In this episode of Nutrition Nuggets, Dr. Nettie Liebert, the Senior Equine Nutrition Manager for Buckeye Nutrition, discusses how to calculate the cost per head per day for horse feed. She presents an easy-to-use Excel spreadsheet as an example and explains the process step by step. Dr. Liebert uses the example of Grow and Win, a Russian balancer, and explains that if you’re feeding two pounds of it, which costs 60 cents per pound, it would cost you a total of $1.20 per day. She also provides a calculator on the spreadsheet to make it even easier for you to calculate the cost per pound and the cost per head per day for different horse feed products. By the end of the episode, you will have a clear understanding of how to calculate the cost of feeding a particular horse a specific product and be able to make informed decisions about your horse’s nutrition. Happy riding!

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Understanding the Importance of Calculating Feed Costs

Owning a horse can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it is important to recognize the financial implications that come along with it. One of the biggest expenses of horse ownership is the cost of feed. Whether you are a seasoned owner or new to the world of horses, understanding how to calculate feed costs is vital for managing your budget effectively.

The financial implications of horse ownership

It goes without saying that owning a horse can be expensive. Beyond the initial purchase price and the regular costs of veterinary care, farrier visits, and equipment, the cost of feeding your horse can quickly add up. Horses require a substantial amount of food to maintain their health and energy levels. Failure to provide adequate nutrition can lead to a decline in overall health and costly veterinary bills down the line. By calculating feed costs, you can budget accordingly and ensure that your horse is receiving the nutrition it needs without breaking the bank.

How calculating feed costs affects the budget

Calculating feed costs is essential for creating a realistic and sustainable budget for horse ownership. When you have a clear understanding of how much you are spending on feed each month, you can make informed decisions about other areas of your budget. By tracking these costs, you can identify areas where you can potentially cut back or make adjustments to save money. This will allow you to allocate funds to other necessary expenses such as veterinary care or equipment maintenance.

Why cost per head per day calculation is crucial

One of the most effective ways to calculate feed costs is by determining the cost per head per day. This calculation provides a simple and accurate way to understand the financial impact of feeding your horse on a daily basis. By breaking down the cost per day, you can easily compare different feed options and make decisions based on what is most cost-effective for your budget. It also allows you to adjust quantities and make changes to the diet without losing sight of the overall costs involved.

Determining the Diet of Your Horse

Feeding your horse a balanced and appropriate diet is crucial for its overall health and well-being. However, determining the right diet can be a complex task. There are various types of diets available for horses, and factors such as size, age, and activity level can all influence the nutritional needs of your horse. Understanding the different diet types and the role of forage in a horse’s diet is key to creating an optimal feeding plan.

Various diet types for horses

Horses can be fed a variety of diets, ranging from fully forage-based to supplemented or complete feeds. Forage-based diets consist primarily of hay or pasture, providing the majority of the horse’s nutritional needs. On the other hand, supplemented feeds may include additional grains or concentrates to meet specific dietary requirements. Complete feeds, as the name suggests, provide all the necessary nutrients and can be fed as the sole source of nutrition. It is important to evaluate the needs of your horse and consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine the most appropriate diet type.

Influence of horse size, age, and activity levels on diet

The size, age, and activity level of your horse can greatly impact its dietary requirements. Larger horses generally require more food to meet their energy needs compared to smaller ones. Young horses in the growth phase have increased nutritional needs to support their development, while older horses may require specific supplements to maintain their health. Additionally, horses in heavy work or intense training may need additional calories and nutrients to fuel their activity. Evaluating these factors and tailoring the diet accordingly will ensure that your horse receives the appropriate nutrition for its specific circumstances.

The role of forage in a horse’s diet

Forage, such as hay or pasture, is a crucial component of a horse’s diet. It serves as a significant source of fiber and provides the bulk needed for proper digestion. Including ample amounts of forage in your horse’s diet promotes healthy gut function and can help prevent digestive issues such as colic. The specific type and quality of forage should be considered when calculating feed costs, as higher-quality forage may come with a higher price tag. Balancing the amount of forage with any concentrates or supplements is essential for maintaining a well-rounded and nutritionally adequate diet.

