Horse Nutrition Question Answered!


1. Is my horse getting too much protein? I know the TC is at 14%, and his hay cubes are at 15%. This horse is not in work. I do not want to put undue stress on his kidneys, but I would like to have him munch on something, too.

2.According to your information on beet pulp, I could supplement beet pulp up to 40% of his diet, so that would be 2 2/3 pounds of beet pulp, and 6 pounds alfalfa right?

3. Since he is being fed under the recommended starting dose for TC Senior (which is at 6 lbs, he's getting 4.5), does he need extra vitamins?

Picture of Justin, the subject of this horse nutrition question*:

Gelding that is this horse nutrition question subject.

Additional information from the owner:

Background: 26 year old QHxTB who has a few molars missing from each side, and had colic surgery last year. Since then he has been on a wet diet (everything is soaked) to ensure he is getting enough to drink (that combined with impacted rye/fescue hay is the reason he coliced).

His current diet:

AM: PM: Evening:
1.5 lbs Triple Crown Senior
.5 lbs rice bran
5 lbs alfalfa cubes
1.5 lbs Triple Crown Senior
.5 lbs rice bran
1.5 hours good grazing, fescue/orchard pasture
1.5 lbs Triple Crown Senior
.5 lbs rice bran
5 lbs alfalfa cubes

His current diet is what UGA sent him home with (with the exception of the rice bran- I added that). His surgery was 11/20/2007 if that helps. Also, if anything screams out at you, please let me know :)


For the protein question:

According to the NRC book, a 500 kg (1000 lb) horse with no work needs an average of 630 g protein/day.

Your guy is getting 4.5 lbs of TC/day, which is 14% protein (I'm taking your word for it, since I don't have access to a label right now and you do). So that provides him with 0.63 lb protein/day.

He is getting 10 lbs of alfalfa cubes/day, so at 15% protein, they are providing 0.15 lb protein/day.

A total of 0.78 lbs protein/day equals roughly 355 grams protein. He's getting approximately 95 grams protein from his rice bran for a total of 450 grams of protein/day, plus what he gets from his grazing. So, he's nowhere near having too much fact, depending on how much protein is in your grass and how much he consumes during his 1.5 hours out, he may be a little short.

For the beet pulp question:

He's getting 10 lbs of alfalfa cubes now, plus the grass he grazes. To keep things safe, we won't include the grass in our calculations, since its hard to estimate how much he is consuming. 40% of his forage can be beet pulp, so that means you could do as much as 4 lbs beet pulp with 6 pounds alfalfa cubes.

However, your guy is right at the minimum amount of daily forage for a healthy gut. With him having previous colic surgery, I'd personally want him to be getting at least 1.5% of his body weight/day in forage. I'd talk with the vets who did his colic surgery (or his current vet) to make sure there is not a problem with him having more forage (I don't forsee one, but its always good to check in these cases!) so instead of replacing his alfalfa cubes with beet pulp, I'd probably add beet pulp on top of the alfalfa he's already getting, to get him closer to 15 pounds of forage/day (assuming he's 1000 pounds). Or, since his protein intake appears to be borderline, maybe increase the alfalfa cubes as well.

For the TC question:

Yes, he should be getting either more TC or additional vits/minerals. Since he's already close to the daily minimum amount, I'd increase his TC to the 6 pound minimum (again, discuss with the vet to make sure there is no reason you can't, but there shouldn't be). This will add a bit more protein, as well as some more fiber/forage, and since he's so close to the minimum, will be the easiest, safest, and most cost effective way to make sure he is getting the vitamins and minerals he needs, and in the balances required.

So, in short:

Looks like he has a great diet! Excess protein is definitely not a concern, though not enough might be a concern depending on the grass content. To address the vitamin/mineral issue I'd increase the TC to a minimum of 6 lbs/day, if not a bit more depending on his condition. I'd keep his 10 pounds of alfalfa cubes, and probably increase the amount or add beet pulp on top, to reach 1.5% of his body weight in forage (I wouldn't count the grass...too much forage is rarely going to be an issue, but not enough definitely can be) for each day. Of course, discuss any and all changes with his vet before you implement them.

Thank you for a great horse nutrition question!

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*The picture on this page is provided by the gelding's owner, is her property, and is used with permission