Nutritional Requirements for Horses

I’m trying to find out the nutritional percent breakdown on a colt (6 months of age/quarter horse) for a daily feed basis. As to how much calcium etc should be in his daily diet. I did not want to put him on grains and supplements. He will be turned out to a Bermuda pasture, has a mineral block that he loves and salt block. Will this supply him with enough nutrients to grow healthy without adding bagged grains etc to his diet? Thanks! Allison

Dear Allison,

In order to find out what the requirements are for a particular age and size of horse—and his workload–my go-to resource is the NRC’s Nutrient Requirements of Horses. The sixth edition was published in 2007 and is available for purchase from the National Research Council.

A second option is visiting www.equi-analytical.com, which is one of the labs you can send hay and pasture to for nutrient analysis. For example, a lot of horse owners have their hay analyzed for percent non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) so they know if it’s appropriate to feed to easy keepers. Not only can you access a decade’s worth of hay, grass and grain analysis on this website, you can also directly access the NRC values.

Option number three is working with your veterinarian and/or an equine nutritionist to develop a suitable diet. Please pick one of these options because I’m a bit concerned that your young, growing horse may not be on a complete and balanced diet for his age. As a weanling, he requires more protein, calcium and other nutrients than an adult horse and it doesn’t sound to me like he’s getting them. For example, under the Common Feed Profiles link on equi-analytical laboratories, Bermuda hay averages 10% crude protein (the range is from 7 to 13%). Since a six month old colt needs 14-16% crude protein in the diet, he is deficient in this critical nutrient for proper growth and development.

I understand your reluctance to feed grain, but right now your number one responsibility is to provide everything he needs to grow properly and that might take more than pasture and a salt block (BTW there are very little minerals in a mineral block. It’s mostly just a salt block and artificial coloring).

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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2 comments on “Nutritional Requirements for Horses
  1. marilynn says:

    I am currently raising an orphaned colt. I have him on a milk replacer and Omolene 300 by Purina. He is turning 6 months and I have kept him on the milk replacer for this full time to assure that he received enough calcium and strength. The Omolene 300 is a good switch and or addition to his diet. It is specifically designed to supplement mare and foal. It is complete. He does graze but I agree that grazing even good grass and having good hay may not be enough for a rapidly growing youngster. I use the Omolene because I have had good luck with it with other foals but there are many good feeds out there. If he is off milk you can get milk pellets to add to the feed. My little foals and growing youngsters have been extemely healthy and developed good bones. I am not a fan of just throwing supplements at horses but in the case of a growing baby it is necessary for optimal growth.

  2. s knettle says:

    I am also using omolene 300 with my colt,it is what the breeder had him on when he lefthis mother. He is very healthy and growing at steady pace. Also 2 of my friends are now using the same product. It seems to have everything a young horse needs.

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