Bettering the lives of all horses through free, accurate nutrition information.
Horse Food Facts and Feeding Tips
Biotin supplementation can assist some horses with thin, crumbly hoof walls to grow hoof faster and with increased hoof hardness - but it does not happen overnight. Did you know that a biotin supplement of 15-20mg/day needs to be fed for at least 10 to 12 months in conjunction with correct trimming to be effective? This is because it takes almost a year for the hoof wall to grow from the coronet band to the point where the toe touches the ground. Poorly trimmed hooves lack blood circulation and grow even more slowly. The sole and frog are replaced every 2 months. Biotin is found in small quantities in lucerne, oats, barley and soybean meal and is manufactured in a healthy horse gut by beneficial microbes. However, supplementation is usually required to supply the horse with the 15-20mg/day needed to heal damaged hooves. This is why Equine Vit&Min Premium Blend contains 15mg of biotin in every 60g scoop. The nutrients with the greatest impact on hoof health are biotin, calcium, protein, copper, zinc and manganese.
Levucell SC, the live yeast probiotic included in Equine Vit&Min Premium, TropiCAL-Pro, EVM Omega-3 PLUS and Elite Racing Formula Blends is scientifically proven to improve feed utilization, stablize the hindgut (reducing risk of acidosis) and improve growth and development of foals.
In many parts of Australia, hay is in short supply at the moment due to the time of year and the weather experienced during the hay-making season. As a result, a lot of people are wondering about how different types of hay compare. In general, grass (meadow) hay contains more fibre and less energy and protein than cereal and lucerne hays but levels vary greatly depending on plant species and stage of maturity at cutting. The energy content of oaten and barley hay can vary significantly depending on the amount and maturity of seed/grain in the hay. Barley hay tends to be higher in sugars than lucerne and grass hay and should be tested for ethanol soluble carbohydrate and starch levels before being offered to horses prone to laminitis. Lucerne hay contains good levels of essential amino acids and is relatively low in sugars. The feed value of hay can vary significantly from paddock to paddock, from season to season and from year to year as well as there being many differences between temperate and tropical grass species. If you buy hay in bulk, it is advisable to have a sample tested so that your rations can be better balanced.
The horse gut evolved to ingest and digest fibre almost constantly. Their stomachs secrete acid continuously for digestion (compared to a human stomach which is stimulated to secrete acid by chewing). When horses secrete acid into an empty stomach, they are at risk of developing stomach ulcers. Many horses do not get enough roughage in our man-made environments. This is particularly true for horses kept in stables and small yards as well as during drought times. They need to be able to eat hay or chaff or grass approximately 23 hours every day. Horses need to eat 2% of their bodyweight in dry matter. Dry matter is the weight of a feed if you put it in the oven on low heat to dry out all the moisture it contains. Fresh grass is low in dry matter/high in water (15 - 30% dry matter; 70 - 85% water) compared to hay (85% dry matter) and grain or pellets which are high in dry matter (90%) and low in water (10%). So if you have a 500kg horse, you need to provide 10kg of dry food. This can mean as much as half to two thirds of a bale of grassy hay a day or free access to a large bale of hay when pasture is poor or not available. Of course, if your horse is working hard and needing the extra energy provided by grain or pellets, less hay is required. (e.g. 2 kg pellets, 9.5kg grassy lucerne hay to provide the 10kg of DRY matter).
The answer is – it depends! There are a few more questions you need to ask: How much work does your horse get? How much energy does your horse need? Is your horse insulin resistant or at risk of laminitis? Does feeding starch make your horse too silly?
You will need to estimate how much energy your horse needs to sustain his/her current work level and how much energy s/he obtains from the pasture and hay provided. The difference will tell how how much energy your horse needs from a hard feed source. (A nutritionist can help you calculate this, or look in a book or online for a horse diet calculator).
Different grains contain different energy levels so you would need to feed more (by weight) of a lower energy grain than a high energy grain. If your horse needs 10,000 kJ (10 MJ) of energy per day (above what s/he gets from roughage) you could provide it with any one of the choices below: 825 g whole oats 700 g cracked corn 750 g rolled barley 750 g rolled sorghum 700 g brown rice 900 g mill run 855 g beet pulp (Speedi-beet or Micro-beet) 250 g vegetable oil
The type of starch in oats is very easily digested by the horse’s stomach. Corn, barley and sorghum digestibility is improved by cooking the starch – through pelletising, steam flaking or micronising. Processed grains will provide you with information about the energy level on the bag and you should take this into account when working out how much to feed.
The short answer is that it doesn’t matter which energy source you choose (in the absence of medical issues), as long as you feed the right quantity (by weight).
As humans we love the smell of a nice warm bran mash on a cold winter's night but we're not doing our horses any favours by feeding these occasionally because the hind gut microbes can't adapt for a once a week feed. Make dietary changes very gradually (over a 2 week period to introduce a new feed) and over a few days to introduce a new supplement. In addition, bran has an inverted calcium to phosphorous ratio so if you do choose to feed it, make it part of a daily ration with added calcium to balance the minerals correctly.
A horse needs to eat almost constantly to maintain a healthy gut. Horses require an intake of dry matter of 1.5 to 2.5 per cent of their body weight per day of dry feed (that is 1.5 kg to 2.5 kg per 100 kg of body weight).B. PROVIDE ENERGY AND PROTEIN
The amount of energy a horse requires varies according to its work level and whether it is growing or gaining/losing weight. Most adult horses obtain enough protein from their forage and energy sources, but breeding or growing horses usually require a protein supplement.C. ADD VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Most horses need additional vitamins and minerals to ensure they are receiving the required levels. Most pellets and sweet feeds contain a vitamin and mineral supplement based on a rate for an 'average' horse. If you feed less pellets because your horse requires less energy, then it is likely that some vitamins and minerals will be deficient in the diet.Equine Vit&Min gives you the flexibility to change your horse’s energy intake whilst ensuring your horse continues to receive the required vitamin and mineral levels.
Mineral balance in critical. Horses not only need sufficient vitamins and minerals, they need to be in balance across the entire diet. Critical ratios include: Calcium to phosphorous (2:1 to 3:1) Calcium to magnesium (1:1 to 2:1) Zinc to copper (2:1 to 3:1)
Equine Vit&Min takes the maths and the worry out of balancing a horse ration. It has been formulated to provide horses who are fed adequate forage and grain with an overall well balanced vitamin and mineral profile.
