How to Weigh Your Feed

Feed your horse by weight, not by volume.

This is a common sentence uttered by many-a-feed professional and the more I talk with horse owners, the more I find myself saying it.   If someone is having an issue with their horse’s weight, whether over or under, I will first ask what kind and how much hay they are feeding.  My next question is what kind and how much feed does your horse get?

Responses to the hay questions are varied as are the kind of feed, but more often than not, I hear ‘a scoop’ or ‘a coffee can’ when describing how much feed the horse in question is receiving.  One customer even mentioned using a Bob the Builder Helmet as her scoop….now that is creative!

How much does your scoop or coffee can of feed weigh? is my next question.   Hmm…Good question is the response all too often. 

A hanging scale, such as this (dirty) one is helpful to hang a bucket from and weigh feed. Note that the scale has been tared for a bucket.

There is a simple, inexpensive way to find out: most mass retailers or farm/feed supply stores sell scales, such as a fish scale, a kitchen scale, or hanging scale that range from $10-20.  When you put your feed bucket on the scale, make sure to ‘tare’ the scale, or zero out the weight of the bucket so you get the true weight of the feed itself.  Then, fill your scoop, coffee can, or Bob the Builder helmet, and see what weight one regular serving is. 

Next step is, check the feeding directions for the feed you use and calculate how much your horse should be fed based on his body weight.  Does your scoop or coffee can serving fall within the appropriate feeding range?  If not, make sure to adjust the fill level of your dispensing item to fall within the recommended quantity for your horse.

It is unlikely that you will need to re-weigh the same feed for each meal, as the density of the feed will likely not vary much.  Most commercial feed companies formulate their feed to meet a specific energy density from which the feeding directions are based .  All other nutrients are balanced based on the energy value, which is why it is so important to select the right feed for your horse and feed the proper amounts.

Feeding your horse the appropriate amount, by weight, will ensure she is getting the balanced, necessary nutrients she needs for everyday activity and development.  Once you have found the feed to match her needs, its only a matter of feeding the right amount and enjoying the end result.

This entry was posted in Feeding Management, Horse Feed, How To, Living the Horse Life, Weight Control.
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10 Responses to How to Weigh Your Feed

  1. Kelly says:

    I totally understand what you are saying about weight and that we cannot feed blindly based on volume. However, since you KNOW that most people feed by volume and not by weight, why not put the weight by volume on the bag to make things easer! You know horse people don’t weigh their feed. So you weigh it and put how much the feed weighs per quart on your bag. You could even go ahead and do the math for us and put the chart of how much by volume we should feed (instead of just by weight). Instead of trying to make horse people change (which won’t happen) why not help them do it THEIR way correctly? Most cheap feed scoops that you can easily pick up anywhere show quart lines. However, I haven’t ever seen a set of scales for sale in any feed/tack store I have visited. That said, I LOVE my Nutrena feeds, and I appreciate all that you do to educate owners.

  2. April Whitten says:

    Hello everyone, regarding the question of how to determine the weight of feed to give your horse…

    If one bag of feed weighs 50 lbs, and it is recommended to give your horse 5 lbs of feed per day, then your bag of feed should last 10 days. I typically go through 3 bags of feed per month per horse. Some feed companies provide a feed scoop or container which are equivalent to the 24 oz yogurt container with a line drawn about one-inch below the top of the container to indicate half-feeding ration of 2.5 lbs. I did weigh the feed and found that a little less than a full yogurt container (approximately 22 oz) of feed equals 2.5 lbs. So given that amount twice daily to your horse equals the recommended 5 lbs per day per 1000 lb horse.

    I agree with the comments listed above. I like the Nutrena Senior and Safe Choice horse feed, BUT it sure would be nice and considerate of Nutrena if it would provide a horse scoop or measurement cup for free to their customers along with volume rather than weight of feed listed one the bag/labels regarding feeding recommendations.

    May the Horse be with you!
    April Whitten

  3. Erik says:

    A few years ago Nutrina gave away scoops that had weight markings on the side and a weight tape. Different feeds have different densities so the scoop was only accurate for the advertised feed. The irony of some peoples feeding program is they spend more money trying to save money on feed. The average horse will eat about 3 50lb bags a month, good feed costs $14 a bag while cheap feed costs $8. They buy the cheap feed to save $18 a month then spend more money on extra hay, supplements and fillers.

  4. janet says:

    i have a horse thas is very under weight.he is about 16 hands. i give him access to a round bale 24/7. and i feed him 3.5 lbs of feed twice a day.what can i give him to help him put weight on?

    • Gina T. says:

      Hi Janet, Thanks for checking in with us! Tell us more about the feed that you are giving – protein/fat/fiber levels? That will help us make a better recommendation. Thanks! Gina T.

  5. Pam says:

    I am a tad confused. I have seen other brands that say 20lbs per horse per day. and yet been told or seen where its only about 5lbs per 1000lb horse or more if the horse is worked hard. Can anyone explain a bit more about pellet feeding?

    • Gina T. says:

      Hi Pam, Thanks for the question. Feeding instructions for feeds can vary greatly, depending on the type of horse they are intended to be fed to, the activity level of the horse, the size of the horse, etc. Some complete feeds (feeds that contain enough roughage for a horse to live on, without hay or pasture, such as our Triumph Complete) and many senior feeds, can range up in to the upper teens for total pounds per day. However, most traditional feeds are generally in the 4-8 lbs per day, although some products that are “lite” or “ration balancer” type products only require 1-3 lbs per day.
      Simply put, check the label any time you start a new product, and figure out the proper amount for your horses’ size and activity level, so that you are providing the proper intended nutrition level for that specific product.
      Hope that helps! Thanks ~ Gina T.

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