Using a ration balancer in a horse’s diet

In some cases, adding a ration balancer to your horse’s diet may be beneficial. A ration balancer is a concentrated feed that provides balanced nutrition in small quantities. It is typically fed to horses who have limited access to grazing or lower-quality forage. Ration balancers can help ensure that the horse’s diet contains all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and protein. When calculating feed costs, it is important to include the expense of a ration balancer if it is part of your horse’s diet.

Quantity of Feed Per Day

The quantity of feed your horse needs on a daily basis is another crucial factor to consider when calculating feed costs. Providing the appropriate amount of food will ensure that your horse receives the necessary nutrition without overfeeding or underfeeding. Understanding the factors that influence daily feed intake and making adjustments for horses on a forage-only diet will help you determine the right quantity for your horse.

How much feed does a horse need per day?

The amount of feed a horse needs per day can vary depending on its weight, age, activity level, and overall health. As a general guideline, horses typically consume about 1.5-3% of their body weight in feed per day. For example, a 1,000-pound horse would need to consume approximately 15-30 pounds of feed daily. It is important to note that this is a rough estimate and individual horses may require more or less feed based on their specific needs.

Factors determining daily feed intake

Several factors can influence a horse’s daily feed intake. As mentioned, a horse’s weight, age, and activity level are significant considerations. In addition, the type and quality of feed being provided play a role. Horses fed primarily on forage may require a larger quantity of feed to meet their nutritional needs, as forage has a lower calorie concentration compared to concentrates. It is important to evaluate these factors and consult with professionals to determine the appropriate quantity of feed for your horse.

Adjustments for horses on a forage-only diet

Horses on a forage-only diet may require adjustments in the quantity of feed to compensate for the lower calorie concentration. Adding a concentrated feed, such as grains or pellets, may be necessary to ensure that the horse receives enough energy and nutrients. When calculating feed costs for forage-only diets, it is crucial to consider the additional expense of concentrated feed to meet the horse’s nutritional requirements.

Cost of Horse Feed

Understanding the cost of horse feed is vital for creating an accurate budget and evaluating the financial impact of owning a horse. The cost of feed can vary based on factors such as location, type of feed, and seller. By comparing costs and estimating the cost per pound, you can make informed decisions about the most cost-effective feed options for your horse.

Average cost of horse feed

The average cost of horse feed can vary widely depending on factors such as the region in which you live and the type of feed you choose. As a general estimate, a 50-pound bag of horse feed can range from $10 to $30. It is important to research local prices and compare different brands to determine the average cost in your area.

Price fluctuations based on location and sellers

The price of horse feed can vary based on the location of your purchase and the seller from whom you are buying. Larger feed stores or agricultural supply companies often offer competitive prices compared to smaller retailers. Additionally, prices may fluctuate between regions based on supply and demand. When calculating feed costs, consider the potential variations in prices and explore different purchasing options to ensure you are getting the best deal.

Costs of different types of feed (comparison)

The cost of different types of feed can vary significantly. Forage-based diets, such as hay or pasture, may be the most cost-effective option if your horse can thrive on them alone. However, if your horse requires additional concentrates or supplements, the cost of feed can increase. Complete feeds and ration balancers, which offer balanced nutrition in concentrated forms, tend to be more expensive compared to traditional grains or pellets. It is important to evaluate the specific needs of your horse and compare the costs of different feed types to determine the most cost-effective solution.

Estimating the cost of feed per pound

When calculating feed costs, it is helpful to estimate the cost per pound of feed. This allows for easier comparison between different brands and types of feed. To determine the cost per pound, simply divide the price of the feed by the weight of the bag. For example, if a 50-pound bag of feed costs $20, the cost per pound would be $0.40. This calculation helps you understand the relative cost of different options and make informed decisions about purchasing feed for your horse.