So you’ve set up a spreadsheet or bought a license for FeedXL but after an hour of fiddling with feeds, the diet still won’t balance. Sound familiar? Are you confused? Frustrated? Ready to give up? Hang in there, because once you understand the right order to plan your horses diet, balancing it becomes much simpler.A. Energy Balance
Energy in horse nutrition refers to the kilojoule/calorie content of the diet. Consume more energy than the body needs to maintain itself, and weight gain occurs. Consume less and the body will lose condition. The first step is to define your pastures and estimate how much your horse is consuming per day. Add in hay to the diet if pasture is sparse and the intake is less than 2% of the horse’s bodyweight. In many cases, the pasture contains enough energy to sustain a horse. Sometimes (especially during spring) the pasture is too high in energy and horses gain too much weight. Larger and hard working horses often have an energy deficit if only fed pasture or hay. If your horse needs more energy than the pasture provides, add a grain, a ‘superfibre’ (like beet pulp or soy hulls) &/or oil until the dietary energy intake matches the horse’s requirements.When choosing your grain or energy source, consider how much time and energy you are willing to put into preparation. Whole oats can be fed raw, but other cereal grains such as barley, oats, sorghum, triticale etc should be fed in a cooked form. You can boil them or buy steam flaked or micronised. You may wish to avoid the cooked grains with added molasses - just check the labelling on the bag. Some super fibres require soaking and whole lupins are also best soaked to soften the seed coat. The amounts of energy food required depend on horse size, level of activity or breeding status, amount of energy provided by the roughage you’re using and the individual’s metabolism. B. Protein
Most adult horses have all their daily amino acid requirements met by the pasture and hay they eat. Breeding and growing horses usually need a quality protein source added to their roughage to meet their basic needs for essential amino acids. Lysine, methionine and sometimes threonine are the most limiting essential amino acids. Full fat soybean meal and lucerne are often all that’s needed to top up these requirements.C. Vitamins and Minerals
Horses grazing fresh pasture usually don’t need vitamins added to their diets, but horses eating a lot of hay or who have been under stress such as work, transport, sudden dietary change, illness or separation anxiety need a boost until they recover and their gut microbe population recovers enough to provide adequate vitamins again. Horses in hard work often need Vitamin E supplementation regardless of their gut health. It is not uncommon for horse diets to lack copper, zinc, iodine, salt and selenium and these need to be topped up to at least the minimum daily requirement. Remember that the minimum daily requirement is almost certainly not the OPTIMUM level of minerals for your horse, it is the amount you must provide to avoid a deficiency. Some nutritionists believe that the optimism level for many minerals in the diet is 150% of the RDI, but up to 300 or 400% can be necessary to balance ratios correctly (more on this below).
The aim of balancing the minerals in the diet is not to achieve 100% of RDI – it is to meet or exceed this level for all the minerals recognised as being essential for good health but without providing so much as to risk toxicity. Feed planning programs such as FeedXL will alert you if mineral levels are becoming dangerously high.
Once you’ve got the ABC of the diet right, it’s time to fine-tune the details.1. Fibre to Concentrate Ratio
The more work your horse does, the higher it’s intake is likely to be, and the more grain or concentrated energy sources the horse needs to consume enough energy. Idle horses or those in light to moderate work may only need up to 25% of their intake as a hard feed (concentrate) whereas a horse in intense work may need 60% of the diet as concentrate and the remainder roughage.2. Protein Quality
This is a final check that the diet provides the essential amino acids without adding too much extra protein to the diet. For instance, it can be better to substitute one protein meal for another richer in the missing amino acid (e.g. soybean protein is relatively rich in lysine). Protein meals are relatively expensive so minimising the protein content of the diet is healthier for your horse and your pocket!3. Mineral Ratios
It’s not enough to simply provide more than 100% of RDI of all the minerals, they have to be fed in balanced ratios across the whole diet. This is because some minerals interfere with the absorption of others, so that too much of one can cause a deficiency in another EVEN IF YOU SUPPLY 100% of the horse’s daily needs. See the INFObyte “Balancing Minerals” for details.4. Balance Fatty Acids
Scientists believe that the omega 3 to omega 6 fatty levels in fresh grass provides the optimum ratio for managing inflammatory responses in the body. Omega 3 oils are very fragile, and do not survive exposure to light, heat and air. This means that when grass is dried to make hay, the omega 3 oils are lost, but the omega 6 oils which are tougher, remain in the hay. Many of the grains we feed for energy, or protein meals and oils we add to horse diets are much higher in omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3. Linseeds, chia or fish oil based omega 3 supplements can be utilised to bring the overall balance of the diet to around 4 times as much omega 3 as omega 6 oil.Conclusion
When you are considering what supplement to feed your horse, rather than think about how much each product costs, or even how they compare, you first need to know what your horse NEEDS from a supplement. Once you know how many grams or milligrams of each vitamin and mineral you need to add to your horses daily intake, the selection of the most appropriate supplement becomes a logical process.
The hardest part about helping horses lose weight is to ensure they are able to eat all the time, but not eat too many calories.
When horses are left without food, they become stressed and their bodies release hormones that put the body into ‘drought mode’ where it says, “Conserve energy at all costs, because we don’t know when there will be more food to eat.”
Limit total daily intake to 1.5% of your horse’s bodyweight either by using a grazing muzzle or locking him off the pasture and providing 1.5% of your horse’s bodyweight in low calorie grass hay in a slow feeder haynet so that your horse can pick at it all day.
You should also encourage your horse to exercise more, preferably with ridden or lunge work, but also more movement in the yard by utilised hay nets in different places, or use a laneway system so s/he has to travel from food to water.
When choosing hay for your overweight horse, select grass hay (native, teff or rhodes grass hay is good) which was cut from more mature, stalkier plants as the energy content of that will likely be lower. Soaking hay for a minimum of 1/2 an hour in hot water or 1 hour in cold water and draining it before feeding it in a slow feeder haynet will remove some of the calories and help it to last longer but be careful of mould growth during hot weather if it is soaked too long. Lucerne haylage (see Manuka Chaff’s website for more info) is very low in NSC because the sugars are fermented by bacteria during the ensiling process and can be fed without needing to soak.
The best way to be certain of how much energy (calories) is in your hay is to send a sample away to a lab to be tested (it costs around $60 - $70 to find out the energy, protein and WSC, and around $130 - $140 to test for minerals and the energy, WSC etc).
Feed hay rather than chaff because chewing hay is beneficial both mentally and chemically as it creates more saliva containing the buffer sodium bicarbonate which reduces the acidity of the stomach. However, a handful of damp lucerne chaff makes a good low calorie carrier for your daily vitamin and mineral supplement.
If you lock your horse off the grass, the addition of fish oil, linseed oil or linseeds to the diet helps to replace the fatty acids that have been lost from the grass as it dried to make hay. Linseeds have a ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids similar to that of fresh grass. Research in humans indicates that correct omega fatty acid ratios may also help with managing cell energy metabolism and glucose/insulin regulation.
Equine Vit&Min in a handful of damp chaff or sprinkled over soaked hay is the ideal way to add in all the vitamins and minerals otherwise missing from the diet without adding any extra calories to the diet.
If you’re looking for something to top up a diet to put weight on you don’t necessarily need a product that says 'weight gain' on the bag - you just need to add more calories. This is often easiest achieved by feeding more of what you already feed. However, make sure you feed enough fibre before increasing hard feeds.
