The Myth of “Fixed Ingredients Feeds”
Are “fixed ingredients feeds” really fixed ingredients? If they are is it really the best choice? I’d like to remind everyone that in the world of horse feed there are very few regulations regarding statements of quality or efficacy so it is difficult to call out the claims of manufacturers.
What is meant by “Fixed ingredients”?
“Fixed Ingredients” is a marketing term that implies a horse feed formulation consists of identical ingredients in every batch. This sounds great. I know I can count on exactly the same ingredients in every bag of feed. Consistency. But is it possible to use exactly the same ingredients in exactly the same proportions every time you crank out a batch of feed? The answer is “absolutely not!”
If you own a 2020 Ford F150 it is identical in components and construction to the same year and model vehicle. If the third stage fetzer valve breaks you can remove one from another vehicle and it fits. If every component Ford had shipped in were a different size, shape and material it would be impossible to produce a reliable vehicle at a reasonable price.
Quality horse feed is composed largely of agricultural commodities like hay, soy and wheat. It is impossible to assure identical copies of each batch of agricultural products and so it is virtually impossible to use the same ingredients in the same volumes and still achieve the same nutrient value of a feed.
Why are “Fixed Ingredients” Challenging
High quality performance feeds use a much larger volume of forage products like beet pulp, grass hay and alfalfa. Nutrient levels in forage drastically change between being mowed on June 3rd and July 1st. Sometimes there can be a big variance between 7AM and 4 PM on the same day.
Weather plays a role in forage availability and cost. If it’s a wet spring or a dry summer quality and availability suffers, not just locally but there may be a global impact impact.
Alfalfa is an excellent forage based source for protein but perhaps it’s been a tough weather year for alfalfa. The loads tested have too much mold or very low protein or maybe there isn’t enough available. What does a feed manufacturer do now? Put out a bulletin that this feed won’t be available this month? Use the moldy, substandard forage? Hey, it’s a fixed ingredient formula and moldy or not it’s alfalfa so we have to use it?
How about this option? There is some very nice timothy available that will meet our fiber requirements but will need some help with protein so we can boost that by opening the soy meal valve a little more.
“Fixed Nutrition” is the Key to Horse Health
Horses don’t have an ingredient requirement to be healthy, they have a nutritional requirement to be healthy. There isn’t a USDA law or regulation concerning minimum daily requirement for horses. It’s all about how your feed performs and the results it achieves for you. This is why I always search for the best “fixed nutrition formulation” feeds I can find. With a fixed nutrition feed I know that if I feed 6 pounds of the feed to a healthy 1,500 pound warmblood hunter jumper prospect working five days a week and getting all the hay she can put away that horse will maintain weight and meet expected performance. Every. Single. Time. Every bag, every day, every year.
A feed that genuinely contains “fixed ingredients” has no choice but to deliver inconsistent nutrition simply because of the nutritional variables of the ingredients.
As a feed specialist having quality ingredients is important to me. What the ingredients are and what ratio they are included in the feed are less important to me than knowing I can confidently rely on the consistent performance of that feed. My job is to be sure that a horse will be healthy and perform to the rider’s expectations. I can’t do that if every bag of feed has different protein, fat and calories.