Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.
Below you will find Part 1 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.
Q: What role does cobalt play in equine nutrition?
By Mieke Holder, PhD
Cobalt’s presence in plant material was established well before it was found in animal tissues. Even then, the low concentrations at which cobalt appeared in animal tissue led to the conclusion that it was not biologically important.
It wasn’t until 1935 that researchers found cobalt was an essential part of cattle and sheep diets. In those species, low cobalt intakes were associated with “wasting disease,” which was particularly prevalent in ruminant grazing areas known to be cobalt deficient.
However, horses grazing in those same areas did not show any signs that were suggestive of a cobalt deficiency. This suggested that horses’ dietary requirements were being met by these forages.
Today, we know cobalt is an essential part of the vitamin B12 complex, which plays a role in a horse’s amino acid and fatty acid metabolism as well as nervous system function. As a result, cobalt is an important part of the equine diet.
Even so, a cobalt (or vitamin B12, for that matter) deficiency has never been reported in horses. It appears that commonly fed feedstuffs are capable of meeting the cobalt needs of the horse.
The National Research Council’s Nutrient Requirements of Horses issued in 2007 sets the current recommended daily cobalt intake for a mature horse weighing 1,100 pounds at rest or undergoing light exercise at 0.5 milligrams (mg.) per day. This increases to 0.6 mg. per day for horses of similar weight used for more intense exercise or for lactating broodmares.
Although typical feedstuffs can meet a horse’s cobalt requirements, cobalt supplements are available. Before adding a cobalt supplement, consult an equine nutritionist to determine if additional cobalt could actually be a benefit, especially if the horse is already consuming a commercial horse feed.
Mieke Holder is a researcher in the department of animal and food sciences at the University of Kentucky.
Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is brought to you by W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine).
Like many significant achievements, Absorbine® grew out of humble beginnings—and through the tenacity of someone willing to question the status quo. In this case, it was a young woman in late 19th-century Massachusetts: Mary Ida Young. Her husband, Wilbur Fenelon Young, was an enterprising piano deliveryman who relied on the couple’s team of horses to make deliveries throughout the Northeast. Inspired by Mary Ida and Wilbur’s vision, Absorbine® has continued to add innovative products throughout the years — products used every day by horse owners around the world. Which is why, since 1892, we’ve been The Horse World’s Most Trusted Name®.
Click here to read Part 2 of the July 1, 2018 installment: Should omega-3 fatty acids be part of the diet for my horses to avoid joint problems?