Holistic Horse Health: Comparing cost in feed for horses

Nutrition is critical for a holistic horse health program. When evaluating the cost of feed for horses you have to consider quality over price. I recently bought 2 bales of alfalfa hay for horses and I paid $15 for one bale and $12 for the other. The $15 bale was expensive but very green and leafy. There was no waste from the horses with this bale. The $12 bale was mostly stem and the horses picked out the small amount of leaf and left all the rest.

The $15 bale actually was the better value for my money. Focusing on quality applies to bagged feed for horses as well. Shiny bags and fancy additives don’t make up for poor quality ingredients. If you have to feed twice as much of a product to get the same nutritional value it needs to cost half as much. With my alfalfa example I would have wanted to pay no more than $7.50 for the alfalfa with more stems.

The problem with pelleted, bagged feed for horses is that you can’t evaluate the quality of the original ingredients. Not knowing the quality of your feed is a challenge for any holistic horse health program. Feeds may list adequate protein, fat, vitamin and mineral levels but if the ingredients are not high quality they may not be absorbed or assimilated well by your horse. Formulated feed supplements for horses are often less effective than nutrient dense whole foods, such as blue green algae. Herbs can be very good for horses but quality can vary greatly so choose your suppliers carefully.

With a holistic horse health feeding program, I prefer to focus on hay. I can see and feel the hay and test it if needed. It is important to buy from a dealer that focuses on hay for horses. Hay grown for cows is often lower in quality and digestibility. Chopped or chaff hay for horses, while expensive, may be a better value when good quality baled hay is not available.

When you do feed formulated, bagged feed rations, you will usually be best served to stay with well known companies that have a good reputation and research departments. Feed small amounts of these feeds and supplement with quality herbs and whole foods. The best way to know if your holistic horse health nutritional program is correct is to look at the vitality of your horse. Quality feed for horses is always worth the extra cost. Madalyn

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