Skip to main content

Tips for Deciphering an Animal Feed Tag

a manufactured pelleted ration for horses, made of grains and other plant products with vitamins and minerals added
A manufactured pelleted ration for horses, made of grains and other plant products with vitamins and minerals added.

Imagine you have just purchased a few animals or a new pet. You are going to need to buy something to feed those critters. With the variety of feed available, how do you decide what is the best product for your animal? The best way is to learn how to read a feed tag.

animal feed tag
A commercial feed in the United States is required to carry certain information.

A commercial feed in the United States is required to carry the following information:

Product name and brand name, if any, as well as the name and address of the company selling the feed.

Medication information, if used. There are many different medications available depending upon the class of animal being fed.

Purpose Statement: Since some product names are ambiguous, a purpose statement must state what animal and what feeding situation the feed is designed for.

Guaranteed Analysis: There are three basic nutrients that must be on all labels: a) If the product is intended to supply protein, minimum crude protein b) minimum crude fat, and c) maximum crude fiber. Other minerals and vitamins may be guaranteed, such as amounts of calcium and phosphorus, and salt, if added.

Ingredient Statement: The major ingredients of the feed may be listed specifically (i.e., corn or soybean meal) or may be represented by collective terms (grain products, plant protein products, etc.) Collective terms refer to a group of ingredients used for a common purpose. Collective terms make it easier for feed manufacturers to vary ingredients depending on the price of feed ingredients without having to create new feed tag. The order in which ingredients appear is not regulated, but generally is from the greatest amount to the least amount.

Cautions, warnings: If a feed is medicated, the tag has warnings or cautions related to its use. A commonly seen warning is “Caution: do not use spoiled feed”.

Feeding or Mixing Directions: Directions are expected to be fully explanatory. This section should indicate minimum and maximum amounts to feed. Amounts may be in absolute weights (i.e., feed 0.1 to 2 lb.), expressed as the amount of feed on a body weight basis (i.e., 1 to 1.5% body weight would be 10 to 15 lb. for a 1,000 lb. bull) or the amount an animal is expected to consume when the product is fed free choice (i.e., optimum intake is 2-4 oz/head/day). It should also indicate if other feeds should be used in conjunction with this feed. If special care should be used in mixing this product, the directions would indicate- for instance “mix thoroughly with grain and/or roughage prior to use.”

Net Weight of Unit: Net weight refers to bag weight (50 lb) or bulk amount (2,000 lb).

So, don’t just buy the first bag of feed you come upon, take a moment to use what you’ve learned here to make an educated decision.

Author: Daniel Severson, Agriculture Agent for the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.

Steve Tonn
Steve Tonn
Extension Educator – Beef Systems
My focus area is Beef Systems with an emphasis on Cow Calf Management. My B.S. degree is in Animal Science – Production Option and my M.S. degree is in Animal Science both from Kansas State University. I was a Kansas Extension Agent for 27 years prior to joining Nebraska Extension.

Nebraska Extension in Washington County
597 Grant Street Suite 200
Blair, NE 68008-2550

mail icon