Nutrient levels in Benchmark Feeds
Recently we had a dietary enquiry when a customer wanted to add Benchmark Balancer Mash and Perfect Mash into her horses diet, but she was concerned that the diet may be inadequate and low in important vitamins and minerals after using FeedXL.
The customer requested more information and we asked Dr. Mark Barnett to respond.
My name is Dr Mark Barnett (PhD). I am Benchmark Feeds Equine Nutritional Consultant and formulator of the Benchmark range of feeds. Benchmark Feeds recently received an enquiry from you about the nutrient levels in both the Balancer Mash and Perfect Mash feeds and asked me to explain why we set the nutrient values at the levels they are.
Firstly, FeedXL is a very good program that has been designed to help provide guidance in an area that can be rather tricky and complicated equine nutrition. It provides a review of diets fed to horses in a manner that is reasonably easy to understand (but there is always a but with everything) it has its flaws. In this instance, it is purely a diet evaluation software. It cannot and has not got the capabilities to take into account the normal physiological responses of horses to the feed they eat.
For example, a horse fed a high fibre diet (over 70% of the total diet containing high fibre feeds like grass, hay, haylage and low/no-grain feeds like Benchmark Balancer Mash and Perfect Mash) will naturally produce most of their vitamin B and K requirements with the assistance of the trillions of microbes in the hindgut. Also, things like vitamin C are naturally produced in sufficient abundance in the liver from the sugars in the blood (all feeds have some form of sugars, some have more and others less than most). Again, a limitation with any evaluation program is to assume that the diet entered into the program is the only feed consumed. This is an essential assumption otherwise the program could not run. This assumption, therefore, cannot take into account what the horse obtains from the feed naturally through normal physiological function like that mentioned above. This means, in brief, that the horse is obtaining more nutrients from its diet than what programs like FeedXL can account for.
Secondly, because the horse can obtain more from its diet than evaluation programs (and feed bags) estimate, we always believe that it is in the best interest of the horse and owner to add in not quite the full recommended daily requirement (this is what FeedXL works on - the daily recommended nutrient requirement as set by the National Research Council). For a horse, it isn't in the best interests of its health to provide too much more than what they need. You see, horses, like most animals, work better when they don't quite have enough nutrients in their body compared to when they have too much. The horses body works on what's called a "negative feedback loop". This means that when there is too much of anything in the body, a signal is sent back to the appropriate part of the body to stop making or absorbing this product. It is no different for minerals and vitamins in the horses diet. If there is too much of anything in the diet, the body will start restricting absorption and minimising utilisation. The result is some very expensive fertiliser which is not good for the horse owners bank account.
Therefore, we never add any nutrient in any of our feeds to the recommended required amount or above - it is a waste!
I hope this helps explain why we set the nutrient levels in all our feed products at the concentrations listed on the feed bags. Unlike most other feed companies, we are trying to look after your horse as well as you, the owner.