From a nutritional perspective, it’s easy to feed for weight gain and there are many options - but take care of teeth, worming or other veterinary issues at the onset of a weight gain program. Start with 2% of your horse’s bodyweight as roughage (grass/hay/chaff) preferably available free choice in a weight gain situation. For adult horses the roughage will usually provide enough protein to meet their daily needs.
The next step is to add energy if the roughage doesn’t provide enough to meet your horse’s needs - this can be achieved with a cereal grain (such as oats or barley), a legume grain (e.g. lupins), a 'super fibre' (like beet pulp or soy or lupin hulls) or oil. Or a combination of the above. Horses with ulcers or hind gut acidosis should avoid high starch, high sugar feeds like cereal grains and hay.
You don’t have to feed a product with the words ‘weight gain’ or ‘cool’ in the name to provide a nutritious diet capable of helping your horse gain weight without losing his/her cool!
When choosing your grain or energy source, consider how much time and energy you are willing to put into preparation. Whole oats can be fed raw, but other cereal grains such as barley, oats, sorghum, triticale etc should be fed in a cooked form. You can boil them or buy steam flaked or micronised. You may wish to avoid the cooked grains with added molasses - just check the labelling on the bag. Some super fibres require soaking and whole lupins are also best soaked to soften the seed coat.
The amounts of energy food required depend on horse size, level of activity or breeding status, amount of energy provided by the roughage you’re using and the individual’s metabolism. Next, add the vitamins and minerals necessary to top the levels in the diet up to at least daily minimum requirements. Finally, balance mineral ratios and omega fatty acid ratios across the whole diet. You’ll be surprised how much more efficiently a horse fed a diet correctly balanced for minerals can function. I recommend Equine Vit&Min for cost effectively meeting vitamin and mineral requirements and mineral balancing because it gives you the freedom to alter the energy and protein content of the feed independently of the vitamin and mineral supplement so your diet can grow and change with your horse and over the seasons.
Start by letting your horse eat as much grass hay as s/he wants to eat - at least 1.5% of bodyweight and top up with a digestible fibre energy source such as beet pulp or legume hulls and possibly legume grains (full fat soy, lupins, lucerne) if necessary. Add salt and a good vitamin and mineral supplement like Equine Vit&Min. Or look for a bagged feed based on these products - not based on cereal grains or by-products like millrun. Beware the zillion and one 'cool' feeds based on barley or millrun.
If you’re looking for something to maintain or add weight for ulcer prone horses you just need to add more low sugar, low starch calories. This is often easiest achieved by feeding more of what you already feed. However, make sure you feed enough fibre before increasing hard feeds.
Start with 2% of your horse’s bodyweight as roughage (grass/hay/chaff) preferably available free choice in a weight gain situation. For adult horses the roughage will usually provide enough protein to meet their daily needs.
The next step is to add energy if the roughage doesn’t provide enough to meet your horse’s needs - this can be achieved with a legume grain (e.g. lupins), a 'super fibre' (like beet pulp or soy or lupin hulls) or oil. Or a combination of the above.
When choosing your grain or energy source, consider how much time and energy you are willing to put into preparation. You can soak whole lupins or buy them steam flaked or micronised. Avoid the cooked grains and chaff blends with added molasses - just check the labelling on the bag. Some super fibres require soaking. The amounts of energy food required depend on horse size, level of activity or breeding status, amount of energy provided by the roughage you’re using and the individual’s metabolism.
Next, add the vitamins and minerals necessary to top the levels in the diet up to at least daily minimum requirements. Finally, balance mineral ratios and omega fatty acid ratios across the whole diet. You’ll be surprised how much more efficiently a horse fed a diet correctly balanced for minerals can function. I recommend Equine Vit&Min for cost effectively meeting vitamin and mineral requirements and mineral balancing because it gives you the freedom to alter the energy and protein content of the feed independently of the vitamin and mineral supplement, so your diet can grow and change with your horse and over the seasons.
When buying vitamin and mineral supplements, how do you know if you’ve chosen the right product? Most supplements contain a blend of macrominerals (those which the horse requires in relatively large amounts) and microminerals (those needed in tiny proportions, but which are essential to good health). The macrominerals are calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, chloride, sodium and sulfur. The microminerals (sometimes called trace minerals) are cobalt, chromium, copper, flouride, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium, silicon and zinc. Different supplements can contain very different quantities of these minerals and it can be confusing to choose between them. The best way to decide is to have your horse’s diet analysed so that you know what minerals are lacking in the diet. Then select a supplement that "fills the gaps" but also keeps the minerals correctly balanced in healthy ratios. Even when a diet provides enough of every mineral, if the ratios between them are incorrect, your horse’s body won’t be able to get enough to satisfy it’s mineral requirements.
Having the luxury of keeping much-loved horses through their retirement years is an honour many us happily perform for our equine friends. But their needs do change as they age, and keeping condition on older horses through winter can be a worrying problem for many horse owners.
From a nutritional perspective it’s easy to feed to maintain body condition or achieve weight gain and there are many options - but take care of teeth, worming or other veterinary issues early and before the full stress of winter hits.Keep them warm
The two most important things you can do for your older horses through winter are also the two easiest - keep them warm and feed plenty of hay. The body uses energy to stay warm during cold weather and for horses with a lower body condition score it is energy they cannot afford to lose. Providing rugs or shelters helps older and underweight horses use their energy for weight gain and maintenance.Provide adequate roughage
Plant growth is naturally slower in winter due to longer nights and less sunlight hours for photosynthesis to occur. Plants also become stressed due to cold weather and frosts and drought or water-logged conditions which further restricts their growth.
As a result there is less pasture available for our horses to graze and supplementation with hay is usually necessary. Horses need to be able to eat around 2 per cent of their bodyweight in dry matter per day to keep their gut functioning optimally. The horse gut evolved to constantly digest a steady stream of fairly low energy, high fibre forage. When pasture is in limited supply, the best thing we can do for underweight or ageing horses is to provide them with unlimited good quality grass or meadow hay.
If your horse is overweight, has a metabolic condition or is prone to laminitis then limiting green grass and supplying them with hay weighing 1.5 per cent of their bodyweight is often necessary. Slow feeder hay nets can help make their daily ration last so that they always have access to something to eat.
A bonus for older and underweight horses eating plenty of hay or grass is that fibre digestion occurs through fermentation by hind-gut microbes which produces heat and has a ‘warming’ effect.
Adequate roughage usually provides enough protein to meet the daily needs of adult horses but some older horses are less efficient at digesting protein and may need a little protein as extra lucerne, clover or with full fat soy or legume products in their hard feed.Add calories
Not all horses will get enough energy from hay and grass to maintain weight through the winter. Be prepared to increase the size of hard feeds in response to weight loss but always make sure free choice hay is available for underweight horses.
If you're looking for something to top up a diet to put weight on you don’t necessarily need a product that says 'weight gain' on the bag - you only need to add more calories. This is often easiest achieved by feeding more of what you already feed. However, make sure you feed enough fibre before increasing hard feeds.
