Any food experts here? I'm a little confused about protein. As one of many TB owners who are trying to put on weight their skinny horse, all the research suggests a high fat and high fiber sources to acheive weight gain. The only info I see on protein is that it is for muscle building and amino acids. I don't see any direct link to it for weight gain. With this in mind, when my first weight gain supplement arrived, I was stupified to see that the protein content was a whopping 24%! WHY? What am I missing here? I've noticed many posts where people suggest senior feeds for weight gain which also have very high in protein. If adult horses only can use about 10% of protein and pass the rest in their urine, then why feed it, and why are all weight gain supplements so high in it? Is this just marketing BS? I'm still hitting big walls trying to put weight on my boy despite feeding him tons of fat and fiber and getting very frustrated. If I'm missing something about protein, please let me know.
It's 10% of their total diet. So, if you're feeding 4 oz of a 24% protein supplement and 20 lbs of 8% protein hay, then that 4 oz of 24% protein supplement is almost nothing.
Protein helps build quality muscle. Weight gain isn't just fat gain, it should be muscle gain with limited fat gain. UC Davis did a study on refeeding emaciated (starved) horses. They split them up into three groups. One group got free choice oat hay, that's it. The other got a complete feed (like senior). The third received straight alfalfa, starting with 8 small 1 lb meals a day, slowly increasing until they received free choice alfalfa. The group that gained the most weight without any colic or adverse side effects was the group that was receiving free choice 17-20% protein Alfalfa hay.
Nutrition for Rehabilitating the Starved Horse
Feeding too much protein doesn't really have any harmful effects on a normal horse (one that does not have a pre-existing kidney or metabolic condition). Excess protein is simply excreted through the urine. So, feeding more than 10% protein with most horses isn't really an issue. There are a lot of horses out there that are fed high levels of Alfalfa or other high protein feeds and they do just fine.
The best weight gain and maintenance diet I have found is the following (and I have used it on part and full TBs):
MyHorse.com - Let Your Horse Eat Hay
Page 2 of the above article addresses "skinny horses."
Here is a link to an essay on protein and horses. It shows you how to calculate the % of protein your horse is actually getting out of his diet. Protein - Omega Horse Solutions
To put wieght on my guys, I give dac Orange and dac Bloom together. The 2 complement each other very well and the manufacturer recommends using them together.
dac Bloom Weight Gain, Muscle Tone, and Growth
dac Orange Superior with probiotics 40 day supply - Omega Horse Solutions
My hands are tied on the free choice hay part. I board, so it is what it is. I weighed the flakes and estimate he's getting about 15 lbs Timothy per day. They get hay morning and evening. The rest of the diet is:
8lbs (4 morning 4 night) Blue Seal Performance LS 12% protein 12% fat 20% fiber
Since they pretty much go from 10:00am to 5:00pm with no hay, I feed him a midday snack of:
3 lbs Alfalfa-Timothy hay cubes (gets a little nutty on straight alfalfa)
3 lbs beet pulp
2 lbs rice bran
2 oz Smart Gain (that's the 24% stuff)
My goal with the snack was to keep his belly full with forage so his motabolism doesn't kick in. I have had some results. He's finally got some noticeable fat between his ribs and on his back, but I'd still like to see another 50 lbs or more.
Barrelracer, I'll do the math on the protein. It never occured to me that he might not be getting enough. When averaged out, he might just be at the bare minimum.
Sorry to double post, but I just did the math. (insert head slap here) When averaged together, I'm only at 8.4% protein. Back to the drawing board I go!! Thanks so much for that article. That definitely fills in my missing piece.
Personally, I'd ditch the Blue Seal and replace it with a vitamin supplement. You'll be surprised on the weight GAIN you will see when you ditch that and increase the hay cubes. Something about hard keepers and almost any kind of grain or feed just don't mix well.
I had a HECK of a time keeping weight on my Anglo Arabian (TBxArab), let alone putting weight on him. As soon I took him OFF all of the grains and feeds, he actually started gaining weight! The first week he looked like he dropped weight, but after that, he started really gaining well!
With the SmartGain add SmartVite Performance Grass to round out the nutrition. You won't need any other feeds or supplements with your diet to make sure he's getting everything he needs.
So, one meal of 5-7 lbs of Timothy/Alfalfa cubes and your mid-day snack as:
3 lbs Alfalfa-Timothy hay cubes
3 lbs beet pulp
2 lbs rice bran
2 oz SmartGain
3 oz of SmartVite Perf Grass
Try it for 30 days and see how he does. If he gains weight, then you know his metabolism just isn't right for any feeds or grains.
Once he's up to a good weight, you can cut the rice bran down to 1 lb, get rid of the SmartGain, and reduce the beet pulp to 1 lb (just to have something to mix your goodies in).
Unfortunately no grain isn't much of an option either. My horse is in a paddock with another horse. He'd flip his gizzard if he saw all the other horses getting grain and he just had his little flake of hay. This boy is an eating machine. I also can't be around everyday to do snack time. I usually can do it 5 days a week. I work 92 miles away, so it's not like I can shoot over at lunch time if I get stuck working a day shift. As it is, I have to keep him away from the other horses for snack time so they don't all get jealous, and it takes him a good 30 minutes to eat what he's getting now. If I double it, I'll be standing there for an hour. It really sucks that my hands are tied. I have a feeling you're right about the grain, but there's not much I can do about it other than switch him back over to the higher protein stuff or maybe cut it down to half. Thanks for the input just the same.
Could it be the other horse is running him out of his feed?
actualy the "grain" you are feeding isn't TOO bad Blue Seals LS products are pretty good... what I would add is some beet pulp sherrds or alfalfa CUBES into that noon time snack.
Stacie, to answer your question..not a chance. My boy is the food theif. The owner has to either feed the other horse in his stall or stand between the two of them so my piggy doesn't steal his food.
Peggysue, I have the option of going back to 50/50 LS and another higher protein combo. Do you think there's anything to gain there by adding extra protein?
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