Southern States Feed Quality
by Laura Scaletti
You are what you eat is a familiar phrase that applies as much to horses as it does to humans. When it comes to equine nutrition and choosing the right feed for your horse it’s more than just picking a feed based on a pretty picture on a feed bag. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Are you feeding the horses in your barn a quality horse feed? The answer is yes if you are a current Southern States customer. Southern States experts Jim Moore, Vice President of the Feed Division; Angela Mills, Manager of Quality Assurance; and Bill Monroe, Manager of Feed Mill Operations provide insight on what makes the Southern States horse feed lines so trusted.
One of the hallmarks of Southern States feed is consistency. No matter where you are located or what week it is, when you open a bag of your favorite Southern States product it should look and smell exactly like the last bag you fed. According to Moore, consistency is vitally important for horses as they tend to be finicky eaters who don’t like change. “The product needs to react the same each time the horse eats it,” Moore explains.
Ingredients of the right consistent quality produce repeatable results in our finished feeds throughout all product lines. As Mills stresses, “the quality of a finished product can never be greater than the sum of its ingredients.” Without quality ingredients, we cannot produce the desired results for our feeds and the satisfaction desired by our end use customers. To ensure quality ingredients are used in every single product we produce, Southern States only uses ingredients that have come from approved suppliers. These suppliers must meet or exceed our quality standards.
According to Monroe, “the quality of the ingredients nutrient profile is critical in meeting our tag guarantees.” By providing the intended nutritional level to the animal as stated on the feed tag we are able to give customers the full value for their dollar. Nutrient profile of an ingredient is important as it will directly impact the amount of the ingredient that can be used by the horse, compared to how much of the ingredient simply passes out in manure.
So how is a quality ingredient assessed? At Southern States, our Quality Control and Purchasing departments have jointly identified specific criteria that all ingredients must meet. Each ingredient that is used in Southern States products is evaluated for appearance, smell, density and moisture content. In addition to making sure that the ingredients are nutritious, they are also checked to make sure they are free from contaminants such as mycotoxins and foreign materials. Mycotoxins are compounds produced by a mold that negatively impacts animal health when consumed. Since mycotoxins can be prevalent in feedstuffs, we have implemented a strict ingredient mycotoxin testing regimen.
“If an ingredient does not meet our quality standards, the ingredient is rejected and never used in our products,” says Mills. At our feed mills, the receiving operator is the first line of defense in quality control. The operator can tell if the ingredients being delivered meet the quality standards by taking a test sample. Prior to taking the test sample, the driver of the truck hauling the ingredients must certify that his/her truck has been cleaned, verify what the product is and where it is coming from.
As the health of our customers’ horses is of utmost importance to us, we do not take a chance with any of the ingredients we accept to be used in any of our products. Knowing this, our vendors and suppliers literally send us the cream of their crop; thereby allowing us to have safe and nutritious products.
Another way to ensure consistency is through use of a fixed feed formula. Legends® and Triple Crown® have fixed ingredient formulas so carbohydrate values remain consistent. Feeds that have fixed formulas do not change as grain markets fluctuate, therefore making them the ultimate in consistency bag after bag. As protein, fat and fiber make the products tick, it is very important for these main ingredients to stay the same.
Research has shown the levels of nutrients in ingredients are very important when formulating feeds. As Moore explained, putting together feed is not too far removed from baking a cake. To achieve the same repeatable results with each cake you need to use the same quality and amount of ingredients every time. If you change up the recipe, you will not get a consistent result.
Is a fixed feed formula necessary for your horse? It all depends on its nutritional requirements. If you have a horse that has metabolic issues, is still growing or is high strung, a fixed feed formula can really benefit your horse, especially through the use of Controlled Carbohydrate Technology,™. Controlled Carbohydrate Technology™ is a research based formulation technique that utilizes digestible fiber sources and vegetable oils, in combination with precise grain selection, to create low-starch, low-sugar horse feeds. In order to maintain the integrity of the formulation, ingredients in fixed formula feeds cannot dramatically change, there can only be small variations from batch to batch.
Fixed feed formulas are not as essential for horses that don’t have specific dietary needs such as insulin resistance. For easy nutritional keepers the main thing to be concerned with is whether they are receiving the appropriate amount of protein, fat and fiber in their feed.
