Optimal growth Ideally, you should feed young horses to grow at a moderate, steady rate. The National Resource Council (NRC) recommends rates of average daily gain for horses.
Recommended average daily gain values for horses of different mature body weights range from 0.28 to 0.39 percent and 0.15 to 0.21 percent of the horse's body weight for weaklings and yearlings, respectively. Maximum growth Feeding a young horse for a maximum growth rate is undesirable because bone hardening lags greatly behind bone lengthening.
Ideally, young horses should gain weight at a rate that their developing bones can easily support. Growing bones don’t have the strength to support rapid weight gain from overfeeding, especially energy.
Rapid weight gain can also make other skeletal anomalies worse. In these cases the risk of developmental orthopedic disorders (DOD) and unsoundness increases.
For example, switching an underfed, slow growing horse to a good diet that allows quick growth, increases the risk of DOD. Fat should cover the top to ½ of the ribs below the flat of the back.
Risk of defective bone and related tissue formation increases with one of more of the following: Always provide horses free access to fresh, clean water.
Young, growing horses need a diet ratio of Ca to P between 1 and 1 and 3 to 1. Maximizing forage intake will mimic natural feeding behavior and bring about gut health.
Thus, don’t rely on pasture alone to provide your young horse with all the nutrients they need. Concentrates A horse’s ability to efficiently use forage develops over time.
Only feed enough concentrates to achieve the desired growth rate and maintain a moderate body condition score. Always consider the expected feed intake when calculating your horse’s daily ration.
Digestible Energy (Meal/lb of BY)Crude Protein % Crude Protein % Ca UP ICU ppm Zn limit A IU/bit E IU/expected feed consumption (% BY) Weaning 1.2514.0-16.00.70.41040910372.0-3.5 Yearling 1.1512.0-14.00.50.31040910372.0-3.0 Feed young horses to grow at a moderate and steady rate.
Foals between the age of 3 and 9 months are at greatest risk for developmental orthopedic disorders. Young, growing horses need a diet ratio of Ca to P between 1 and 1 and 3 to 1.
Maximizing forage intake will mimic natural feeding behavior and bring about gut health. Nutrition is important for growing horses between weaning and 2 years of age.
During this time, bone formation and size greatly increase as well as muscle mass. Thus, these horses need the proper amount and balance of energy and nutrients in their ration.
Young horses need good-quality feeds to meet their nutrient requirements for growth, as well as free-choice exercise in large paddocks. Oats are often the cheapest source of energy for young horses and are best fed crushed to weaklings because their teeth are not fully developed, and they will have trouble breaking open whole grains.
Young green grass or clover pasture contains 15–20% crude protein, but this amount falls rapidly as the plants begin flowering and start to seed. Linseed meal is relatively low in lysine and is not a good source of protein for growing horses, although its high oil content will produce a bloom on the coat.
Trace minerals such as copper, zinc, manganese, and selenium are important components in the diet for most growing horses. They need to be supplied in the right quantities and ratios in commercial feeds formulated for young horses.
To meet the commercial growth requirements of young horses, you may have to feed them less roughage than desired for optimal digestive function. Therefore, you must use good-quality chaff or hay to maximize the utilization of the fibrous feed in meeting the energy requirements, and also decrease the amount of starch the weaning has to be fed.
Lucerne or clover hay will also supply higher intakes of protein and calcium as well as fiber, so they are often preferred for growing horses. These feeds have higher protein, amino acid and mineral levels to supply the needs of the growing horse.
If you have great quality pasture or are feeding breeds with a good metabolism, such as warm bloods, quarter horses, draft breeds or ponies, a feed balancer pellet or a concentrate such as Bristol Legend is often the best approach. Fortunately, there are many ways to design feeding programs that will provide the necessary nutrition in a variety of settings.
In many areas of the world, growing horses are individually given a measured amount of feed on a daily basis. A feed product destined for use in this type of situation would need to have either a low energy content or a low intake to prevent excessive growth, but still have a safe level of fortification to provide each horse with critical nutrients for growth.
Each of these variables provides a series of challenges for delivering the proper amount of diet fortification. The first feeding situation is an example for supplying critical nutrients using three different levels of grain intake (moderate, low, and minimal).
However, the concentration of critical nutrients (calcium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc) is often inadequate in a pasture-only diet. The alfalfa diet is supplying adequate energy, protein, and calcium to support the desired moderate growth rate, but is marginal in phosphorus, copper, and zinc.
This type of mixing pellet is unique since it contains low protein (9%), an inverted ratio of calcium to phosphorus, and high trace mineral concentrations. The veterinary surgeon involved has suggested an energy-restricted diet to avoid any further rapid weight gain.
It is important to realize that an energy-restricted diet will decrease the rate of gain; however, the skeleton of the yearling will continue to grow. Since the skeleton of the yearling continues to grow even on an energy-restricted diet, it is important that the horse receive adequate levels of essential nutrients required for growth.
To feed this yearling at approximately 70% of energy requirements with adequate nutrients to support continued skeletal growth, the diet would consist of 11 lb (5 kg) of mixed hay (alfalfa /grass) plus 2.5 lb (1.1 kg) of a ration balancer. The directions on the feed bag suggest that our example yearling should receive the grain concentrate at a minimum rate of 8 lb or 3.6 kg/horse/day.
Understanding the essential nutrients and their requirements is the first step in properly feeding young horses. Few topics in equine nutrition stir more controversy than feeding the growing horse.
Many factors add to the confusion of providing nutrition throughout these critical stages of life. Some will be shown in halter futurities where maximum growth and condition are required at a young age.
A healthy foal will grow rapidly, gaining in height, weight and strength almost before your eyes. From birth to age two, a young horse can achieve 90 percent or more of its full adult size, sometimes putting on as many as 3 lbs per day.
Feeding young horses is a balancing act, as the nutritional start a foal gets can have a profound effect on its health and soundness for the rest of its life. As the foal’s dietary requirements shift from milk to feed and forage, your role in providing the proper nutrition gains in importance.
The critical nutrients for growth are energy, protein (amino acids), minerals and vitamins. Nutrition imbalances have been recognized as one potential cause of growth disorders in young horses.
Instead, young horses need concentrated sources of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals to meet their nutritive needs. Foals will meet their nutritional requirements in their first 2 to 3 months with mare’s milk and pasture, plus whatever feed they start nibbling on.
In the third month of lactation, the mare’s milk production drops while the foal’s nutritional needs keep increasing. If you do not want a field type feeder, you can tie the mare in her stall, allowing the foal to eat by her side.
Creep feed at a rate of 1% of the foal’s body weight per day (maximum 1 lb. Managing growth during this time is very important because excessive weight gain may cause bone abnormalities and long-lasting skeletal problems.
Research has shown that exercise strengthens bone, increases cortical thickness and makes for a more durable future athlete. Second, weaklings should be fed concentrates at approximately the following rate: 1 lb per month of age per day (depending on the recommendations listed on the product).
Because their growth rate slows considerably by 12 months, yearlings can consume more pounds of dry matter. Therefore, you must combine your knowledge of nutrition, your eye for condition and your common sense to make the final adjustments on feed intake.
All of Poplin Grain’s E-TEC® and EQUIPPED® equine feeds contain 100% natural vitamin E and 100% organic selenium. Contact your Poplin Grain Feed Specialist to test your hay quality and build a personalized diet for your horse.