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What Exactly is a Ration Balancer?

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  • What Exactly is a Ration Balancer?

    Could someone explain this to me? Is it to be used in ADDITION to a feed? I have an OTTB that is hard to keep weight on. He is on a 6% fat, low starch feed. I bought some Buckeye GroNWin for in ADDITION to this feed. He has free choice hay at all times.

    So, what exaclty is a Ration Balancer? Thank you SO MUCH!

  • #2
    A ration balancer is a feed ration, usually marketed by a commercial grain company, that gets a typical horse's full requirement of vitamins, minerals, and other basic nutrients into a very small calorie and poundage package. Whereas it might take 6 or more pounds of a so-called "complete feed" to get a horse the sufficient daily nutrients, the ration balancer gets the job done with just 1.0 to 2.5 pounds of feed. Almost every major equine grain company makes a ration balancer, or sometimes two or three that have different protein levels and/or are formulated to match the rest of the horse's diet (most commonly, they have a separate ration balancer for grass-hay-based diets and diets that include large proportions of alfalfa hay).

    Many horse owners who switch from a traditional grain ration to ration balancers find their horses do better on the ration balancer because the correct nutritional balance means that the horse utilizes its existing food better. Horses that require more energy might get some oats, flax, or oil as a supplement to the ration balancer, but many non-hard-keepers and horses in light work get along fine with just the ration balancer and free choice hay. EqTrainer on these forums is a local Horse Care forum celebrity for feeding her entire barn of sporthorses, including many TB's, a diet based around a ration balancer.

    As you can infer from the description above, it is not usually a good idea to mix a ration balancer with another kind of grain (other than a raw product like oats, flax, etc.) because it can so easily throw off the nutrient balance and usually creates redundancy between the two feeds. If you bought the Gro n' Win because you were concerned that the horse's nutritional needs were not being met on the 6% grain, it would make more economic and scientific sense to either switch entirely to Gro n' Win OR get rid of the Gro n' Win and add a cheaper vit/min supplement to your feed. Even if your horse's current grain is totally unfortified, you can usually add a powder supplement to their feed for about 40 to 80 cents per day that will balance it out. I did this at my last barn, where my horse wasn't eating enough of the complete feed to get all the nutrients he needed. I gave him a half dose of Equi-VM, a powdered vit/min supp, to make up the difference, and that only cost me around 20 cents daily.

    Ration balancers are typically quite expensive per bag, so they're not a financially efficient way to supplement nutrients. For example, let's say that a 50-pound bag of ration balancer costs you a seemingly exhorbitant rate of $45, but if you're only needing to feed 1.5 pounds per day to sustain your horse, then you're paying only $1.35 for your horse's daily grain ration. By contrast, let's say you can get a 50-pound bag of regular grain for $16 and your horse needs to eat 5 pounds of it every day. In that case, you're paying $1.60 daily, making the ration balancer plan $91 cheaper per year.

    For the record, my horse is not on a ration balancer. I am in a boarding situation where he's eating a complete feed (which I get for free as part of my monthly boarding fee) and he does not get free choice hay, so a ration balancer would be practical or economical for us. If I had my own farm or my horse was on free-choice hay, you bet I'd try a RB.
    Last edited by jn4jenny; Mar. 11, 2009, 08:18 PM.
    Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/


    • #3
      There are also some that are even more concentrated and designed for forage only diets. Like Purina's Nature's Essentials. (though I still have to add additional Selenium due to our location) One 2 oz scoop per day.

      If your horse is a hard keeper, I'd be upping the fat % in his feed to get some additional calories into him.
      A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

      Might be a reason, never an excuse...


      • #4
        jn4jenny said it all. Big fan of ration balancers here. Not saying they're the only way, but if you're looking for simple, low-volume ways to meet a horse's needs I think they're ideal. You can add a fat source to them to really boost calories--I like oil although it's been AGES since I've had a horse that needed extra fat.
        Click here before you buy.


        • Original Poster

          WOW - thanks so much for the explanation - you are GREAT! I am beginning to think that the GroNWin was a mistake! I guess I was under the impression that it was a "supplement". This bag was about $35 and it is not cost effective for me at all. I think I will go with the powered vit/min. Thanks, again!


          • Original Poster

            Can you feed a Ration Balancer in between feeding grain? As an example - says I give 3 lbs of grain in the morning, 1lb of ration balance in the aft and then grain at night....would this work?


