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Comparing Feeds Based on Energy Levels (Post Written By Jason)

I did some on farm troubleshooting a little while ago for a lady who was having a lot of problems keeping weight on her horse despite feeding fair quality forage and taking excellent overall care of her horse. It was honestly a bit of a puzzler until we started looking around at the complete feed her horse was on. When I called the company to get the digestible energy number, (which is measured in either calories, kilocalories or megacalories), the puzzle was quickly solved. It turns out that the grain which the lady was feeding was providing a level of energy that was only a little higher than that found in the forage she was feeding.

Given that most people feed grain primarily to keep or add weight to their critters, knowing how many calories each pound of feed contained would be really handy, especially when one was trying to compare feeds….even those made by the same company….on an apples to apples basis. Unfortunately, companies are not required to place this information on feed tags so nobody does. It’s been my experience that some companies are a lot more forthcoming with this sort of information than others are, but they will usually provide it to you if you call or email a request to them.

Sometimes, getting the numbers you need and comparing feeds based on energy levels leads to some interesting and counter intuitive results. I once had a case where Feed A and Feed B had nearly identical tag specs (which don’t tell how much energy each feed might contain) but had markedly different prices. Of course, all things being equal, everyone went for the cheaper option which in this case was Feed B. However, the energy content of Feed B was so much lower than Feed A that Feed A actually worked out to be considerably cheaper to feed if one took the time to find out how much energy each feed contained. To strengthen this important point, let me highlight this with a hypothetical example.

Feed Required to Achieve 10,000 kcal from grain

Feed X – Price $ 12.00 per 50 lb bag – DE 1500 kcal/lb – 6.67 lbs – Cost – $ 1.44 per horse

Feed Y – Price $ 10.00 per 50 lb bag – DE 1000 kcal/lb – 10.0 lbs – Cost – $ 2.00 per horse

Hope folks found this helpful !


Rampal leading Clayton and Johnny across the pasture (Gus and Asterik in the pasture behind them)

Boo and Sebastian

Gus and Faune


Rocky and Toledo napping with Kennedy and Stormy standing watch

Wiz enjoyed a good roll . . .

. . . and got up looking like a pinto

Lucky and Spike

Lightening rolling with Lucky grazing

Noble and Snappy

Toledo, Rocky, Johnny and Stormy

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