Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Feed Review: Crypto Aero Wholefood Horse Feed

I've written before about my desire to feed whole food to Nimo, in much the same way as I have a desire to eat whole food instead of processed food.  In reality, of course, it is often hard to do, particularly if your horse needs to eat a lot of food because of competition demands or other reasons (metabolic issues, special dietary needs, etc.).

But I was kind of excited when I happened across some called Crypto Aero Wholefood Horse Feed on chewy.com.  (Note: I don't use affiliate links or get any compensation for these reviews or links in my posts - I provide them so you can check them out and do your own evaluation.)  I think it was a fairly new product at the time (this was back in July), and I was curious enough to give it a try.

The price was kind of a sticking point for me at $29.00 per 25 lb bag, but that included the shipping (as long as I ordered at least 2 bags), and I know from ordering 50 pound bags of feed from a Virginia feed store that shipping is just a lot when you are shipping that much weight combined with a large package.  So I bit the bullet and figured I could at least get a couple of bags to test.  If I didn't like it or couldn't justify the cost, then so be it.

At the time I ordered the feed, Nimo was getting four grain-based feedings a day as I desperately tried to at least keep weight on him and even help him gain a bit.  Every year, I have this problem between mid-May and the end of October.  There is some grass in the field, but it isn't enough to sustain a performance horse, although it does seem to be enough for horses that work less or not at all.  The barn does put hay out as well, but Nimo will not eat it, partly because the round bales get old and stale while the horses focus their eating on the grass and partly because even if the hay is fresh, he vastly prefers grass, even in tiny bites.  And so, every summer and early fall, Nimo's weight drops.  It usually isn't a dangerous drop (although a couple of years ago, he almost hit a body score of 4 based on an evaluation by a ride vet) and I do always increase his feed to compensate, but it bothers me, and because of my Science of Motion work, I've become increasingly interested in helping Nimo develop more muscle tone. 

Anyway, the barn staff was doing breakfast, lunch, and dinner while Nimo was in his stall for about 7-8 hours during the day (Virginia summers are miserable for big, black horses!), and I was going out in the evenings and doing a fourth feeding.  I don't quite remember what he was eating at the time, but it was some combination of Triple Crown Growth textured feed plus some beet pulp and a couple of minor supplements (like salt and magnesium citrate).  In terms of volume, the total was probably somewhere around 7-8 pounds, and I couldn't imagine trying to convert the whole amount into the Crypto Aero feed at the price I would have to pay.  But I thought I might be able to feed a portion of Nimo's ration.

The great thing about whole food feed is that you can actually see what is in the feed.  So, one Saturday night while my husband was out with a friend, I concocted this scheme to deconstruct the feed.  I mixed up the bag that I had open to make sure I was getting a good sample and measured out a pound of feed.  Then, I kid you not, I stood in my kitchen and separated the individual components into different bowls and measured the amounts of each ingredient.

1 lb of Crypto Aero feed

Timothy/alfalfa pellets
Black oil sunflower seeds, with hulls and without
Yellow and green split peas
Other stuff: papaya, rose hips, and green cabbage
I was using a kitchen scale and being assisted by a 4-year-old, plus there were some powdery ingredients that stuck to everything, but I think these numbers can at least give an idea of the ratio and amount of ingredients in a pound.

10 oz - Oats (this number is probably a bit high because I didn't realize at first that there were hulled sunflower seeds, so some got mixed in with the oats)
4.5 oz - Timothy/Alfalfa pellets (all the pellets looked the same to me, but according to the ingredient list, some are alfalfa and some are timothy)
0.75 oz - Sunflower seeds (this number is probably a little low because some got mixed in with the oats)
0.75 oz - Split peas
0.50 oz - Other (papaya, rose hips, green cabbage)
Not measureable - rice bran oil, ground flaxseed, anise, fenugreek, algae, yeast

15.5 oz - Total (measurement error or a small defect in my scale must account for why I came up half an oz short)

Not just satisfied to stop there, I took things one step further and tried to source the ingredients and price out what it would cost if I mixed the feed myself (particularly because I didn't want the hay pellets at all - I'm sure they were added just so the feed could be sold as a "balanced" feed).  I would prefer to just give Nimo extra alfalfa and timothy hay rather than pellets.  This is mostly because I remember reading somewhere that the length of the fiber matters, so longer is better.

