Three High-Calorie Feedstuffs for Horses - Equine Health and Welfare

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Three High-Calorie Feedstuffs for Horses

HCBC Staff
Created: February 17, 2016

One way to increase energy consumption without offering more and more feed is through thoughtful supplementation of a high-calorie feedstuff. St

By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · January 12, 2016
Certain factors can trigger weight loss in horses—a change in seasons, an upshot in performance intensity or duration, a slowdown in pasture growth. One way to increase energy consumption without offering more and more feed is through thoughtful supplementation of a high-calorie feedstuff. Stabilized rice bran, beet pulp, and oil are tried-and-true methods of adding calories to diets.

Stabilized rice bran, beet pulp, and oil are tried-and-true methods of adding calories to diets.Stabilized rice bran. Containing 18-20% fat, stabilized rice bran can boost the energy density of a ration without a corresponding increase in reactive, high-strung behavior. “Sold as a meal or a pellet, most stabilized rice bran products are fed at 1-2 lb (0.45-1 kg) per day, though that can be adjusted based on the individual,” said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

In choosing a rice bran, stabilization is important, as the process inactivates an enzyme that hastens rancidity. Once stabilized, however, rice bran has a shelf life compatible with other feedstuffs. The nutritional content of stabilized rice bran will not adversely affect a balanced diet, according to Whitehouse, so it can be added safely per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Stabilized rice bran is not a fully fortified concentrate and should not be fed as one.

Beet pulp. Considered a super fiber because its energy level exceeds that of typical forages, beet pulp is susceptible to fermentation in the hindgut, making it a valuable source of calories. Like stabilized rice bran, beet pulp can be mixed directly into the feed, though many horsemen choose to soak beet pulp before feeding. Soaking softens the feedstuff and makes it easier to swallow. Rinsing or soaking is especially important for horses that bolt their feed or that have a history of choke.

“Though hard keepers generally do not have metabolic problems, especially middle-aged horses, those prescribed low-sugar diets should be fed unmolassed beet pulp or the beet pulp should be rinsed thoroughly after being soaked, according to research,” advised Whitehouse.

Oil. Despite a natural diet nearly devoid of fat, horses have proven incredibly adept at using it to fuel growth, athletic endeavors, and reproductive efforts. Vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, and canola provide horses with calories in the form of pure fat. “Because grain mixes are generally rich in omega-6 fatty acids, it’s best to choose an oil that has fewer omega-6s, like soybean or canola,” explained Whitehouse.

Each horse has an individual limit as to how much oil it finds palatable. Most can be fed one-half to one cup (4-8 oz) per feeding though, like all new feedstuffs, it should be introduced slowly into the diet.

Aside from being calorically dense, these feedstuffs have another thing in common: they are often used in concentrates as alternative energy sources. Many performance feeds contain one, two, or all three of these ingredients. If you find yourself adding two or more of these feedstuffs to a basic concentrate, you may look into choosing a more appropriate feed for your hard-to-condition horse.

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