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 2 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.
Q: How are decisions made between feeding concentrates vs. feeding mainly straight grains?
By Peter Huntington
My nutrition background is based on working with horses in Australia and New Zealand, so these ideas may be somewhat different than what is commonly used in the United States.
In Australia, horse owners have traditionally fed more straight grains rather than premixed textured or pelleted feeds. However, this pattern is changing with the development of higher quality products.
Oats are by far the most common grain fed to horses based on safety, price and the fact that there is no need for further processing. While corn is higher priced than oats and thus can’t compete on a cost-per-energy basis, it is often necessary to increase the energy density in the ration.
Steam-rolled or boiled barley is perceived by many to be a non-heating feed and is fed either steam-rolled or boiled, which is usually fed in small amounts. While sorghum is an economical grain, it is not widely used.
Bran has been a popular ingredient, particularly as a wet feed (bran mash) fed with various supplements, but its use is declining.
While feed mills produce both pelleted and textured feeds, there is a substantial prejudice against using pellets by “down under” horsemen. Up until recently, many processed feeds have been inappropriately formulated. In addition, mineral and vitamin premixes have usually been inadequate for use in high performance horses or fast-growing horses without extra supplementation.
Many of these feeds are not used according to instructions, but are diluted with other grains, which further diminishes the value of the vitamin and mineral premixes. Rice-based pellets have been popular for a number of years, as they are purported to offer “cool conditioning.”
Some low-energy textured feeds that contain lucerne (alfalfa) or oat chaff as a source of fiber are popular with riders of horses in light work. Recently, some feeds for performance and growing horses have been produced containing high levels of fat.
In New Zealand, a limited amount of commercially prepared feed is fed to Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses. As an example, some 60% of trainers might feed 4.5 pounds of a balanced concentrate along with oats and chaff products with various additives. Since the price of grain in New Zealand is significantly higher than in Australia, this may explain why 90% of the oats in New Zealand are crushed and crimped as opposed to the reverse in Australia.
Where horses have access to 12 hours or more of good pasture in New Zealand, protein supplementation is not the major limiting factor as good pastures fluctuate between 16% and 28% protein.
Australian horse trainers are major users of supplements as most people do not use prepared feeds or only as part of the concentrate intake. There are many brands and types of feed supplements marketed for horses and these promise a variety of benefits for the horses. There is a strict registration process, but products still provide spurious claims or contain inadequate supplementary minerals or vitamins. It is common for a product to contain a particular ingredient, but not contain enough to make a meaningful contribution to balancing the horse’s diet.
Overuse of supplements is common and many horses are often fed five or six supplement products including several sources of the same nutrient. Iron supplements are still common despite the fact that all diets contain adequate iron intakes from natural sources.
Most owners have little concept of the mineral and vitamin needs of their horses and labels are often difficult to understand. Most supplements are powders although liquid electrolytes, vitamins, buffers and iron supplements are available. Some products are presented in a pelleted form to enhance intake of the supplement. Many contain protein supplements in addition to minerals and vitamins.
Peter Huntington works with Kentucky Equine Research Australasia on nutrition concerns with horses in Australia and New Zealand.
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 1 of the Feb. 15, 2019 installment: Does sulphur play a critical role in developing high quality hooves?