Anyway, I started by extrapolating the measurements for a 50 pound bag based on the amounts I got for 1 pound:

29.7 pounds - Oats
14.1 pounds - Alfalfa/timothy hay
2.3 pounds - Sunflower seeds
2.3 pounds - Split peas
1.5 pounds - Other (papaya, rose hips, green cabbage, rice bran oil, flaxseed, algae, fenugreek, anise, organic yeast)

Then I found prices and sources for the individual ingredients:

$17.00/50 lb bag - Oats (GMO-free and very clean from my local feed store)
$19.00/40 lb bale - Alfalfa/Timothy hay (Standlee compressed, bagged hay from Tractor Supply)
$11.00/2 lb bag - Sunflower seeds from Amazon (I later experimented with the black oil sunflower seeds in bulk - and much cheaper - from a local feed store and there was so much debris in the bag, it would be worth it to find a cleaner, more expensive source)
$24.00/50 lb bag - Cracked field peas (from a local feed store)
$13.89/2 lb bag - Dried papaya (from Amazon)
$34.95/3 lb container - Dried green cabbage (from Harmony House Foods)
$13.00/1 lb bag - Dried whole rose hips (from Amazon)
$30.00/gallon - Rice bran oil (from my local feed store)
$49.00/50 lb bag - Flaxseed (from New Country Organics - I am sure it would be cheaper if it wasn't organic, but I couldn't find a price from a local feed store)
$56.00/90 serving jar - Bio Yeast EQ (from BioStar US)
$6.50/1 lb bag - Fenugreek (from Mountain Rose Herbs)
$9.00/1 lb bag - Anise (from Mountain Rose Herbs)
$49.95/2 lb bag - Spirulina (blue green algae) (from HorseTech)

Then I multiplied the pounds for a 50 lb bag by the price per pound for each ingredient (with the exception of the papaya, green cabbage, rose hips, rice bran oil, flaxseed, anise, fenugreek, algae, and yeast because the amounts were unknown).

$10.10 - Oats
$  5.29 - Alfalfa/timothy hay
$12.65 - Sunflower seeds
$  1.10 - Field peas
$29.14 - Subtotal

Then, I would be estimating on the other ingredients in terms of cost, but let's say that for the sake of example, we used the price of the dried papaya, which is one of the least expensive other ingredients.  We would be adding $10.42 to the total, giving us $39.56 for a $50 pound "bag" of feed.  Definitely less than what the product is being marketed at, but none of the prices I quoted above include the price of shipping or the gas and time needed to go get them.  Then, there is the space needed to keep all the ingredients separate and the time needed to mix them by hand. 

So the conclusion of my analysis was that if I really wanted to, I could probably shop around for bargains or sales on the ingredients I needed and maybe save a little on the cost, especially if I didn't use some of the more expensive ingredients.  But for the average person, the price of the bag of feed is probably a fairly legitimate number. 

The thing that struck me was the difference in price between a pound of this "whole" food versus the price of the textured/pelleted processed feeds.  I think I typically pay around $22-27 per 50 pound bag for "premium" textured feeds, so less than half the cost of Crypto Aero feed.  I think it is probably easy to see that much like for people, eating well has a cost.  Or course, eating processed foods has a different cost.  Which cost you choose to pay is, of course, up to you, but it is worth thinking about.

However, there is one more consideration in terms of reviewing this feed: the necessity of the ingredients themselves.  I can get on board with oats, alfalfa and timoty hay, sunflower seeds, and field peas (field peas are used as a replacement for soybeans mainly for protein levels in animal feeds).  I can even live with the rice bran oil (I prefer coconut oil from a couple of special sources because I'm convinced many other oils are actually rancid and simply deoderized so you can't smell how nasty the are) and ground flaxseed (which starts oxidizing immediately after grinding), but what about the papaya, rose hips, green cabbage, anise, fenugreek, organic yeast, and algae?

These last ingredients concern me mostly because of how little there was in the bag.  There were 3 or 4 rose hips, 2 pieces of papaya, and 3-4 pieces of green cabbage.  These amounts are too small to do much for a horse (or possibly even a person), so they feel like "fluff" to me.  A way to drive up costs or have the feed appear to be special.  The other powdered ingredients were largely undetectable, so those amounts can't have been significant either.

I think if you do a Google search on any of these ingredients for horses, you'll be able to find a source that advocates its use and describes its benefits.  One that I find particularly intriguing is the green cabbage.  BioStar US uses dehydrated green cabbage (from Harmony House Foods) as an ingredient in some of its products and Harmony House Foods has posted about the benefits of feeding green cabbage to horses with ulcers (definitely a conflict of interest because the company sells the product, but sometimes that is the only information out there).  The amount recommended is about a quarter cup 1-2 times a day.  And unless you are feeding A LOT of the Crypto Aero feed, you won't be getting that amount.

Papaya is also regarded by some as a possible stomach soother.  But, much like the green cabbage, feeding 2-4 diced pieces a day to a 1,500 pound horse is probably not going to do much.

Because of the expense of the feed (at the time I fed it, I transitioned Nimo to 6 pounds a day plus about a pound of beet pulp), I could not justify continuing to feed it at that volume.  Feeding 6 pounds a day translates into $208.80 a month.  But, while on the feed, Nimo did develop muscle tone and since I have switched him off of it to plain oats, he has not appeared to gain much muscle, although he has put on weight in the last couple of months.  That weight gain is normal, because as the grass disappears, Nimo goes back to eating hay very well and I typically reduce his work load.  So, he is on about 2 pounds of oats a day, plus about 5 pounds of alfalfa hay plus 2 pounds of timothy hay plus all the orchardgrass hay he can eat.