Using an Excel Spreadsheet for Calculations

Keeping track of feed costs and calculations can be overwhelming, but utilizing an Excel spreadsheet can simplify the process. Creating and maintaining a spreadsheet specifically designed for calculating feed costs allows you to input data and automatically calculate the cost per head per day. This tool provides an organized and efficient way to manage and monitor your feed costs.

Creating an Excel spreadsheet to calculate feed cost

To create an Excel spreadsheet for feed cost calculations, begin by opening a blank worksheet. Create columns for the necessary information, such as feed type, cost per bag, weight per bag, and quantity fed per day. You may also include additional columns for calculated values, such as cost per pound or cost per head per day. Label each column appropriately to ensure clarity and ease of use.

Inputting data into the spreadsheet

Once you have set up the spreadsheet, input the relevant data for each feed type you use. Include the cost per bag, weight per bag, and quantity fed per day. Make sure to use consistent units of measurement to avoid any errors in calculations. As you input the data, the spreadsheet will automatically calculate the cost per pound and cost per head per day, providing immediate results and eliminating the need for manual calculations.

How the spreadsheet calculates the cost per head per day

The spreadsheet uses the data inputted for each feed type to calculate the cost per head per day. By multiplying the quantity fed per day by the cost per pound, the spreadsheet determines the daily cost for each feed type. This calculation can be repeated for multiple horses if necessary. The spreadsheet then sums up the costs for each feed type and divides it by the number of horses to calculate the cost per head per day. This automated process eliminates the need for manual calculations and provides accurate results quickly and efficiently.

Example of Cost Calculation

To better understand how feed cost calculations work, let’s use an example with a specific feed product called Grow and Win.

Using Grow and Win feed as an example

Grow and Win is a popular feed product commonly used for growth and development in horses. It is often fed to young, growing horses or those in intense training. The cost per bag of Grow and Win is $25, and each bag weighs 50 pounds. To calculate the cost per pound, divide the cost ($25) by the weight (50 pounds), resulting in a cost per pound of $0.50.

Calculations for an eleven hundred pound horse

Now let’s assume you have an eleven hundred pound horse that requires four pounds of Grow and Win feed per day. To calculate the daily cost of feeding this horse, multiply the quantity fed per day (4 pounds) by the cost per pound ($0.50). The calculation is as follows:

4 pounds/day * $0.50/pound = $2.00/day

Based on this calculation, it would cost $2.00 per day to feed an eleven hundred pound horse with four pounds of Grow and Win feed.

Determining cost per pound and per head per day with Grow and Win

To determine the cost per pound and cost per head per day for Grow and Win, you can refer back to the data inputted into your Excel spreadsheet. By dividing the cost per pound of Grow and Win ($0.50) by the weight per bag (50 pounds), you get the cost per pound:

$0.50/pound / 50 pounds/bag = $0.01/pound

This means that each pound of Grow and Win feed costs $0.01.

To calculate the cost per head per day, refer to the quantity fed per day for the eleven hundred pound horse (4 pounds) and multiply it by the cost per pound ($0.01):

4 pounds/day * $0.01/pound = $0.04/day

Therefore, the cost per head per day for an eleven hundred pound horse fed four pounds of Grow and Win is $0.04.

Using the Spreadsheet for Different Products

The Excel spreadsheet you created can easily accommodate different feed products. By inputting data for each feed type, you can compare costs and quantities to make informed decisions about your horse’s diet.

Inputting data for different products

To add data for different feed products, simply add new rows to your existing spreadsheet. Label each row with the corresponding feed type and input the appropriate information, such as cost per bag, weight per bag, and quantity fed per day. Make sure to format the data consistently for accurate calculations.

Adjusting quantities based on diet needs

When using the spreadsheet for different products, you may need to adjust quantities based on your horse’s specific diet needs. For example, if you are comparing a forage-based diet to a diet supplemented with concentrates, you may need to adjust the quantity fed per day to ensure balanced nutrition. As you make these adjustments, the spreadsheet will recalculate the cost per head per day automatically, allowing for easy comparison between different feed types.

