What’s new in Equine Research: ProteinBy Dr. Kristina HineyThis month I will begin a new series which tries to summarize some of the new information which has been gathered in equine nutrition. I will be grouping similar topics together and trying to summarize how this information might be relevant to you and your horse. We will discuss if this new information means you should change what you have been doing, or you can feel reassured that you are right on track! And remember not all information may be relevant for your horse. There is no need to feed your mature gelding who is trail ridden on the weekend like an endurance horse preparing for a 100 mile ride!
The protein source used to meet our horse’s amino acid requirement is especially important in the growing animal. Young horses are usually the model used to test protein sources, as researcher’s can monitor the average daily gain of the horses.
This month we will continue our protein nutrition series with the classes of horses having the most demanding protein needs: the broodmares. It would make sense that this group of horses is the most sensitive to changes in protein nutrition, as they are continually supplying nutrients for the growing fetus or foal. Shortchange your mare and you may be short changing your future generation. But let’s take a look at what these animals need, so that we can avoid any potential pitfalls in our feeding strategies.
If a horse is provided with good quality hay at 2% of its body weight it can easily consume enough protein even without eating concentrate. However, if forage quality is low, adding a supplemental designed to provide essential amino acids can easily make up the difference.
In the last article, we introduced the idea of examining the protein in our horse’s diet beyond just the mere percent crude protein on the feed tag or a forage report. We discussed the concept of protein digestibility and the importance of the site of digestion. As there is only limited evidence that uptake of amino acids takes place in the hind gut of the horse, we prefer to feed proteins which are digested and absorbed in the small intestine of the horse. Typically concentrates offer more pre-cecal digestibility of protein than do forages. Therefore site and extent of digestion are key components of protein quality. However, there is another equally important factor in protein quality, and that is the amino acid profile.
This month we begin a new series focused on protein requirements for our horses, and the various feeds which provide protein. Protein is commonly the first concern of many horsemen when selecting their feeds, and the most frequently discussed.
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