You can increase the level of energy (calories) in the diet with a cereal grain (such as oats or barley), a legume grain (e.g. lupins), a 'super fibre' (like beet pulp or soy or lupin hulls) or oil. Or a combination of the above.
When choosing your grain or energy source, consider the condition of your older horse’s teeth and their digestive efficiency as well as how much time and energy you are willing to put into preparation. Whole oats can be fed raw, but other cereal grains such as barley, oats, sorghum, triticale etc should be fed in a cooked form. You can boil them or buy steam flaked or micronised. You may wish to avoid the cooked grains with added molasses - just check the labelling on the bag. Some super fibres require soaking and whole lupins are also best soaked to soften the seed coat.
The amounts of energy food required depend on horse size, level of activity or breeding status, amount of energy provided by the roughage you're using and the individual’s metabolism. Research shows that some older horses experience a decline in the function and efficiency of their digestive tracts but others seem to process feed as robustly as ever.
Feeding your horse a correctly balanced diet complete with all the vitamins, minerals and fatty acids allows the body to function optimally. This can result in improved ‘fuel efficiency’ and immune function to help an older horse through the stress of winter. Remember that it is possible for a horse to be deficient in one mineral even if the recommended daily intake is given unless all minerals are provided in correct mineral ratios. Don’t forget salt in winter - horses still need 10g of salt per 100kg bodyweight in cold weather, and it encourages them to keep drinking when it is cool.
Likewise, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can be necessary through winter when horses are reliant on hay for roughage and are fed more omega-6 rich grains and hard feeds. Omega 3 rich supplements such as linseeds, linseed oil or fish oils are the best way to improve the omega 3 to 6 ratio across the whole diet.
Equine Vit&Min Omega-3 PLUS, Premium Blend or Mineral Balancer Pellets are ideal choices to complete and balance the diet of your your beloved older horses.
The amount of work your horse performs directly affects his or her nutritional requirements. The NRC (National Research Council) defines weekly workloads to help owners and nutritionists ensure that horses are fed appropriately, according to their daily nutritional needs for their work level.
A horse not being ridden or lunged can be defined as a horse at ‘maintenance’ or ‘rest’ or ‘spelling’. Some nutritionists even define whether the unworked horse has a high or low level of activity (depending on the paddock size and temperament of the horse).
A horse in light work performs 1 – 3 hours per week: 40% walk, 50% trot, 10% canter. This could include horses used for recreational (trail or pleasure) riding, working ponies, horses during the early stages of training or beginning breaking in or show horses given occasional work.
A horse in moderate work is performs 3 – 5 hours per week: 30% walk, 55% trot, 10% canter, 5% low jumps or other skill work. This could include horses used for recreational (trail) riding, beginning training/breaking, show horses, dressage, campdraft, polo or polocrosse, stock work, cutting horses, showjumpers and low level eventers.
Heavy work is defined when a horse performs 4-5 hours per week: 20% walk, 50% trot, 10% canter, 15% gallop, jumping or other skill work. This could include stock horses, polo, high level dressage & show jumping, medium level eventing, race training.
Very heavy work is performed by racehorses, elite three day eventers and endurance horses. Their work varies – it can be 1 hour per week speed work or 6 – 12 hours per week of slow work. Their average heart beat will be in the range 110 – 150 bpm.
Provided your mare was in good condition when she went into foal, and is being fed a well balanced forage-based diet supplemented with high quality protein and a vitamin and mineral supplement to fill any gaps and correct mineral ratios, her dietary needs will not visibly alter much for the first 6 months of pregnancy. However, if she is lacking in energy or vitamins and minerals, her body will ‘mine’ its own resources to give these to the growing foetus.The first rule of good horse nutrition is to feed plenty of roughage – pasture, hay or chaff. Unless your mare is overweight, it is safe to feed as much grass-based roughage as she will eat. If your mare needs an energy source such as grain or pellets to continue in light work or to maintain weight, then you should continue to feed it and carefully monitor her body condition. Your mare needs to be a healthy weight (not too heavy, not too light) to maintain a healthy pregnancy, but her body’s requirement for energy throughout pregnancy remains close to her need when spelling or in light work.
Pregnant, lactating and growing horses need high quality protein in their diets – especially lysine, a key amino acid which they are unable to manufacture in their bodies. Soybean meal is one commonly used ingredient to add lysine to breeding horse feeds. During the last 3 months of pregnancy, your mare will need 50% more lysine than usual (a 600kg mare needs 46g of lysine/day at 11 months gestation). Your pregnant mare’s need for some minerals is higher than when spelling and in some cases, is higher than when performing very heavy exercise. The main increase in mineral nutrition relates to calcium and phosphorous, which are needed in increasing amounts as the pregnancy progresses; and for copper, iron and iodine in the last 3 months. As with mineral supplementation in all classes of horses, it is imperative that your pregnant mare obtains all the minerals she needs, in carefully balanced ratios from all food sources. Equine Vit&Min is unique in its ability to balance minerals across the entire diet of Australian horses on forage-based diets.
Miniature horses and ponies can be very tricky to feed correctly as they get most of their energy and protein requirements from grass or hay. This makes it difficult to provide them with their recommended daily requirements of vitamins and minerals. Equine Vit&Min is the ideal product to feed miniatures and overweight ponies on very limited intakes. In addition to correcting all deficiencies, Equine Vit&Min also balances the critical mineral ratios. Simply add 20 - 40g per day (for ponies weighing 90kg – 350kg) to a handful of dampened white chaff and rest assured that your mini or pony is getting everything it needs.
Common farm animals have different gastrointestinal tracts (guts), each adapted and finely tuned for the food they evolved to eat. Sheep, cattle, goats and deer are ruminants – grass eaters with a large, complex stomach with four compartments, one of which is the rumen. Ruminants are very efficient at converting highly fibrous feeds into useable energy. The unique way that ruminants achieve this are ‘chewing their cud’ (regurgitating food and chewing it again to reduce particle size even further) and fermentation performed by microbes in the rumen. It can take food 70 – 90 hours to pass through a ruminant’s stomach. Horses, mules and donkeys are hind gut fermenters – they also utilize gut microbes to digest fibre, but this occurs in the cecum which comes after the stomach in the horse’s digestive tract. Horses only hold food in the cecum for 48 hours and only extract 70% of the available energy. Pigs are monogastrics – their digestive tract works similarly to humans. Poultry have a complex foregut that includes a crop and gizzard appropriate for digestion of the grain and insects that made up their diet in the wild. Camelids (alpacas, camels and llamas) have a three-part stomach which extracts nutrients from forage even more efficiently than ruminants.
Hay prices usually rise over winter because grass growth is lower and hay availability often becomes limited. This means that if you are able to buy in late summer and autumn before prices rise, and store enough hay to last until cheaper spring hay comes onto the market, you can make significant savings. However, the benefit will be lost or reduced if the hay:
is poor quality
is stored poorly
becomes rodent infested
gets wet and mouldy
The outcome can be feed which does not do the job you need it to do, or the creation of expensive garden mulch.