Automatic calculations provided by the spreadsheet

One of the key benefits of using an Excel spreadsheet for feed cost calculations is the automatic calculations it provides. As you input data and make adjustments, the spreadsheet will recalculate the cost per pound and cost per head per day for each feed type. This eliminates the need for manual calculations and saves you valuable time and effort. The convenience and accuracy of these automatic calculations make the spreadsheet an invaluable tool for managing feed costs effectively.

Making Adjustments Based on Budget

When it comes to horse ownership, budget constraints are not uncommon. Fortunately, there are ways to make adjustments to your horse’s diet without compromising their health or well-being. By balancing nutritional needs with cost considerations, you can find alternatives that suit your budget while still providing adequate nutrition to your horse.

Making feed changes according to budget constraints

If you find that your feed costs are exceeding your budget, it may be necessary to explore alternative feed options. Researching different brands or types of feed can help you find more cost-effective alternatives without sacrificing the nutritional needs of your horse. Forage-based diets, supplemented with specific minerals or vitamins as needed, can be a viable option for budget-conscious horse owners.

Balancing nutritional needs with cost

While finding ways to save money on feed is important, it is crucial to strike a balance between cost and nutritional needs. Horse health should always be a top priority. Consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to ensure that any adjustments made to the diet still meet the necessary nutritional requirements. By maintaining an open line of communication with professionals, you can make informed decisions that prioritize both your budget and your horse’s health.

Options for feeding horses on a tight budget

Feeding horses on a tight budget can be challenging, but there are options available. As previously mentioned, forage-based diets supplemented with minerals or vitamins can be a cost-effective solution. Additionally, researching local resources for discounted or bulk hay purchases may help reduce costs. Participating in hay co-ops or buying directly from farmers can often provide savings. Exploring alternative sources for feed, such as local produce or byproduct providers, may also offer more affordable options.

Resources for Further Assistance

Calculating feed costs may still seem overwhelming or confusing, especially if you are new to horse ownership. Fortunately, there are resources available to provide further assistance and guidance. These resources can help you better understand the calculations, answer specific nutrition questions, and provide additional support for horse owners.

Downloading a pre-made spreadsheet

If creating your own Excel spreadsheet feels daunting, there are pre-made spreadsheets available for download. These ready-to-use templates provide the necessary formulas and structure to calculate feed costs easily. Simply input your data and let the spreadsheet do the calculations for you. Online equine communities or reputable equine websites are excellent resources for finding downloadable spreadsheets tailored to calculating feed costs.

Customer service lines for nutrition questions

Many feed companies have customer service lines that offer assistance and support for nutrition-related questions. If you have specific inquiries about a particular feed product or need guidance on calculating feed costs, don’t hesitate to reach out to the customer service representatives. They are trained professionals who can provide valuable insights and help you make informed decisions regarding your horse’s diet.

Other resources for horse owners

In addition to customer service lines, there are numerous other resources available for horse owners seeking guidance on calculating feed costs. Equine nutritionists, veterinarians specializing in equine care, and reputable equine websites can offer comprehensive information and advice. Books and publications dedicated to equine nutrition are also valuable resources for those looking to dive deeper into the subject. By accessing these resources, you can expand your knowledge and make educated decisions about your horse’s diet and budget.


Understanding and calculating feed costs is crucial for any horse owner. By recognizing the financial implications of horse ownership and assessing the cost per head per day, you can create a realistic and sustainable budget. By determining the appropriate diet for your horse, considering various factors like size, age, and activity level, and understanding the role of forage, you can ensure proper nutrition. Using an Excel spreadsheet streamlines the calculation process, providing accurate results and facilitating the comparison of different feed options. Making adjustments based on your budget while maintaining nutritional needs is important. By exploring alternative feed options and utilizing available resources, you can successfully navigate the world of horse feeding, finding the right balance between cost and nutrition.