Does my horse need a feed balancer?

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Should you be adding a feed balancer to your horse’s diet? Clare MacLeod MSc RNutr independent equine nutritionist explains all you need to know about balancers.

What is a feed balancer?

In theory a feed balancer could be any product that balances the diet so could include a compound feed – like a coarse mix or nuts – or a vitamin and mineral supplement. Nowadays however the term balancer is generally used to describe a concentrated compound feed that is most often pelleted but may be granular. It is fed at around 100g per 100kg bodyweight (BW) ie 500g to a 500kg horse.

Feed balancers are often more appropriate for many horses and ponies than traditional compounds – particually good do-ers or those prone to weight gain. They supply good quality protein vitamins and minerals that may be missing from the forage part of the ration (eg grass and/or hay) but usually contain little energy (calories).

When should you use a feed balancer?

You can feed a balancer at any time of year:

  • To horses and ponies fed less than the full recommended amount of a compound feed due to weight issues (instead of a vitamin and mineral supplement).
  • To balance forage-only rations.
  • To balance straights eg oats barley maize bran and wheat  (you may also have to add extra calcium).
  • For horses with high protein vitamin and mineral requirements eg if they are ill competing at a high level breeding or a youngster (on top of other compound feed)
  • If the balancer is the only extra feed required – on top of the forage- they can be fed on their own or mixed with a small amount of whichever feed is palatable to your horse. Examples could include chaff sugar beet pulp bran oats coarse mix or nuts – in this case these are not being added to supply nutrients but to encourage the horse to eat up the balancer.

If a horse requires more energy (calories) either change to a more traditional compound (usually fed at a rate of about 500-600g per 100kg BW) or add a straight concentrate for example unmolassed sugar beet oats and/or whole cooked linseed.

Balancers are quite rightly becoming a commonly used feed product for horses and they provide a good way of balancing the inevitable essential nutrient shortages in UK forage.

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