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.

22 Replies to “How to Weigh Your Feed”

  1. 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.

    1. Hi Kelly,
      Thanks for the great feedback, and we thank you for being a dedicated Nutrena customer! We will definitely take your idea in to consideration. Keep the ideas coming!
      Thank you ~ Gina T.

    2. I was just thinking the same thing! It would make it a lot easier to figure how much to feed. Thanks!

    3. Ditto! You know what your feed formulations weigh, so please also provide volume! It would make this process so much easier!

  2. 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. 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. 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?

    1. 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. 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?

    1. 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.

  6. I have a mare that is mostly halter bred. She is 15.3 H.H. and about 1,175 lbs. I feed her about 2.5 lbs of “Special Care” per day. She started to show signs of Founder last year so I had to decrease her ration. She is a very easy keeper and receives 4 flakes of hay per day along with her grain to maintain her weight. My question is, because of the low amount of grain she is fed, is she receiving enough vitamins through the feed or should I supplement vitamins as well?

    1. Hi Carissa, Great question! Rather than messing with supplements and then worrying about everything being in balance, we suggest switching feeds to something that is designed specifically to be fed at a very low rate – a ration balancer. Our particular product is called Empower Balance. A horse the size of your mare needs just 1..0 – 1.5 lbs per day to receive all the vitamins, minerals, and protein she needs in addition to what her hay is supplying. And then, you’ve got no guesswork to deal with!
      Thanks ~ Gina T.

  7. I feed my horses Empower Balance. To take the guess out of how much to feed, it would be great if a scoop was included in the feed bag with weight markings on it, Just a thought.

    1. Hi,
      Thank you for your comment! Nutrena does have an Empower specific scoop that can be purchased here. The general intent of not including them in each bag is so scoops don’t get wasted or thrown away after each bag purchase.

      Thanks again!

  8. Thank you so much for your post. I’m working with an OTTB at a rescue barn and they’re on a feed schedule that maintains weight for other breeds but not the thoroughbreds. I want to be able to transition him into a good home but he’s not getting enough food. Right now they feed 3lbs of a strategy mixed with alfalfa pellets once a day & w/ 4oz of coco soya. They previously had a mixed hay that was putting weight on them but they’ve just switched to all grass feed. His fed the grass 2x a day in a slow feeder (they don’t weight the feed they just fill the slow feeder bag). I’ve been supplementing his diet with 2lbs of proforce & 3lbs of soaked alfalfa & timothy cubes. He really needs to be out on a pasture and better quality hay. But when a pasture isn’t an option, what’s the best option for me to help him when I only see him once a day in the evening? He is a 17hands 5yo and I take him out once a day to walk, stretch and starting on small transitions. If I get on at all it’s typically for 20 minutes. Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi there,
      With only once a day feedings, this can be a challenge. Which ProForce are you feeding? As a 5 year old once he is back to good body condition he can do more advanced exercises. It is good that you are getting him some exercise daily. Not understanding the nutritional quality of his forage, the recommendation is challenging. You could try to feed him either ProForce Fuel at 0.5 to 0.75 pounds per 100 pounds body weight or ProForce Senior at 1.35 to 1.58 pounds per 100 pounds body weight. Feel free to visit the Nutrena World website to use the feed calculator based on his body weight. If you need help estimating body weight please let us know. These feedings he would need to be fed this amount at minimum two feedings.
      Best of luck!
      Heidi A.

  9. I have a 2 horses that are over wight and prone to founder I am decreasing their amounts of hay, The hay I have is fresh cut this year but have no way of knowing the nutritional value. Would the hay balance still be ok to use?
    I have been soaking the hay but one horse is not eating it well.
    If hay balance is not the answer what about the Special Care Product?

    1. Hello Cathy,

      Thanks for the question. Yes, we would recommend the Empower Topline Balance to go with their hay source. This will help provide any missing nutrients that the hay might not provide, without the calories that a more traditional feed – even one like SafeChoice Special Care – would provide. Thus, it is a great option for those horses that need to reduce their weight, without sacrificing nutritional intake.

      Thank you!

  10. PLEASE list your feed weights per quart on your bags and website. I have found only one feed company that does this and it is such a huge help. I am looking to transition horses to your food and it makes it difficult to accurately calculate how much I will need to feed each horse and with 15-20 horses that estimate can be off by a large amount. I’m particularly looking for the weight of Proforce Fuel. You don’t need to include scoops in the bag if you are rightfully concerned about waste, but if you use a standard form of measurement, such as the quart, it would really make consumers’ lives easier. Thank you.

  11. I go through you and find it is a very informative blog. From this blog, I came to know about as per feed weight you should feed him. If one feed bag weighs have 50 lbs then you should feed 5 lbs to your horse in a day. Some so many suppliers supplies weigh feed from 10$ to 20$. I purchase the weigh for my horse at the same price as my retailer. I always recommended that before feed weighs, you should go through the directions given on the bag and how much you should feed your horse. So, for an effective result, you should read directions and start to feed your horse. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful blog.

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