Equine welfare workers in India who have developed new feed software are receiving advice and support from TV’s Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden.

Ms Meaden, an entrepreneur and keen rider, visited India with The Brooke.

The charity has teams working in 25 districts in India to improve the welfare and husbandry of the country’s 1.2million working horses, donkeys and mules.

Staff at The Brooke’s headquarters in Delhi have produced a computer programme that helps owners to feed their equine according to its requirements and the fodder available.

“Recognising that feed, and the nutrients of different types of feed, is a big issue in some parts of the country.

“We sought advice from a nutrition specialist at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute to produce the programme,” said Major General (retd) M L Sharma, chief executive of The Brooke, India.

“The software is simple to use and based on an Excel platform.”

Owners, with the help of Brooke staff, input the equine’s weight, work type and working hours, along with the feed stuffs available to them.

The software calculates a balanced feed, along with the cost of the formulation — which Maj Gen Sharma says is “one of the most important factors”.

Feeds typically available in India include gram (a bean crop), chaff, wheat, maize, barley and molasses.

In northern India, where the software has undergone a two-month pilot test, owners who used the programme found their animals had fewer cases of colic, were stronger and more alert and that their body condition improved markedly.

Ms Meaden, who has several ex-racehorses at home in Somerset, offered the team advice on rolling out the software commercially — since the principles of feeding working horses anywhere in the world are the same.

They discussed the need for expert advice on accurate nutritive values of feed in different parts of the world, along with each owner’s willingness to follow instructions and keep proper records.

“It’s good to take something that improves the lives of these animals and turn it into a business proposition,” she said.

“Welfare is one thing, but this balanced feed is not only better for the animals but better for the families, too.

“The community feels empowered and enjoys working, helping and interacting with each other.”

Ms Meaden admitted to feeling “close to tears” on occasions during her visit in mid-December, which included meeting men, women and children in India’s brick kilns, where equines are often worked the hardest.

For more information and to donate, visit www.thebrooke.org

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (4 January 2013)