The traditional hay bale is a small rectangular bale weighing around 22 to 25kg. However modern farming methods also produce large round bales in at least 3 sizes (100 to 400kg), and large rectangular bales (200 to 700kg) which are very economical to freight. When shopping for good value, remember to consider the price per tonne of hay and don’t rely on price per bale because bale weights vary considerably. The type of bale you choose depends on the equipment you own for transporting, unloading and handling as well as your means of storage. The advantage of large round bales is that they can be stored outside as they shed water, whereas ‘square’ bales, both big and small, need to be kept under cover.
A mix of leafy grass and legume (lucerne or clover are the most common) is a hay to suit most horses in most situations. However, if you are feeding overweight horses a limited calorie diet, you may choose a grass-only hay and sometimes hay that has been made from stalky, older plants (higher fibre, lower calories) rather than young leafy plants. Depending on where you live and irrigation availability, lucerne hay of various grades is usually available year-round. Pasture hays are commonly cut in southern states during spring, but in the north, they are made during spring/ summer and even into early autumn. Millet hay is suitable for horses and can be a good option for owners in the northern states to buy in autumn for winter storage. Cereal hays such as oaten and beardless wheaten hay (with or without a lucerne component) are usually available late winter and into spring throughout most of Australia. Don’t be tempted to buy sorghum hay for horses because it contains natural toxins which can cause neurological problems in horses.
As a rule, if lucerne is the only source of roughage in the horse’s diet (i.e. when a horse is stabled full time, or during a drought), lucerne hay will contain too much energy and protein to be the sole fibre source. When balancing a horse diet, it is critical to provide enough roughage (approx. 2% of bodyweight) then add the energy and protein required to match your horse’s work and growth requirements.
For example, a 500kg horse in light work would need to eat 12 kg of prime lucerne hay a day to meet his roughage requirement (that’s approximately half a HEAVY bale a day). This will provide most of the energy he needs to work but more than twice his daily protein requirement. He will also need additional vitamins and minerals to meet recommended daily intake and balance the mineral ratios.
There are a few reasons why over-feeding protein are not the best idea financially or on a horse health basis. When a horse metabolises extra protein, she will have more ammonia in her urine which can lead to dehydration and can cause respiratory issues in the stable. This form of metabolism also produces excess heat that leads to electrolyte loss, reduced feed use efficiency and suboptimal endurance and performance. Many horses over-fed lucerne also suffer diarrhoea. And finally, protein is EXPENSIVE – when a horse is fed too much, it converts it to energy (causing the health problems just described) that could have been provided much more cheaply with a grain or super fibre.
However, adding lucerne hay to the diet of a horse grazing pasture, or with access to grass hay is often a good dietary choice. Lucerne can be fed safely to ponies, providing the diet is balanced and not providing too many calories leading to obesity and the risk of laminitis. It makes a good supplement for old horses and ponies due to it’s relatively high digestibility (feed it as chaff, not hay to old equines with missing/worn teeth). Lucerne is also a valuable feed for horses healing and recovering from laminitis provided it is not fed in excess – your vet will advise you on a safe post-laminitis diet.
The best way to select hay for quality is to buy hay that has been feed-quality tested. Companies such as Feed Central do sell feed-tested hay, but the majority of horse owners buy direct from the farm or through a produce store where this information is not provided. If you do buy a large batch of hay, it is possible to send a sample away for testing, and this is advisable if you and your nutritionist are developing accurate rations for your horses. However, for most of us, good quality hay smells sweet and fresh, and has lots of leaf in the hay.
Stalky hay, and significant amounts of seed heads are signs of lower quality. Avoid hay that is stalky, dark in colour, browning (especially on the bottom of bales), hot to touch, smells of mould, or
displays visible fungus.
In parts of Queensland the movement of fire ants is also a consideration. Only buy hay from a fire ant infested region if it has been stored on a concrete or roadbase floor, where the perimeter has been treated with pesticides according to government guidelines. Open a bale to check for the presence of fire ants prior to purchase. Contact Biosecurity Queensland on 132523 if you suspect a fire ant infestation.
Once you’ve purchased your hay supply, the next critical step is to store it correctly. The golden rule of hay storage is IF YOU HAVE A SHED, PUT YOUR HAY IN THE SHED! Even if the tractor or your car sits out in the open (shock, horror). When stacking hay in your shed, arrange it so that the oldest hay can be used first. The best conditions for hay storage are under cover, good ventilation and air circulation, protected from direct sunlight and rainfall, above the ground (such as on pallets) and in a rodent-free environment.
This allows the hay to stay free from water, sweat, mould and rodent-borne diseases. Round bales may be stored outside and should be stored end-to-end like a giant sausage. They shed water off their tops but if sitting in a puddle or tipped on their end with the core exposed, they will absorb water. Therefore choose where to store them carefully, away from ditches and runoff and with appropriate drainage. If you do not have a shed for hay, and must use a tarpaulin to protect hay from the weather, ensure that the tarp is tied down tight so that no puddles can form in hollows. Tarps are water resistant and can help hay to shed water, but pooled water will penetrate and rot the hay beneath. Well stored hay can be a critical tool for providing your horses with the dry matter roughage they require (1.5 to 3.00 per cent of bodyweight) over winter when pasture availability is very limited.
Vitamins and Minerals Tips
The harder a horse works, the higher its need for vitamins and minerals. Fresh pasture provides a high level of many vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, many performance horses have limited access to quality pasture, either due to stabling at a training facility, or seasonal shortfalls (including drought). This means that we tend to feed our high-performance equine athletes a lot of hay to meet their fibre requirements for healthy digestion. However, hay starts losing its vitamin content as soon as it starts drying out, but the mineral levels remain similar to the original plant from which it was made. The vitamin content of hay gets lower the longer it is stored, and by the time it has been stored for 12 months, there are virtually no vitamins left. The vitamins required to allow your equine athlete to function at his/her peak are the B group vitamins, and vitamins A, D, C and E. Of these, vitamins B and C are water soluble, so they are not stored in the body and must be fed daily (although horses make their own vitamin C so a supplement is not usually required). Vitamin A is used for night vision, bone development and is vital for the mucus linings which are the body’s first point of defence against infection. Vitamin A is produced by your horse from the beta carotene in the diet, but beta carotene is very quickly oxidised from hay and must be supplemented if horses are not grazing plenty of fresh pasture.
Your horse uses four of the eight B group vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid) to utilise energy from the carbohydrates and fats in the diet. Biotin, important for hoof and hair health, is also part of the vitamin B family. Therefore it is important to choose a multi-vitamin supplement for performance horses which includes a suite of B vitamins rather than just thiamin and riboflavin. Vitamin D is used to protect bones and joints and maintain muscle function. It is produced by the body when oils in the skin are exposed to sunlight, so a supplement is advised when a horse is stabled full-time or washed with shampoo regularly enough to remove skin oils. Vitamins C and E are important antioxidants which help by neutralising free radicals in the body. High performance horses have an increased need for these vitamins because the stress of intense exercise creates more free radicals than encountered at lower work levels. Vitamin E works hand in hand with selenium but be careful not to overdose on selenium, particularly if you provide your horse with a suite of energy feeds and supplements.
