horses living or working outside. There is no
balanced feed that is balanced for every horse since each horse is different.
When you read the label make sure you understand it. In order to have low protein feeds, like 10%, it must contain quite poor grains to achieve it. Minimum 10% protein does not mean the that the feed cannot contain more of it, like 12%, and that is legal.
Written by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a. Lee Stanek