If you currently feed a Southern States product that isn’t a fixed feed formula product, don’t be alarmed. Even our lines that aren’t fixed formulas do not have major changes made to them each time they are produced. According to Moore, “We do not switch out ingredients, but we will occasionally adjust ingredient levels to make sure that they meet the nutritional requirements in the most effective way.” Moore said a good example of how we might make a minor tweak to a product is if a given crop or supplier of oats turns out to be slightly low in protein, we will make adjustments to the feed provided there are no issues with the quality of the oats.
You may wonder what make one feed more expensive than another. Generally speaking cost is based on what ingredients are used and the different levels of quality and concentration of those ingredients. “A cheap feed is cheap because it doesn’t have something in it,” says Moore. So why should you spend more on a feed? A higher priced feed usually equals better products being used, thus better nutrients to support your horse. At Southern States we have three different lines of feeds to meet the various price and quality needs of our customers. The lines are Triple Crown®, Legends® and Southern States®.
Triple Crown® uses only the best grains, ingredients, and a unique EquiMix™ Technology. It is a higher priced feed as a result of its formulation. Like the Legends and Southern States lines, Triple Crown offers a wide variety of choices of pelleted and textured feed designed to meet whatever nutritional needs your horse may have. Legends® is a unique feed line because it features our Controlled Carbohydrate Technology™. Our Southern States® horse feed line, formerly the Reliance line, launched in February 2010 now features more convenient identification and most of its products contain added Sel-Plex organic selenium. “Although there are different price levels be assured we use high quality ingredients throughout our lines,” stresses Moore.
As well as selling the highest quality ingredients, Southern States also maintains some of the highest quality feed mills in the industry. Monroe maintains, “the Southern States Quality Assurance program is second to none.” Each feed manufacturing facility has our corporate Quality Assurance program in place. We currently have nine mills that produce horse feed, seven of which produce bagged and bulk feed. The remaining two mills make bulk feeds only.
Our comprehensive and thorough quality assurance program addresses quality standards throughout the manufacturing process and is enforced by a Quality Control Supervisor, who is on staff full time at each facility. According to Mills, “the supervisor’s role is to monitor production activies, ensure product specifications are met and to verify every employee’s compliance with corporate policies.” To signify the importance of the supervisor’s role, they each report to the plant manager. Along with reporting to headquarters, each mill undergoes annual Quality Control audits that are stricter than the FDA audits. As Moore explains, “the philosophy at Southern States is do it right every time.” With this said, every employee at Southern States is fully engaged when it comes to Quality Assurance.
In an effort to go the extra mile when it come to quality and feed safety all Southern States mills are Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certified. HACCP was first conceived in the 1960s when NASA needed food manufactured for its first manned space flights. Today, HACCP is an international program designed to ensure the safety of all food and feed products. HACCP dictates that products manufactured are inspected at multiple Critical Control Points throughout the manufacturing process to safeguard against physical, biological, and chemical contaminants. “This is advantageous because it goes above and beyond the traditional “finished product” testing,” adds Mills. As HACCP is the top of the line when it comes to quality control, no matter what new federal legislation comes along, Southern States will be one step ahead. At each mill every batch of feed is evaluated to ensure safety of the finished product.
Now that you know Southern States feeds are of the highest quality, the next step is determining which product is a match for your horse. Ask yourself the following questions: What am I trying to achieve with my horse? Does my horse have any specific nutritional needs? Since your horse cannot choose its own feed it’s up to you educate yourself on what he or she needs. To aid you in this process Southern States has noted equine nutritionist Dr. Marty Adams on staff. In addition to Dr. Adams, our Equine Feed Sales and Technical Representatives, along with our Field Sales Associates, offer specially designed nutritional plans to meet your horse’s specific needs along with general equine health advice. Each member of our feed team attends the Southern States Feed Master School, where we train them in the latest and greatest innovations in the feed industry.
Some of the most common mistakes owners make when choosing a feed for their horse is not knowing what their horses need for optimal performance. In general, how much energy your horse expends determines which product he or she needs. The more work, the more nutrients are needed. Remember, there is more to feed than just percentage of fat and protein. Nutrients, minerals, additives and the quality of all of the ingredients plays a key role. When feeding a high quality product it’s also important to note that a multitude added supplements is not needed. Many of our products contain the same ingredients as additional supplements. Therefore, by buying a higher quality product, you can eliminate expenses by cutting out unnecessary supplements. When it comes to price it’s also essential to realize that the price per bag does not equal price per horse. The higher the quality of the product you choose generally means that you are feeding less product per horse.
When it comes to feeding your horse, we are here to help. From the unconditional guarantee of our products to our knowledgeable staff our number one priority is making sure your horse gets the highest quality feed to meet its needs. Find the feed specialist for your area!