Equine Vit&Min can take the worry out of balancing the diet of your high performance horse. It provides sufficient vitamins to fill in the dietary gaps for ALL key vitamins and minerals, without risk of toxicity when fed according to the directions. As a further safeguard, and to save you money, we offer all customers a free diet analysis to fine-tune your horse’s diet and calculate the level of supplementation your horse requires.
Adequate vitamin and mineral supplementation also supports your horse’s joint health. Vitamins B6, C and E and the minerals manganese, copper and zinc are required to help the body build, maintain and repair joint fluids, connective tissues, muscles and bones. If you are feeding a joint supplement or glucosamine, make sure your horse is getting ALL the vitamins and minerals it needs each day to get the best result from joint supplements.
Vitamins are either fat-soluble (storable) or water-soluble which means they must be consumed every day. The fat-soluble vitamins are A, E and K and the body is able to maintain a reserve of these even if the recommended daily intake is not consumed every day. The water-soluble vitamins are C and the eight B-group vitamins. If your horse does not receive the recommended daily intake of each of these vitamins in the feed consumed, or those produced in the hind-gut, then his or her body will not function as effectively as it should. This could impact on your horse's digestive tract, blood, skin, hair, hooves, nervous system, pregnancy or milk production as well as his or her ability to utilise energy for riding. The flip side is that if you feed your horse an excess of water-soluble vitamins every few days, the excess will be excreted in the urine and not be available to your horse the next day (and you have to cover the unnecessary expense).That is why at Equine Vit&Min we recommend analysing your horse’s diet, and if he or she is not getting enough Vitamins, we advise a daily supplement.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning the body is able to store it. Vitamin A helps to enhance night vision, contributes to bone growth and is a component of the mucus which horse produce to protect their digestive tract, airways and urinary tract. Horses can produce Vitamin A from the Beta carotene in fresh pasture. Therefore, deficiency is more common in winter when horses rely more on hay than green grass for their forage intake. Daily requirements for Vitamin A increase by about half when horses work harder and double when mares are pregnant or lactating. Horses deficient in Vitamin A will have reduced immunity and can experience infertility, respiratory infections and joint pain. It is possible to feed too much Vitamin A, especially if you are feeding multiple fortified feeds so check that you do not feed more than 16000 IU/kg averaged across the horse’s daily intake.
Most horse vitamin and mineral supplements contain Vitamin A. Here are a few to compare:
Equine Vit&Min contains 22,500 IU per 60 g dose
Ranvet Ration Balancer contains 6,000 IU per 60 g dose
Anitone contains 6,000 IU per 40 ml dose
Equilibrium contains 25,000 per 100 g dose
Mega Horse does not include any Vitamin A.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning the horse needs a daily supply because it can't be stored long-term. Vitamin C is a very powerful antioxidant - it neutralises free radical molecules which damage healthy tissues during times of stress, inflammation and pain. Vitamin C is also critical for healthy bones, joints and connective tissue and is a natural antihistamine.
Vitamin C is very unstable - it is destroyed by oxygen, heat, moisture, light and changes in pH. Fortunately, horses produce their own fresh supply of Vitamin C so a normal healthy horse does not need this nutrient added to the diet. However, sick, injured or ageing horses may benefit from a vitamin C supplement provided it is introduced and removed from the diet in gradually increasing/decreasing levels to allow the body to adjust.
When buying vitamin and mineral supplements, how do you know if you've chosen the right product? Most supplements contain a blend of macrominerals (those which the horse requires in relatively large amounts) and microminerals (those needed in tiny proportions, but which are essential to good health). The macrominerals are calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, chloride, sodium and sulfur. The microminerals (sometimes called trace minerals) are cobalt, chromium, copper, flouride, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium, silicon and zinc. Different supplements can contain very different quantities of these minerals and it can be confusing to choose between them. The best way to decide is to have your horse's diet analysed so that you know what minerals are lacking in the diet. Then select a supplement that "fills the gaps" but also keeps the minerals correctly balanced in healthy ratios. Even when a diet provides enough of every mineral, if the ratios between them are incorrect, your horse's body won't be able to get enough to satisfy its mineral requirements.
The harder a horse works, the higher its need for vitamins and minerals. For example, a 500 kg horse which is spelling needs 20 g of calcium a day compared to a horse in light work needing 30 g/day and the same horse in very hard work needs double his spelling calcium requirement, 40 g/day. Similar trends exist for other key minerals such as phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, sodium and chloride. The requirement for sulphur, copper, cobalt, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc increases with work, but not to the same extent. For example, the resting 500 kg horse needs 100 mg of copper compared to the need for 125 mg when in heavy work.
For most minerals, the NRC guidelines provided a minimum requirement, and in most cases an excess is safe. However, the tolerance level for excess selenium and iodine is much lower, and toxicity is more commonly seen. Whilst it is acceptable to provide more minerals than required, the need to keep minerals in balance relative to each other is imperative because they can compete with each other at absorption points in the digestive system. This means that it is possible for your horse to be deficient of one mineral even though you feed the daily recommended intake of that mineral, because a competing mineral is in too high a supply. Toxicity and out of balance mineral ratios are of particular concern for performance horses when fed high levels of grain or when multiple fortified energy sources (pellets or mixed grains) are fed. For this reason, we offer a HORSE DIET ANALYSIS conducted by our qualified equine nutritionist to Equine Vit&Min customers.
Horses not only need sufficient vitamins and minerals, they need them to be balanced across the entire diet. Most horses fed Equine Vit&Min with adequate forage will meet all vitamin and mineral requirements in balanced ratios. Take advantage of our free nutrition service to check if you are not sure. The NRC (2001) recommends:
Calcium to phosphorous ratio between 2:1 and 3:1 for healthy bone and cell function
Calcium to magnesium ratio between 1:1 and 2:1
Zinc to copper ratio between 2:1 and 3:1.
Ponies on spring or post-rain pastures can be very difficult to feed. Most of us have to lock them up and feed grass hay which makes it very hard to provide all their vitamins and minerals. Equine Vit&Min is the ideal product to feed miniatures and overweight ponies on very limited intakes. Simply add 40g per day to a handful of dampened white chaff and rest assured that your pony is getting everything it needs.
Big Head disease can be a concern for horse owners living in tropical and sub-tropical zones. Many tropical pastures such as buffel grass, kikuyu and setaria contain a compound called oxalates which bind with the calcium you feed your horse, making it unavailable. With 6.54g of Calcium in every 60g dose, Equine Vit&Min helps to maintain a healthy level of calcium in the diet. Speak to your vet or customers can contact our nutritionist for a free diet analysis if you are worried about oxalates in your horse’s diet.