            • #7
              Originally posted by gooselover View Post
              WOW - thanks so much for the explanation - you are GREAT! I am beginning to think that the GroNWin was a mistake! I guess I was under the impression that it was a "supplement". This bag was about $35 and it is not cost effective for me at all. I think I will go with the powered vit/min. Thanks, again!
              I feed my OTTB one pound of 30% ration balancer on top of his Ultium (11.7% protein, 12.4% fat) and the combination works great for him. He holds weight better and is able to build more muscle more easily without getting crazy. I would definitely give the Buckeye a try. Re-reading your first post, additional fat might be a good idea as well.


              • Original Poster

                But is there a possibility of feeding it inbetween regular grain feedings? AND does a ration balancer HAVE ADDED calories vs. regular grain?
                Last edited by gooselover; Mar. 11, 2009, 10:18 PM.


                • #9
                  I would just add the ration balancer into your normal feedings-split it in half. You should really determine if you NEED the ration balancer at all- read your feed bag and see what the recommended pounds per day is per head (to get the recommended vit and mineral amounts). If you are already feeding that # of pounds, you are overdoing the vitamins and minerals.

                  Ration balancers were designed I think for horses that don't require a lot of calories, but owners still want their horses to get what they need vit/min wise without the excess caloric content of grain. Some people use RB as their base, adding beet pulp and oil for calories if the horse starts to drop weight.

                  RB's do have calories. You may have to do some leg work to find out how much, depending on what specific one you are using.

                  Hope this helps.


                  • Original Poster

                    Yes, that helps. I am going to just add more calories/fat to the diet and maybe top it off with some Ultimate Finish. I just believe now that I got the wrong product.

                    Thanks again everyone for your help. You are all priceless!


                    • #11
                      I feed all of mine RB + beet pulp soaked with whole flax seed.

                      some get a little more BP some a little less but everyone gets the RB.


                      • #12
                        Pound for pound, a 30% ration balancer will have more calories than a 12% ration balancer, which will have slightly more calories than oats or most sweet feeds. But to really just add calories, fat is the best choice.
                        Click here before you buy.


                        • #13
                          I like to think of grow n win as...forgive my analogy...but "beer goggles". This may seem strange, but ration balancers like this are GREAT for making a poor looking feed better!

                          Say you are trying to save a few dollars, you CAN use this feed as a topdress. In this way you can decrease the amount of ...say an Economy feed...and top dress with GNW to make up for the nutritional deficiencies that the cheaper feed may have.

                          It all balances out with the superb nutrition of GNW, and the lacking nutrition in an economy feed, your horse can still meet all requirements, look great and be healthy!

                          Check out the Buckeye Nutrition Units on their website...a little confusing but once you get it, it really clicks.

                          Sorry if my response seems a little "out there"


                          • #14
                            P.S. I use GNW and Ultimate Finish on my horses. Sometimes it seems like a little bit of a sticker shock but they last a long time and the horses look great. My horses NEEEEED that low starch and sugar and this is a way I know FOR SURE that they are right on track.


                            • #15
                              . Most of my questions were answered once I actually READ all the posts....<g>


                              • #16
                                I am having trouble getting the RB that I want in my area. Anyone care to list the brands they have tried and what they prefer? TIA.
                                Positive Step Farm


                                • #17
                                  And further to the above question, any routinely available in Western Canada? I thinking of a RB for an extremely easy keeper three yr old but my local store pretty much carries Nutrena and Feedrite. I haven't seen anything on their websites that look like a RB to me....


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Mozart View Post
                                    And further to the above question, any routinely available in Western Canada? I thinking of a RB for an extremely easy keeper three yr old but my local store pretty much carries Nutrena and Feedrite. I haven't seen anything on their websites that look like a RB to me....
                                    Nutrena doesn't have one AFAIK.

                                    Feed-Rite is owned by Ridley, Inc., which owns three feed lines, and if they can get you one they can probably get you another. One of those other three companies is McCauley's, which makes McCauley M30. It is a 30% protein ration balancer.

                                    McCauley's also makes one called Trinergy that I would also argue is a ration balancer for high-performance horses. It has 12.5% protein, 10% fat, and 10% fiber--that's definitely more fat than you'd see in the typical ration balancer, but otherwise the feeding instructions are very RB in nature (feed 2 lbs of Trinergy per horse + whatever quantity of oats necessary to maintain energy and weight):

                                    For those who have trouble spotting ration balancers in feed lines, they are almost always under the "Supplements" section rather than the regular "Feeds/Grains" section. You'll recognize them by their recommended feeding instructions of 2.5 lbs or less + the advertising about complete nutritional vit/min packaging.
                                    Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/


                                    • #19

                                      Just called my local Feedrite store, they don't have the M30 in stock since it doesn't move well here but they will try to get some in for me.

                                      Thank you so much for your help!