A feed balancer is designed to ‘balance’ a horse’s ration nutritionally in terms of vitamins, minerals, protein and energy when feeding a forage-only diet. But how many of us are actually feeding an ‘unbalanced’ diet?
There are reasons why, and times when, you should feed a balancer…
– If you are feeding a forage-only diet and the grazing is less than ideal, a feed balancer will help optimise the micronutrients supply and provide the key nutrients that are lacking in the available forage sources.
– If feeding a coarse mix or cube below the manufacturer’s recommendations, then a feed balancer will help make up the shortfall that is not being provided by your mix or cube.
– If your horse or pony has a tendency to become overweight, a feed balancer will help meet the micronutrient requirements, but without the excess calories that would otherwise be provided by a traditional mix or cube when fed at the manufacturer’s recommended level.
– If your horse becomes unmanageable when fed traditional coarse mixes or cubes, a balancer will not only help meet micronutrient requirements, it will also optimise the uptake of calories from the forage and fibre portion of the diet. This then helps the horse maintain his body condition or support the type of work that he’s doing. If yours is a ‘fizzy’ horse, consider providing long forage sources like hay on an ad-lib basis. At the same time, you could add more digestible sources of fibre to the diet, such as alfalfa or beet pulp if your horse requires a few more calories to help maintain weight.
When feeding a diet based on straights – eg, oats, barley – a balancer can help provide adequate levels of calcium, vitamin E and other micronutrients.
Specific problems such as poor coat or hoof condition can benefit from a feed balancer to provide adequate levels of protected (chelated) micronutrients essential for coat and hoof condition – for example, biotin, methionine and quality protein.
When a horse is on box rest or convalescing, you could provide antioxidants, prebiotics and yeast via a feed balancer to help support the immune system and maintain a healthy digestive system. Sick horses may also have limited appetites, and feed balancers can help to stimulate intake and deliver a high plane of nutrition in a small amount of feed.
When there are high demands placed on the horse, such as frequent travelling and competition, a balancer can help provide the essential dietary elements to those with limited appetites or reduced fibre intakes.
Like all feeds, a feed balancer should be introduced gradually into the diet over a period of seven to 10 days and the total amount divided between the daily feeds. It can be mixed with a little soaked sugar beet, and should always be fed with some chaff to encourage chewing and saliva production.
Feed balancers are designed to be fed in small quantities – typically 300-800g (11oz-1lb 12oz) per day to meet a horse or pony’s daily micronutrient requirements. Always check with a nutritionist on the levels to feed your horse if you are already feeding a high level of concentrate feed or if there are other supplements that you want to use.