Did you know that copper deficiency can be induced by too much iron and zinc in the equine diet? Signs of copper deficiency can include suboptimal performance, a dull coat (lacking intensity), poor stress tolerance, increased susceptibility to infection, anaemia and limb deformities in foals whose mothers lacked copper during pregnancy. Most feedstuffs contain copper, the trick is to balance the proportions with other minerals.
Magnesium is a macromineral which is often discussed in relation to horse behaviour. Magnesium and calcium both play a critical role in muscle function which is why they must be balanced in the diet. Magnesium deficiency can cause muscle soreness, tremors and a lack of coordination which can lead to collapse and death if not alleviated. Even a small magnesium deficiency can cause behavioural problems like nervousness and inattention. This can be corrected by feeding sufficient magnesium and supported by providing adequate vitamins from the B group.
Adequate vitamin and mineral supplementation also supports your horse’s joint health. Vitamins B6, C and E and the minerals manganese, copper and zinc are required to help the body build, maintain and repair joint fluids, connective tissues, muscles and bones. If you are feeding a joint supplement or glucosamine, make sure your horse is getting ALL the vitamins and minerals it needs each day to get the best result from joint supplements.
Not usually. True iron deficiency is very rare because the iron levels of most of the feeds that horses eat are usually high enough. A bleeding stomach ulcer or heavy parasitisation are more likely causes of deficiency than a dietary lack. However, performance horses and lactating mares can need low levels of iron supplementation. As with many minerals, iron interacts with other minerals (predominantly zinc and copper) and must be kept in a safe ratio across the whole diet. By the way, a blood test and consultation with your vet are the best course of action to take if you suspect iron deficiency.
EVM will only change your horse’s colour if the current colour is due a mineral imbalance or deficiency.
You may see marvellous before and after photos of brown horses turning black, and bays to brown, but this can only happen if the ‘brown’ horse was genetically black but didn’t have the minerals to make enough dark pigment for the coat to appear as it should: black.
It’s a bit like icing a cake - if you want the icing to be red, but don’t have enough red dye, you can only make pink icing. However, if you add more red dye, you can make red icing. In the icing example, the dye is used as a metaphor for the pigment that colours hair and skin in animals. The body needs copper to make the dark pigment in horse hair called melanin. When there is not enough copper available in the horse’s body, the hairs grow with less melanin than they should therefore the colour intensity is reduced. This has the effect of turning a dark horse a lighter shade. When the diet is corrected to provide enough copper, the coat colour will intensify to the level determined by the horse’s genes.
So rather than think of minerals as a way to change your horse’s coat colour, it is more accurate to understand that a lack of minerals causes the colour to fade. Once a horse is fed enough copper to meet its dietary requirements, adding more copper will not darken the coat any further…but it can interfere with the uptake of other minerals. It is important that the copper, iron, manganese and zinc levels are all in balance across the whole diet.
Good nutrition can bring out the best coat colour your horse is genetically programmed to have.
Having the correct levels of copper and zinc, and the correct ratios between them are necessary to allow the body to make the pigments that colour hair. The levels of copper and zinc also need to be balanced in relation to iron and manganese, and since grass and hay are high in iron, if you add any more iron to the diet it becomes almost impossible to balance the copper and zinc (and since dietary iron levels are normally well over daily requirements, why add more anyway?). Equine Vit&Min customers are seeing great results in horse health and coat colour and shine from feeding well balanced diets.
Oil in the skin also helps with shine - omega 3 rich supplements such as linseeds, linseed oil or fish oils are best if your horse is relying on hay for roughage or is on a high grain diet.
If your horse has been lacking vitamins and minerals, or has had a poor balance of minerals, you should begin to see a change as soon as 4 weeks after starting to feed the recommended dose of Equine Vit&Min. Improvements to the hoof can take 6 to 12 months to grow all the way from the coronet band to the bottom of the hoof wall.
Changes can include coat with more shine and colour intensity, healthier hooves and skin, stronger immune system and a calmer temperament (if previously lacking magnesium and B group vitamins or a calcium/magnesium imbalance). You might also notice that your horse uses feed more efficiently, allowing you to save on grain costs.
Equine Vit&Min is an ideal supplement for an insulin resistant (IR) horses and ponies. IR horses and ponies must avoid cereal grains, high starch feeds, molasses and sweet treats. They need to be fed hay which is less than 12% NSC (non-structural carbohydrates), with only up to 10% of their hay being lucerne. It is best to use fats such as linseed, rice bran or canola oil to add extra energy and weight where required.
With IR horses it is important to feed a magnesium supplement but this must be fed in a balanced ratio with calcium (one to two parts calcium for every part magnesium). Omega-3 fatty acids regulate insulin so it is a good idea to feed even a little linseed meal or oil. Vitamin E supplementation is also important for helping IR horses - look for a supplement high in Vitamin E but less than 500mg/kg of iron. Equine Vit&Min is very high in Vitamin E, free from iron and is designed to balance calcium to magnesium ratios across high roughage diets.
Equine Vit&Min will fill in all the vitamin and mineral gaps in your horse’s diet so s/he gets 100% of his recommended daily intake of these, whilst keeping all mineral ratios in balance. Simply feed the Equine Vit&Min powder mixed with a handful of moistened chaff or a little linseed meal.
In the absence of a medical condition or illness (colic, ulcers, viruses etc) reduced appetite can be due to stress, sodium deficiency or a reduced hindgut microbial population (which in turn causes a vitamin B deficiency). These factors can be inter-related. Stress caused by boredom, confinement, travel, and/or lack of forage leads to disruption of the beneficial microbes (bacteria and yeast) that live in your horse’s hindgut. Antibiotic use, illness and very high amounts of cereal grains also interfere with these crucial microbial populations. Even a slight Vitamin B deficiency can turn a horse off his feed. Vitamin B is very important in helping your horse utilize the energy he consumes.
In digestion, Vitamins B1, B2, niacin and pantothenic acid are necessary to convert fats, carbohydrates and proteins into energy that the horse’s body can use. Therefore even though you feed your horse enough food, if he has a Vitamin B deficiency he can actually become malnourished at the cellular level and lose weight accordingly. If your horse has lost a lot weight and/or has lost her appetite there are a range of nutritional strategies you should consider after you and your vet have ruled out an underlying illness. Ensure electrolyte levels are well balanced and provide a salt supplement. Where the source of stress is ongoing and you have the power to remove it, do so.
There are two ways to help the hindgut microbe population recover – PREbiotics or PRObiotics. Prebiotics are fermentation products (such as brewers yeast) or easily fermented plant fibres and carbohydrates (such as beet pulp and grass or hay) that nourish the existing microbial population. Prebiotics are good to include in the diet during and after periods of high stress such as weaning, weather extremes, a long journey, heavy exercise, surgery or when moving to a new home.Probiotics re-introduce live micro-organsims such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae (the live yeast in Yea-Sacc®) into the hindgut. Use of a probiotic (such as Yea-Sacc®) to replenish the gut microbial population is worthwhile but is best supported by adding a quality supplement to provide high levels of a suite of B-group vitamins. Equine Vit&Min is a rich source of Yea-Sacc® and the supporting B-group vitamins needed to help your horse recover from stress and regain a healthy appetite.
