Blog > February 2020 > Balanced Nutrition and Protein Sources for Performance Horses

Balanced Nutrition and Protein Sources for Performance Horses

February 24, 2020

As we continue to grow our knowledge as an equine industry, research has proven that selecting a feed based off one ingredient or number on a tag is not the ideal theory to correctly manage a performance horse. Two products with a 14% protein and 6% fat could look like the same feed to an untrained eye, but these feeds may be very different because they are using different formulation strategies. Total balance and availability of all nutrients is the most important component when developing a feed program for a performance horse. Did you know that protein is 2nd to water as the most abundant substance in the horse’s body? Horses do not have a protein requirement; they actually have an amino acid requirement. Lysine is the number one limiting amino acid for a horse.

Data has shown that ingredients with similar crude protein levels, like soybean meal and cottonseed meal, for example, may be the same protein, but cottonseed meal does not provide the same quality of protein (amino acid composition) to support growth as soybean meal does. Another example is oats. Not all oats have the same protein or mineral content, varying from regions and growing season. This will also change the nutrients in a feed bag. Please remember that transitioning from one protein source to another can affect palatability and can cause digestive upset so it’s important to consult a specialist if you decided to change sources.

How many of you read the feeding directions? If a horse feed is not fed at the suggested feeding rate, the full nutritional benefit and performance will not meet the desired expectation. This is why our equine consultants work with customers to create a plan specifically for your horse and have feed scoops available as all feeds do not weigh the same. Meaning the old coffee can or cup explanation doesn’t help ensure your horse is getting the nutrients it needs.

More fun facts: Even though an ingredient is listed on the tag, it could only be included in a trace amount. As horse owners, we like to assume all horse feed companies have done some research before having their product put on the market, however, this isn’t always true. At Central Valley Ag, we work with companies who have put resources into research programs to support a horse’s development. In certain situations, a 12% protein feed using quality ingredients will supply more protein and essential amino acids then a 14% protein feed with lower quality ingredients.

This also proves the same with fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Horse owners try to do what is best for their animals like sometimes adding an additional fat like an oil top dress for a performance horse. This will increase the fat and calories, but it doesn’t necessarily meet the requirement for protein, vitamins, or mineral, thus losing the balance of the total diet. If you would like to use a high fat supplement, make sure the proper amounts of protein, amino acids, and other essential nutrients are available to get the desired performance. As Purina Animal Nutrition likes to remind us as salespeople, “Not all ingredients are the same quality, stability, or availability for the horse.” That is why at Central Valley Ag we have highly trained individuals on our Equine Team to help with any questions you may have.  To find a specialist in your area, visit and click on the feed tab.
by Brandi Salestrom
Posted: 2/24/2020 3:20:43 PM by Kristin Petersen | with 0 comments

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