Feeding for Weight Gain
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