Stabling and confinement increases the risk of ulcers and colic. Horses need frequent movement to be relaxed and for their gut to function correctly. If you need to stable, ensure your horse never has an empty haynet. If you are stabling to keep a horse under lights for a show coat, consider adding an extra rug and letting him out of the stable when you turn the lights out.
Probiotics re-introduce live micro-organisms such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae into the hindgut. Equine Vit&Min Premium and Omega-3 PLUS Blends contain a heat protected form of live yeast based on a live preparation of a strain of brewers yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Probiotics can have a significant effect on nutrient digestion in horses of all ages. Scientists have consistent evidence that the brand of live yeast used in EVM improves feed utilisation, stabilises the hindgut (reducing the risk of acidosis); and improves growth and development of foals.
Use of a probiotic to replenish the gut microbial population is worthwhile but is best supported by adding a quality supplement to provide high levels of a suite of B-group vitamins. Thiamin (also known as Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (B2) and other B group vitamins are critical for horses to utilize the energy supplied by the diet. These vitamins are often produced and used by bacteria in the hindgut. Cobalt is often included in horse supplements but interestingly it is the gut microbes that use cobalt, not the horse itself.
Equine Vit&Min Premium Blend is a rich source of a heat protected form of the live yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the supporting B-group vitamins needed to help your horse recover from stress and regain a healthy appetite. Equine Vit&Min can help your horse get more value out of the feed you provide. It can help you feed more cost-effectively and produce healthier horses. That is why we have included a daily serve of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, 0.9 mg of cobalt and an array of B group vitamins in every 60g scoop of Equine Vit&Min Premium Blend.
When you know your horse is about to be exposed to a potentially stressful situation such as weaning, competing, prolonged travel, use of antibiotics, sudden change of diet or surgery, you can help your horse’s gut recover from the impacts of stress more quickly through strategic use of prebiotics and probiotics. Farmalogic’s Rejuvenate can aid in the gastric comfort of equines, especially during periods of stress. The two strains of live yeast probiotic, the prebiotic MOS and fibre as well as the aluminosilicate ingredients in Farmalogic’s Rejuvenate have been shown to:
- Improve feed utilisation
- Stabilise the hindgut reducing risk of acidosis
- Favour beneficial microflora
- Inhibit bacterial pathogens
- Help produce drier, less odorous manure
- Reduce the impact of travel stress
- Stimulate and support the immune system
- Bind and neutralise some toxins
- Improve colostrum quality
- Reduce the incidence of foal scours.
In the absence of a medical condition or illness (colic, ulcers, viruses etc) reduced appetite can be due to stress, sodium deficiency or a reduced hindgut microbial population (which in turn causes a vitamin B deficiency). These factors can be inter-related. Stress caused by boredom, confinement, travel, and/or lack of forage leads to disruption of the beneficial microbes (bacteria and yeast) that live in your horse’s hindgut. Antibiotic use, illness and very high amounts of cereal grains also interfere with these crucial microbial populations. Even a slight Vitamin B deficiency can turn a horse off his feed. Vitamin B is very important in helping your horse utilize the energy he consumes. In digestion, Vitamins B1, B2, niacin and pantothenic acid are necessary to convert fats, carbohydrates and proteins into energy that the horse’s body can use. Therefore, even though you feed your horse enough food, if he has a Vitamin B deficiency he can actually become malnourished at the cellular level and lose weight accordingly.
If your horse has lost a lot weight and/or has lost her appetite, there are a range of nutritional strategies you should consider after you and your vet have ruled out an underlying illness. Ensure electrolyte levels are well balanced and provide a salt supplement. Where the source of stress is ongoing and you have the power to remove it, do so. There are two ways to help the hindgut microbe population recover – PREbiotics or PRObiotics. Prebiotics are fermentation products (such as brewers yeast) or easily fermented plant fibres and carbohydrates (such as beet pulp and grass or hay) that nourish the existing microbial population. Prebiotics are good to include in the diet during and after periods of high stress such as weaning, weather extremes, a long journey, heavy exercise, surgery or when moving to a new home. Probiotics re-introduce live micro-organsims such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae into the hindgut. Use of a probiotic (such as Saccharamyces cerevisiae) to replenish the gut microbial population is worthwhile but is best supported by adding a quality supplement to provide high levels of a suite of B-group vitamins. Equine Vit&Min is a rich source of Saccharamyces cerevisiae in a heat resistant form and the supporting B-group vitamins needed to help your horse recover from stress and regain a healthy appetite.
Adapted from a Silage Note published by NSW DPI The dry matter content of horse feeds can be fairly accurately measured using just a standard kitchen microwave oven, digital scales that measure to units of one gram and a notebook and pencil.
1. Firstly take a small sample (just over 100g) of hay, grass or grain. Cut the hay or grass samples into 3-4 cm lengths. The size of the sample you will need should be equivalent to the amount that could be heaped onto a large dinner plate (i.e. about 100 to 150 grams).
2. Put a microwave safe dish onto the scales and tare (set to zero).
3. Weigh the sample of chopped forage or grain/pellets in the tared container, measuring to the nearest gram. Record this as the initial wet weight. Spread the material evenly over the container and place it in the oven with a glass three-quarter full of water. (WARNING: The glass of water prevents the forage sample from charring or igniting as it becomes completely dry. The water level must be maintained during oven use and may have to be replaced with cold water if it starts to steam or boil to prevent absorption by the drying forage.)
4. Dry on full power (high) for intervals of 3 to 5 minutes to begin with until the sample begins to feel dry (time depends on sample size, shortness of chop and initial DM content). Record the weight after each drying interval and repeat.
5. Samples should be turned and “fluffed-up” after each drying interval to improve evenness of drying.
6. When the sample begins to feel dry reduce the drying interval to between 30 seconds and one minute.
7. When the weight of the sample does not change after two or three drying intervals it is 100% dry (to within 1-2% units). Record this final dry weight. (If the sample chars or burns, use the previous recorded weight. Occasionally the weight may increase if the sample absorbs some moisture from the glass of water; use the last recorded weight if this happens.)
8. Use the DM calculation table below to calculate DM content.
CALCULATING DRY MATTER CONTENT: Final Dry Weight (g) X 100 = .........% Dry Matter Initial Wet Weight (g)
Example 1. 50g X 100 = 33.3%DM 150 g
Example 2. 48g X 100 = 42.8% DM 112 g
Note: Have you allowed for the weight of the plate?
Acknowledgement: This Silage Note was originally prepared for the Topfodder Silage project. Topfodder Silage was a joint project run by NSW DPI and Dairy Australia with contributions from other state Department of Primary Industries or equivalent.