Feed Tag Conversions

Feed tag conversions are something that every horse owner should know how to do, yet very few do.

Before you read any further on this page, do me a favor and view the following information and tell me which feed you would feed your horse if these feeds were your only two options:

Guaranteed Analysis Information
Nutrient Feed #1 Feed #2
Crude Protein (min.) 32% 14%
Crude Fat (min.) 5% 6%
Crude Fiber (max.) 5.5% 12.5%
Feeding Directions for 1100 pound horse
Pleasure Horses 1-2 pounds 5.5 pounds

I realize that those guaranteed analyses are missing more nutrient information...but just assume that the level of nutrients in each feed is adequate for the horse.

So, have you picked which feed you will feed?

Read on then...

Why perform feed tag conversions?

As I've mentioned a number of times before, a guaranteed analysis tells you nothing without knowing how much feed is fed and performing a few calculations.

So, on this page, I will show you how to do some of the most common calculations so that you can figure out what your feed is really providing.

By performing feed tag conversions, you'll be able to safely compare two feeds and know that you are comparing apples to apples and not to oranges!

For instance, most people, when looking for a new feed say something along the lines of "I need something with 12% protein." Guess what...12% on its own doesn't tell you anything! 12% could be 0.12 or it could be 1200 -- it all depends on whether it is 12% of 1 or 12% of 10,000.

The Feeds

So, to show you how to do these calculations, I'm going to use two feeds that are actually on the market...Purina's Enrich32 (a ration balancer that was formerly called Born to Win) and Purina's Strategy horse feed (a pelleted feed).

So, here's the Enrich32 numbers from the guaranteed analysis:

Nutrient Amount
Crude Protein (min.) 32%
Crude Fat (min.) 5%
Crude Fiber (max.) 5.5%

Look familiar? They should...that is Feed #1 up above.

That's not the entire guaranteed analysis, but it is enough for us to work with now for the purpose of feed tag conversions. Remember, any conversions I do on this page can be done with any nutrient.

Here's the Strategy numbers from its guaranteed analysis:

Nutrient Amount
Crude Protein (min.) 14%
Crude Fat (min.) 6%
Crude Fiber (max.) 12.5%

If you hadn't guessed already, its Feed #2 up on the first chart.

The Usual Assumptions

When the average horse owner looks at these feeds and is asked which one they would feed their horses and why, the answer is usually Strategy, with a reason something along the lines of "because I'd never feed my horse anything with 32% protein -- he doesn't need that much and he'd be crazy!"

There's two wrong assumptions in that statement:

  1. Protein makes a horse hot
  2. Enrich32 provides a lot more protein than Strategy

The protein makes a horse hot is another topic for another day...so let's discuss how much protein each of these feeds provides.

The Calculations

Feed Tag Conversions example horse

Here is our horse we will use for these calculations.

We're going to assume he is 1100 pounds and he is an active pleasure horse.

We're going to calculate how much protein each of the feeds, Strategy and Enrich32, will provide him.

To do this, we will multiply the amount to be fed of each feed (from the feeding directions) by the protein content of the feed (found in the guaranteed analysis).

Once we have done the calculations, we'll easily be able to compare the two feeds and see how much protein each provides.

If that sounds confusing, don't worry, I am going to walk you through it step-by-step. Now, let's start off with the feeding directions for both feeds:

Feeding directions:
Strategy Active pleasure horses: Feed 0.3-0.5% body weight/day
Enrich32 Maintenance and Reproduction: Feed 1-2 pounds/day

So, to figure out how much Strategy to feed (since they can't be simple and just tell us in pounds!), we need to convert our percentage to a decimal:

0.5% = 0.005

then multiply our horse's weight by our decimal:

1100 pounds x 0.005 = 5.5 pounds/day of Strategy

Now that we know how much of each to feed, we need to figure out how much protein he is getting:

For Strategy:

The guaranteed analysis tells us it is 14% protein, so change the percentage to a decimal:

14% = 0.14

Then multiply our decimal by the amount to be fed:

5.5 pounds x 0.14 = 0.77 pounds of protein

Now do the same for the Enrich32:

The guaranteed analysis says it is 32% protein, so change our percent to a decimal:

32% = 0.32

Then multiply by the amount fed:

2 pounds x 0.32 = 0.64 pounds of protein

So, our horse would get 0.77 pounds of protein from Strategy every day, or 0.64 pounds of protein from Enrich32.

But wait a minute!

The reason our horse owner above gave for not feeding Enrich was that it would provide too much protein and his horse would be crazy...

...but Strategy is the feed that provides more protein!!

That is why it is SO important to perform feed tag conversions before you compare two feeds...

...because percentages tell you NOTHING by themselves!

What looks like a ridiculously high amount of protein at first glance, is actually less than what is provided by a feed with an "acceptable" level of protein!

Like I said above, these conversions can be performed on any nutrient on the label. Need to know how much calcium your horse is getting? Do the same calculations, only use the calcium numbers instead of protein numbers.

When you are first learning to do these feed tag conversions they can be very difficult. However, once you practice some, its easy to quickly perform them with a calculator while you are at the feed store...

...or at home if you look up the information for the feed online.

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