As some horse owners try to economise, this is a question that retailers may be asked…

Feeding horses is tricky just now. Some owners can’t visit their animals as often as they’d like, others need to save money and competition plans have been scuppered.

Add to that an exceptionally dry April, and the grass hasn’t grown as much as usual in some locations. 

In response to a surge of calls to the TopSpec helpline, the company’s nutrition director Nicola Tyler set up a ‘crisis advice’ Facebook posting in to share examples of questions and her answers which cover all types and brands of feed. This is an example:

Q. I’ve been furloughed and need to feed my horses cost-effectively until some more grass grows. Can I use products that have gone past their Best Before Date (BBD)?

A. Probably not. The potency of several of the vitamins will start to decline after the BBD, meaning that the feed will not serve its purpose as well as when it was within date. 

However, the major problem is that the feed will become more susceptible to mite as time goes on; cereal-containing feeds will be affected more quickly than cereal-grain-free, low sugar starch cubes. 

This is why mixes frequently have a shorter period from manufacture to BBD than cubes. 

If you have never seen or smelt mite, then look at a sack closely, particularly along the stitching seams. If the ‘dust’ moves, there may be mite. The smell is quite characteristic but hard to define. 

Feed affected this way should never be fed; neither should high-fat feed or other fatty products after their BBD, because of rancidity.

One exception where a little laxity may be OK is to continue feeding a supplement with no added vitamins. For example, some joint supplements, as their useful life may be a little longer than indicated. 

Always check with an equine nutritionist from the manufacturer first.

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