Feed­ing for Weight Gain

Dr Ta­nia Cubitt

NZ Horse & Pony - - Training - By Dr Ta­nia Cubitt

How to feed horses for weight gain is a com­monly asked ques­tion. Some horses do not main­tain their body­weight eas­ily and it can be a chal­lenge to keep them at an ideal level.

Ul­ti­mately, your horse’s ribs should not be vis­i­ble, but they should be eas­ily felt if you run your hand along his side. A com­mon com­plaint from horse own­ers is that their horse hasn’t got enough to­pline. This is achieved by work­ing the horse in a man­ner that strength­ens mus­cles in the back, along with the cor­rect diet of qual­ity pro­tein to help build mus­cle.

Reg­u­larly mon­i­tor­ing your horse’s weight with a weigh tape or live­stock scale will al­low you to iden­tify fluc­tu­a­tions and help you make cor­rec­tive ac­tions quickly. Den­ti­tion – The con­di­tion of your horses teeth is the first fac­tor that should be checked when as­sess­ing causes for weight loss. Proper den­ti­tion is es­sen­tial due to the na­ture of its diet; plant ma­te­ri­als re­quire thor­ough grind­ing by the mo­lars to break down the par­ti­cle size of the food. Par­a­sites - Poor worm­ing regimes can cause weight loss re­gard­less of what and how much you are feed­ing. Par­a­sites com­pete for nu­tri­ents inside the di­ges­tive tract and can dam­age the in­testi­nal lin­ing, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for nu­tri­ents to be ab­sorbed. Stress - If your horse is a chronic weaver, sta­ble-pacer or fence-run­ner, he is burn­ing calo­ries need­lessly. Sim­ple man­age­ment changes, such as daily turnout or the ad­di­tion of a buddy, can help. Grain - High grain, low roughage di­ets can cause stress as a re­sult of painful gas­tric ul­cers and may dis­cour­age horses from eat­ing. Disease or ill­ness – Sick­ness can de­crease ap­petite or af­fect nu­tri­ent ab­sorp­tion within the di­ges­tive tract.

What Should I feed?

Fi­bre - Of the three ma­jor energy sources (fi­bre, car­bo­hy­drates and fat), fi­bre is the most im­por­tant and is the ma­jor com­po­nent of pas­ture and hay. Some horses can main­tain weight on fi­bre sources alone. For the poor doer, how­ever, fi­bre alone will not be enough, but there are fi­bre sources with higher energy con­tent and di­gestibil­ity than oth­ers. For ex­am­ple, lucerne hay can pro­vide a horse with more energy than grass hay of sim­i­lar qual­ity. How­ever, low-qual­ity lucerne hay (more stem than leaf) is not a rich source of energy. When qual­ity pas­ture or hay is not avail­able, or if the horse does not read­ily eat hay or have ac­cess to pas­ture, there are al­ter­na­tive fi­bre sources avail­able. The most com­mon are “su­per-fi­bres” such as beet pulp, and legume hulls (soy or lupin hulls). The fi­bre in beet pulp is about 80% di­gestible (as com­pared to 50% for av­er­age hay). Soy and lupin hulls are the skin of the bean (not the husk or pod) that is re­moved prior to pro­cess­ing. The energy con­tent of legume hulls is close to that of oats. HYGAIN MICRBEET and

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