What is a Ration Balancer?
What is a Ration Balancer?
A ration balancer is a concentrated diet that helps balance forages. For those that are feeding a forage first diet a ration balancer is a great option to make sure you are meeting the nutritional needs without increasing the calories. Most ration balancers on the market will provide you with the correct protein profile, amino acid and vitamin profile to balance your horses diet based on the forage you are feeding. This means if you feed the recommended amount of balancer you will not need to feed an additional vitamin supplement, that is unless your hose has a specific vitamin deficiency such as vitamin E.
When choosing the correct balancer it is important to factor in the type of forage you are feeding. The balancer is designed to work with your forage. If you are feeding a diet of grass/alfalfa you will want to feed a balancer that is designed for grass hay. If you are feeding a forage that is mostly alfalfa you will want a ration balancer that is designed for alfalfa hay.
The ration balancers “job” is to provide the correct protein profile, vitamin and amino acids without increasing the calories. What does this mean? If you have a horse that is at a good weight but is lacking a topline that could mean that your horses nutrition isn’t quite balanced. This horse would be a good candidate for adding a balancer. By feeding a ration balancer you will add the needed protein, which will help improve your horse’s topline. By improving the protein, amino acids, and vitamin profile you will provide better nutrition for muscle development. When you add a balancer plus exercise you will see an overall improvement in topline and muscle. Balancers are a great option for our easy keepers. It enables you to provide balanced nutrition without adding extra calories.
A balancer is also a great option for horses that need weight and calories. However, we are not going to achieve the calories by adding more balancer. An effective ration balancer is only going to be feed at 2-3 pounds per day. When I have a horse that needs more weight, is in heavy work, or just needs more then a balancer I will seek out the calories elsewhere. A great option for added calories is with a fat supplement. A fortified fat supplement is preferred as it is more palatable, easier for the horse to digested and easier to feed. Most fat supplements can be feed up to 3lbs per day. This is a “cool” way to increase calories.
In the case that I have a performance horse and I need more energy along with the calories this is where I will add a performance feed, typically higher in fat. This is where you can feed your ration balancer at 2 pounds a day and add in an additional 3-5 pounds of performance feed. This will increase the calorie intake as well as boost energy.
A final case of adding calories to a ration balancer is in our senior horses. Depending on the health of our senior horse’s teeth a ration balancer can still be a great option. As senior horses age they don’t utilize the fats and proteins like they should. A ration balancer can provide a great benefit. As we discussed before the ration balancer will provide the correct protein, amino acids and vitamins for the senior horse to utilize. This will help to maintain the topline and muscle. We can then add in fat and/or senior feed to provide the needed calories. When looking at a senior feed it is important to evaluate the overall fat and fiber to make sure we balance it correctly with the ration balancer and the hay the horse is consuming. Keeping in mind some senior horses will respond better to fat where some with respond better with a senior feed. The other advantage of feeding a balancer and using your senior feeds and/or fat is you can keep the hard feed amount lower. Some horses don’t do well trying to eat large volumes of grain. The ration balancer allows you to feed less but still increase the calories. Once again feeding the ration balancer at a ration of 2 pounds and adding in the necessary senior feed to balance the calories. A ration balancer with added calories is a great option for a senior horse that can still consume hay. For our senior horses that can no longer consume hay it is best find them a complete feed and feed at the recommended ratios.
An exception to the ration balancer rule or as you could say “not” a good candidate would be a horse that is maxed out on the recommended amount of ration balancer and is getting over 5 pounds of a performance feed. This horse would be a candidate to get the recommended amount of performance feed. Once you are feeding a textured or pelleted grain at the recommended amounts you are now feeding a balanced profile. Most grains are going to need to be feed at 5-10 pounds a day to meet the nutritional requirement. As a result, the ration balancer is not longer giving you a leg up.
For most horses a ration balancer is a great option, but like anything there are exceptions to the rule. Overall a ration balancer is a concentrated amount of feed that balances the forages our horses are consuming. Balancers are a great way to provide a balanced diet to our easy keeper and is also a great way to make sure we have our performance horses at their best.