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Feeding Complete Feeds vs. Grain Mixes and Hay

Buckeye Horse Nutrition

A complete feed is a fortified grain mix that has a fiber source included so that normal digestion will continue even if little or no hay is fed. In effect, you are buying grain and “hay” together in a bag. Some fiber sources that are used in complete feeds are beet pulp, alfalfa and soy hulls. All of these listed are digestible by the horse.

Why use a complete feed? There are four main reasons:

1. The older horse that can no longer chew and swallow hay

2. Buying enough hay is difficult

3. Hay is very expensive

4. Good quality hay cannot be obtained

When the older horse cannot chew hay and/or pasture, there is no choice but to feed a processed fiber source. For these horses, grain and forage must be provided in an easy to chew form.

If hay in your area is hard to find or very expensive, the amount of hay needed can be reduced by feeding at least a portion of the horse’s diet as a complete feed.

Feeding poor quality hay can be harmful to horses. Dusty, moldy hay should not be fed to horses. Overly mature, coarse stemmed hay will not provide enough calories and other nutrients for most horses. If good quality hay cannot be found it is better to feed a complete feed that is more digestible.

It is important to remember that as hay is decreased, the amount of complete feed must be increased by the same amount. By doing this, the horse will eat the same total pounds per day. Below is a chart listing the total pounds of dry matter you can expect your horse to eat per day. Whether you feed hay and grain or a complete feed, they should eat the same total amount.

Mature Horses - % of Body Weight - 1,000 lb. Horse

Maintenance - 1.5–2.0% - 15–20 lbs/day
Light Training - 2.0–2.5% - 20–25 lbs/day
Moderate Training - 2.5–3.0% - 25–30 lbs/day

Buckeye Nutrition has two complete feeds, Wrangler and Maturity/Senior Formula. Wrangler is a pelleted, alfalfa based feed and Maturity/Senior is a texturized beet pulp based feed. For more information on these feeds, please contact your local Buckeye Nutrition dealer or call Buckeye Nutrition.

Printed with permission from Buckeye Horse Nutrition