Ever wonder what’s in the pellets mixed in with the grains in your feed bag' Probably not, especially if your horse simply devours every bite. But, unless your feed’s label spells out all individual ingredients by name, you’ll likely be surprised how many different things could be in there.
While most high-quality feeds list the actual ingredients on their label, some manufacturers use what are called “collective terms.” The most common reason for this labeling is economy for the manufacturer. By using only collective terms — a legal maneuver — the manufacturer is free to vary the ingredients from batch to batch depending on what base ingredients can be obtained at the best price at the time of purchase. Some manufacturers may use this option if they make feeds in several different areas of the country, where the same ingredients may not always be available, or may be more costly to use.
What it all boils down to is an economical advantage to the manufacturers, since they don’t have to print different labels for feeds made in different areas. A desire to protect a proprietary feed formula is another popular reason (AKA excuse) you may be given, but since the precious, proprietary relative proportions of ingredients don’t have to be listed on an animal-feed label (ingredients don’t even have to be listed in order from greatest amount to least as they are on human-food labels), that one doesn’t hold much water for us.
The problem comes down to a well-known feeding fact: Horses don’t tolerate rapid changes in the ingredients in their diet well. That’s why we’re all so careful to make feed changes gradually, over the course of four to seven days, to avoid digestive upset. But, if you’re feeding a product defined only by collective terms, the ingredients change without your knowledge.Therefore, knowing exactly what’s in the feed is also important if your horse develops a feed intolerance/allergy.
As our table shows, there are a lot more things allowable under each of the collective term headings than you would probably guess. This can lead to problems for carbohydrate-sensitive horses, too, a growing population. We’ve included a table that lists the average NSC (nonstructural carbohydrates = sugars + starches) content of some ingredients on the collective terms list.Classification as a plant-protein product, or even as a roughage, doesn’t mean it will be low in sugar and starch.