Understanding Your Horse Pasture Analysis
So you’ve decided that you’d like to know more about the nutrients your horses are getting from their pasture. You’ve taken a pasture sample, sent it in to be analyzed, and now you’ve received this nice pasture analysis back. But what the heck does it all mean? How do you decode it?
I’m going to break down the basic components of your pasture analysis for you. Before you look at your analysis though, you’ll want to have an idea of what nutrients your horse should be getting. Here’s a nifty little calculator provided by Equi-Analytical. (You’ll need to have a good estimate of your horse’s weight first.)
Here’s one of my pasture analyses that you can take a look at: Pasture Analysis
First of all, you’ll notice two columns on your analysis–‘As Sampled’ and ‘Dry Matter’. For pasture, you’re going to look at the ‘Dry Matter’ column only. (For hay, you would look at the ‘As Sampled’ column.) Dry matter (DM) represents everything in your sample aside from water–it’s the protein, fat, fiber, minerals, etc. The wetter a food is (in this case, grass), the more they will have to eat in order to meet their daily DM requirements.
Then under the Dry Matter column, you’ll see two more columns: % and g/kg (or g/lb.) I mostly pay attention to the g/kg or g/lb. side. This will tell you how much of a nutrient your horse is getting from each kg or lb. he eats.
Here are the parts of the analysis you’ll really want to focus on for now:
Digestible Energy (DE): The first thing you’ll see on my analysis is Digestible Energy. This basically tells me how much energy my horse can digest from one kg (or lb.) of the pasture sampled.
Crude Protein: Crude protein is the total amount of protein, including true protein and non-protein nitrogen, in your pasture.
Lysine: This is a very important amino acid needed by horses.
Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF) and Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF): These both measure fibers in the pasture. The lower your percentages here, the more your horse is able to digest.
Water Soluble Carbohydrates (WSC): This is a measurement of simple sugar and fructan levels. A high percentage here might mean your horse is at greater risk for developing laminitis.
Ethanol-Soluble Carbohydrates (ESC): This is a subset of WSC and will give a better idea of the simple sugar levels in the pasture.
Starch: Good energy source, but affects blood insulin levels (not so good in insulin resistant or obese horses).
Then below this, you’ll usually see your major and trace mineral amounts. Some ideal ratios to keep in mind are:
- Calcium to Phosphorus should be 1.2 to 2:1
- Calcium to Magnesium should be 1.5 to 2:1
- Iron to copper to zinc to manganese should be 4:1:3:3 to 10:1:3:3 (with the first ratio better for insulin resistant or iron overloaded horses.
Your analysis can give you an idea of which minerals you may need to supplement. My pasture is always high in iron and low in copper and zinc, so I supplement quite a bit of copper and zinc to compensate. I also supplement magnesium and sometimes phosphorus to meet the ideal ratios.
Reading a pasture analysis can be quite intimidating at first (especially for a math-challenged person like me), but it will get easier with practice!