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When to feed a balancer pellet. Does my horse need a balancer pellet?

Updated: 1 day ago

At Fernvale Produce Mitre 10, under the advice from Pryde’s, we have some simple and easy solutions to ensure your horse is getting all they need from their diet; to both ease your mind and your conscience.

Do you find yourself wondering if your horse is getting everything he needs from his diet? You are not alone. At Fernvale Produce Mitre 10 under the advise from Pryde’s, we have some simple and easy solutions to ensure your horse is getting all they need from their diet; to both ease your mind and your conscience.

How do I know if my horse isn’t getting all he needs from his diet?

There are some obvious signs that a horse’s diet isn’t meeting their requirements such as a loss in weight or topline, brittle hooves or a dull coat. A loss in weight or topline can indicate a lack of calories (digestible energy) and protein in their diet, while brittle hooves and a dull coat are more indicative of a lack of vitamins or minerals. While several underlying issues can cause these in your horse; the number one cause is normally diet related. As horse owner’s these signs are quite easy to notice and we are able to promptly make necessary changes to their diet.

The more unnerving part is that it can also be much less obvious that your horse is not getting all they need from their diet; particularly when it comes down to their vitamin and mineral requirements. You may not realise your horse is deficient until it is too late and your horse is displaying clinical signs of disease. Unfortunately, this is often the case with Calcium deficiencies where in severe cases, horses can suffer from Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism or ‘Big Head Disease.’ Severe Calcium deficiencies can occur when horses are grazing high oxalate, subtropical pastures such as setaria, kikuyu and buffel grass, in this case it is important to identify the pasture that your horse is on and manage their diets accordingly to prevent disease.

While Big Head Disease is often spoken about, Australian pastures are also commonly deficient in Copper, Zinc and Iodine. In which deficiencies may cause skeletal disease, affect blood cell synthesis, affect immune function and impair thyroid hormone production just to name a few.

Preventing deficiencies of any vitamins or minerals through adequate nutritional management is far better (and cheaper) than treating a horse that has fallen ill as a result of nutritional inadequacies and helps to ensure you have a healthy and happy horse. While this can all sound quite daunting, preventing vitamin and mineral deficiencies may be easier than you first thought. Here are three common scenarios in which horses tend to be lacking vitamins and minerals:

1. Your horse is grazing pasture or hay alone

2. Your horse is being fed raw ingredients without added vitamins and minerals

3. Your horse is being fed under the recommended feeding rate of a premixed feed.

1. Your horse is grazing pasture or hay alone:

When good quality pasture is in abundance or your horse isn’t in work and maintains their weight on pasture and some hay alone; it is only natural to want to cut back or completely remove their supplementary feed. In both scenarios pasture and hay is enough to meet their digestible energy and protein requirements, so they don’t require the added calories of supplementary feeds. However, while energy and protein requirements are met, pasture will not meet vitamin and mineral requirements and so completely cutting feed out will leave our horses deficient. Australian pasture tends to either naturally lack vitamins and minerals or it is contained in such small amounts that it would not be possible for horses to consume enough pasture to meet their needs.

Here is an example from FeedXL of a 500kg mature thoroughbred, not in work and grazing excellent native pasture with no additional feed. The digestible energy and protein requirements have been met so our horse will be a good weight but what we cannot see is that Copper, Zinc and Iodine are lacking. These deficiencies are present even for a horse at maintenance; if you have a horse in work, a pregnant or lactating mare or a growing horse where the demand for vitamins and minerals is higher you can be sure their diet will be lacking.

Correcting these mineral deficiencies without increasing your horse’s calorie intake is possible with the Pryde’s balancer pellet range. Here is the same horse with the addition of 500g of 150 Essentials and salt:

All the previously lacking minerals are now at levels that your horse requires. The 150 Essentials pellet is a great all-round balancer pellet, however, if you have more specific needs such as a horse prone to laminitis that requires a low starch and low sugar feed there is the EasiKeeper, which can be used to balance out provided hay and chaff. Or if you have a horse grazing a high oxalate, subtropical pasture there is the High Cal pellet (we also recommend the addition of lucerne hay). Both will meet the vitamin and mineral requirements of your horses in these specific circumstances, similarly to how 150 Essentials does in the case above. If you have horses in either of these cases and would like more information please get in touch, we have plenty of information to assist you.

2. Your horse is being fed raw ingredients without added vitamins and minerals.

Pasture or hay alone may not be providing your horse with enough calories to maintain their weight so you may add in some grain or a fibre source to help. It is important to note that in doing so, you will add the necessary extra calories but won’t be adding vitamins and minerals. Here is the same mature thoroughbred now in moderate work, on good (rather than excellent) native pasture with the addition of 2kgs of oats:

The addition of oats has brought our digestible energy back up to where it needs to be, but a number of vitamins and minerals are still lacking. This can simply be corrected with the addition of a balancer pellet. Here is the same scenario with the addition of 800g of 250 Premium and 30g of EasiLyte:

This has balanced the Calcium to Phosphorus ratio and now meets the horse’s vitamin and mineral requirements.

3. Your horse is being fed under the recommended feeding rate of a premixed feed.

The recommended feeding rates are there to indicate how much of that feed a horse at a particular weight and workload or production state needs to meet their vitamin and mineral requirements. There are a few common reasons a horse is fed under the recommended feeding rate of a premixed feed. Either pasture has improved or your horse’s workload has decreased, and your horse doesn’t need as many calories from a supplementary feed. Or your horse is a great doer and you were never able to feed the full amount in the first place. In either of these situations you could look at changing to another feed with a lower recommended feeding rate, for example you could change from EasiResponse or EasiRide to EasiGoing; or you could add in a balancer pellet. Here is the same mature thoroughbred, in moderate work who has gone from overgrazed average quality native pasture and being fed 3kg of EasiResponse, to now grazing good quality native pasture and so has had EasiResponse cut back to 1.5kg:

Similar to the above scenarios, digestible energy and protein is met but the horse’s diet is lacking in Copper, Selenium and Iodine. On the back of Pryde’s bags of feed and on the Pryde’s website under each feed we have a “Keep it Balanced” table that is there to help during these exact circumstances.

In this scenario, the horse is being fed 1kg under the minimum feeding rate of 2.5kg for a 500kg horse in moderate work, so his diet can be topped up with 40g of Elite 300:

This then brings the Copper, Zinc and Iodine back to the required levels without increasing digestible energy and crude protein.

In Summary:

· Be aware of your horse’s vitamin and mineral requirements

· Pasture alone does not meet all vitamin and mineral needs

· Adding raw ingredients without vitamins and minerals can leave your horse lacking

· Top up with a balancer pellet if you are feeding under the recommended feeding rate of a premixed feed.

If you are unsure if your horse is receiving adequate vitamins and minerals or unsure of which balancer pellet would be right for your horse, why not ask us on your next visit or send us an email!

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