Do you know the benefit of each ingredient in horse feed?
Looking at the ingredients lists on the back of the bag can be confusing! Here, we explain what ingredients we use, and what nutrients they provide your horse with.
Many different sources of protein are found in horse feed, and they’re not all equal. Protein consists of amino acids, which fall into two types: “essential,” which must be provided in the diet, and “non-essential,” which may be created by the horse’s own body. Protein quality is judged by the proportion of essential amino acids that the protein source provides.
Protein has many functions in the body and is key for muscle development, growth and recovery. Read more about the importance of protein here . Forage will provide some protein but breeding stock, youngstock and performance horses will usually need higher levels. Contrary to popular believe protein isn’t responsible for causing excitable behaviour, laminitis, tying up or growth problems in youngstock. Ingredients that provide good quality protein include:
- Soya Beans: The best source of quality vegetable protein and rich in essential amino acids such as lysine. We carefully grind and cook all our soya beans before including it in the finished feed. This is essential because raw soya contain a specific enzyme that blocks the action of trypsin, an enzyme needed for protein absorption.
- Soya Bean Meal: This is produced when soya oil is extracted from soya beans. Soya bean meal is recognised as an excellent source of high quality protein and essential amino acids.
- Sunflower Seed Meal: Contains high levels of quality protein and good levels of essential amino acids.
- Alfalfa: A highly digestible fibre and an excellent source of good quality protein.
Other ingredients that contribution to your horse’s protein intake include cereals such as oats and barley and wheatfeed.
Highly Digestible ‘Super’ Fibres
Super fibres provide a greater quantity of calories than typical forages and are a useful source of ‘slow-release’ energy. This makes them an ideal ingredient where calories are required, but starch intake needs to be limited. Ingredients that provide ‘super’ fibres include:
- Soya Bean Hulls: This is the outer husk of the soya bean and is an excellent source of super fibres.
- Sugar Beet: Once the sugar has been extracted, sugar beet pulp provides a rich source of highly digestible fibre.
- Alfalfa: Can be ground and included in a pellet or simply dried and chopped. It is high in fibre and contains other nutrients such as protein and calcium.
- Wheatfeed: Consists of the hull, bran, and endosperm of wheat. It is relatively high in fibre and also contains some protein and oil.
Wholegrain cereals provide an important source of energy, primarily in the form of starch, for many horses. In addition, they also provide small to moderate amounts of fibre, protein, and oil. The horse cannot digest raw cereals very efficiently and feeding them can result in digestive problems such as colic. At our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, we cook all our wholegrain cereals using double pelleting or steam flaking. This breaks down the starch molecules, a process known as gelatinisation, to ensure maximum digestibility. Read more about cereals and starch here . We use the following wholegrain cereals:
- Oats: Have been fed to horses for hundreds of years and are included in some of our feeds as a highly digestible source of energy. Oats are also reasonably high in fibre and fat, compared to other cereals. We also produce a number of feeds that do not include oats for horses needing an oat-free diet.
- Barley: Traditionally fed to promote condition as it is an excellent source of calories.
- Maize: A high starch grain that provides more energy compared to oats or barley.
- Wheat: Has one of the highest calorie contents of all the cereals and is a very useful source of energy.
Fats & Oil
Oil tends to be highly digestible and contains more than double the amount of calories than an equal weight of cereals. Therefore, it is a very useful alternative ‘slow-release’ energy source when trying to decrease starch intake. Oils and fats also help promote the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin E, and aid coat and skin condition. We use the following:
- Soya Oil: This is one of the most popular vegetable oils used in horse feed and contains both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
- Linseed Oil: An excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids; with their well-known health benefits.
Despite its bad reputation, sugar is actually a very important element of the horse’s diet and is needed for the brain and central nervous system to function properly. By far the main sources of sugar in a horse’s diet are fresh grass, which can contain 15%, and preserved forages which typically contain 5-10%. Very small amounts of added sugar are included in our feeds as a molasses and oil blend. Read more about molasses here As the amount is so tiny, around 2-4% of the finished feed, the amount of sugar this provides is negligible.
- Molashine: This shiny, sticky liquid containing a blend of molasses and oil. It helps give feeds their attractive aroma and taste. It also helps to bind cubes or pellets and give muesli rations a lovely golden colour.
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can result in issues such as a weakened immune system, skeletal problems, reduced performance, or poor hoof quality, to name but a few! To ensure that the deficiencies and imbalances typically found in forages are corrected, and help keep your horse healthy, all our mixes and cubes contain our unique Pro Balance Vitamin & Mineral Package which provides:
- Macrominerals: Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride.
- Trace minerals: Copper, iron, zinc, manganese, selenium, and iodine.
- Vitamins: Vitamin A, D, E, and K, plus numerous B vitamins.
All the feeds in our Care Range include the unique RED MILLS Nutrition Care package. This is designed to help horses needing extra support or those requiring a specialist diet. The RED MILLS Nutrition Care package contains:
- Yeast: Pure, protected live yeast is included as a probiotic. This helps to support the fibre digesting bacteria in the hindgut, thereby maximising digestive efficiency and helping to reduce the risk of digestive problems.
- Prebiotics: The prebiotics fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS) are added to all our Care feeds. These act as a food source for the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut, helping to promote a healthy hindgut environment. MOS can also bind to certain ‘bad’ bacteria (e.g. Salmonella) in the digestive tract, before they have the chance to be absorbed, these pathogens are then safely passed out in the faeces manure
- A natural, long-lasting gastric buffer: A slow releasing, natural gastric buffer is included to help to buffer excess acid and maintain a healthy stomach pH.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant. Although the horse can make its own Vitamin C, there are many factors that can lead to its depletion such as high levels of exercise, stress or illness.
- Therapeutic levels of biotin: Elevated levels of biotin are added to help support improved hoof health.
- Chelated (organic) minerals: Chelated minerals are those that have been bound to a specific amino acid, which helps to improved availability. All our Care feeds and Copper Top-Up Cubes contain chelated copper and zinc.
We only use the very best raw materials in our feeds and, unlike some other feed companies, choose not to use ingredients such as nutritionally improved straw, oatfeed or distiller’s grains.
Before we accept any ingredient into our mill, they undergo extensive testing in our on-site laboratory for both quality and the presence of naturally occurring prohibited substances (NOPS). Only ingredients that meets our high standards are accepted into our state-of-the-art production mill where our expert team of nutritionists then combine them in the right balance to create feeds that will meet your horse’s needs.
DID YOU KNOW?
- All our wholegrain cereal are cooked using double pelleting or steam flaking to ensure maximum digestibility.
- Wholegrain cereals provide an excellent source of energy and are also a natural source of protein and fibre.