I am tempted to try the feed again now that the amount of feed Nimo is eating is less than a third of what he was eating before.  I can live with $70 a month for feed, especially if it is good for him.  I'm also tempted to try to mix my own and maybe play around with the amounts of some of the ingredients (or exclude them altogether) to see if I notice a difference between plain oats and oats with these other ingredients.

However, I think the bottom line is, if you are looking to try a whole food type product (and you don't want to mix your own) or you want to/need to stay away from soybeans (which are a common ingredient in most horse feeds and worth avoiding because soybeans are mostly grown using Round-Up, which is quite toxic to the environment) and you feed small amounts, this product may be worth a look.

10 comments:

  1. Really interesting review! I wanted to try this with a mare that I think may be sensitive to soy, but at the time, there were no dealers near me. I knew it came to Chewy earlier this year, but I had switched her to a ration balancer I was pretty happy with so I just decided to wait. Might explore it again this spring! ☺️

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    1. Thanks! If you do decide to try the feed and feel so inclined, I would love it if you came back and posted a comment about what you thought:)

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  2. First: I was so happy to see you doing your December Daily posts again! I look forward to them every year. As you can see, I can't ever get enough of your writing, Gail. <3 I had missed you in Blogland but you've certainly had your hands full! I enjoyed reading the long update post on the goings-on of the last 5 months. (Fun fact: I was held back a year in school. :) In other words, I was started in pre-k instead of Kindergarten at age 5, so I was always the oldest in my class by a year, but it was never an issue for me and my mom never regretted the decision.)

    This was a fascinating review. I've been curious about whole food grain for horses but the only one I had seen so far was Genesis...and I went back and looked at their product info and can't remember why I had elected to not try it out. Maybe cost? I've seen it at some Southern States here in MD: http://www.organic-horse-feed.com/?page_id=749 I'm curious about your thoughts on it, if you've heard of it before.

    Will definitely keep this in mind for the future! I love that you separated out the ingredients and did the math to compare price of the product with how much it would cost to mix your own feed! And I love Chewy.com but had not realized they sold horse products! Now I know. :)



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    1. Hi Saiph! Thanks for stopping by! I always look forward to your comments:) Love the fun fact about when you started school and it just confirms we made the right choice for Gemma:)

      I hadn't heard of Genesis before, so I definitely checked it out and it looks promising. I am particularly curious about the fact that it uses both ground and whole flaxseed...I see a comparison post at some point in the future:)

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    2. Yay re: comparison post! Do write if you do try out Genesis! I'm intrigued. :D

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  3. This is such a cool and interesting analysis! I'm obsessed with feed lately as I'm trying to optimize feed for healthy feet.

    You might be able to get more caloric mileage out of crimped oats instead of whole. Because of the seed coat, whole oats can break down slowly in a horse's gut, especially when fed in high volumes (more in the stomach, less stomach acid to go around). I also just heard at the usea convention that papaya is good for ulcer prevention, as long as the stomach is presently clear of ulcers. But it does need to be fed in higher volumes than what you found.

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    1. Thanks, Nicole! I actually am feeding crimped/steamed oats now, mostly because they are also non-GMO certified and very clean. There is a price premium of $4-5 per 50 lb bag, but worth it in my opinion.

      I do remember reading somewhere (I wish I could remember where - maybe Nutrient Requirements of Horses?) that processing oats (e.g. rolling, crimping, steaming) only improves digestibility by something like 5%, so it may not be worth it. Alternatively, I think the same source also said that processing corn and barley was more effective in improving digestibility.

      Regardless, I am looking at feeding hulless (naked) oats once I start ramping up Nimo's work. I've read they may give 30% more energy per pound that regular oats that are not hulled. The hulless oats are actually grown that way - the variation is sometimes called naked oats - so there is no processing needed. They don't appear to be commonly available, though. I can only get them at one feed store and they are sold as Poultry Oats.

      And I've heard that papaya can help with GI health as well, but when I tried feeding raw papaya to Nimo, he looked at me like I was trying to poison him, so I gave up on that. Dried might be OK, but I'm sure it's expensive at the amounts needed for horses.

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  4. Oooh so interesting also! I haven't heard the number/conversion on increase in digestibility, good thing you did more research than I did!! Naked oats are certainly something to look into, I'll have to take a peek in some journals and see what they have to say.

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  5. The blog you wrote contains very important information which is very useful for us. I have read this blog full and all information given in it is correct, so I want to thank you.
    At Copa Ireland, we provide Poly O-F Gut Nutrition Products for horses that stimulates the hind gut increasing the nutrient uptake from the feed, increases appetite, improves condition and weight gain.

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  6. I have an allergy to the hilt horse and have tried many different products with not so good results. Forced to feed alf. cubes and split peas, beet pulp which is not too bad. I got brave and tried this feed. Great for this horse. He does not have his usual allergic reactions and its so much easier. I still give him beet pulp though, Im an old timer haha. Thanks for the review even though Im late reading it. Hey Blessings everyone.

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