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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have found a lot of good resources about zinc to copper ratios (e.g. Feeding the Hoof) but they all seem to assume that your horses live on pasture that has adequate or even excess iron. Our pastures have very very low iron. So I believe I need to supplement iron, but I don't want to give them more than they need, and certainly not enough to be detrimental to their hoof health. Can anyone direct me to a resource that would show ratios of not just zinc and copper, but also iron?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you!!!
 

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Ratios are for Iron: Copper: Zinc: Manganese --> 4: 1: 4: 4. With some wiggle room. Minimum amounts of Zinc are recommended at 400mg per day from NRC, making copper needing to be at last 100mg.



Generally, It is recommended to give little to no iron because unlike us, horses normally do not lose iron, unless they were to bleed or have some sort of pertaining condition that would exacerbate iron deficiency. In that way, anemia is rarer in horses than in humans. They also get iron from other sources, not just grass. Many supplements and feeds contain iron, those red mineral blocks and water often does as well, unless you have some sort of filter. Thus, these can add up and overload the copper and zinc.



Best way to really get the most accurate representation of what your horse is receiving is through both a hay analysis, pasture, and blood test. However, keep in mind that copper deficiency can often present itself as iron deficiency in blood tests. This is because Iron, in a way, depends on copper to be converted ferric state, which allows Iron to be more absorbable. An enzyme called hephaestin is what facilitates this, and it is dependent on copper. In other words, this copper-dependant enzyme permits release of iron from intestinal cells into the blood.


I think it is really good to check the ratios of all 4 minerals! Iron deficiency is possible, just be careful you don't overload the iron because that can also have unfavourable effects.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
@Jolly101 thank you, that's very useful! I calculated based on my supplements.

Recommended is Iron:Zinc:Cu at 4:4:1.**

I am supplementing at 1:4:1.**So at least based on ratios it shouldn't be too much. Horses get small amounts of feed, but feed contains little to no iron. Their salt licks are the natural Himalayan ones that are pink, so I guess they must have some iron, but I doubt it's a significant amount. The barn owner changes their hay too much for me to want to get it tested. Their water should not contain iron as there is no iron in the soil around here, and none upland (where the water comes from) either.

I was thinking about getting Teddy's blood levels tested, because he's the one who is having hoof problems. That's really interesting about copper deficiency presenting as iron deficiency. If I got a result that suggested iron deficiency, how could I go about determining whether it really was iron deficiency or if it was a copper problem?
 

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If I got a result that suggested iron deficiency, how could I go about determining whether it really was iron deficiency or if it was a copper problem?
You would do a few things: compare results with any others you might have such as hay analysis, soil and amounts in feed to see if there are any similarities/differences. You would also watch for symptoms common with anemia or copper deficiency and adjust as you see.

Anemia usually presents symptoms such as lack of energy, lack of appetite, weakness, pale mucous membranes/ gums, and increased heart rate.
But usually Anemia is relatively rare in horses and is more likely a result of excess blood loss ( ulcers, injury, parasite and failure of clotting), malnutrition/ starvation, long-term infection/ inflammation, liver or kidney disease, immune disorders etc.
Direct Iron deficiency through lack of intake in the diet is really uncommon and more than likely due to long-term low grade bleeding or other factors above. The below goes into a lot more detail, if you want to read more about it.

https://www.succeed-equine.com/?s=anemia

Copper deficiency has been commonly associated with hoof issues (weakness/ brittle, white line disease, thrush, thin soles, abscesses), tendon and ligament weakness (although hard to see), and a dull/ faded coat. For more detail see:

https://www.omegafields.com/2010/11/02/copper-zinc/

https://sites.google.com/site/hoofmasters/home/copper-zinc-deficiency
 

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I would never supplement iron. Basically everything that goes into a horses mouth forage wise has iron in it. Also water but the body absorbs this differently. It would be an unusually rare case for a horse to be iron deficient. Horses can become anemic but lack of iron is not the culprit like it is in humans, usually loss of certain B vitamins are.
 
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Quote: The ratio of iron:copper:zinc must be no higher than 4:1:3. In some cases even higher copper and zinc intakes are needed. Unquote


Source: https://forageplustalk.co.uk/iron-overload-in-horses-by-dr-kellon/


Both hay and forage in my area is around 10 times the recommended iron. Iron blocks uptake of ....either copper, zinc, or both. I've forgotten. But anyhow, since iron can't be removed, the recommended copper zinc has to be increased to offset the blocking by iron.


Magnesium is a can of worms. There are 10 forms of mg on a printout I have where the amount to feet 10 mg per day actually absorbed varies 17 to 186. MgOxide is the 17 so that has to be only a little less than double. (don't have the link to the print out)


I've never heard of iron poor soil/hay so you are very lucky.


Here's some fun tables.......


https://equi-analytical.com/nutrient-requirement-tables/
 

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Couple more comments:


First, since horses (and humans) have no way to rid themselves of excess iron other than bleeding, and since most horse forage is way over the recommended iron content, I would hesitate giving iron supplement unless the subject horse was born and raised on iron deficient forage/pasture. If the horse lived a significant part of life in a high iron area, the horse could already have more iron in the blood than optimal. In which case it might be wise to have a blood test to see what the iron level in the blood actually is.


High iron content has been associated with several health issues in humans. Studies have shown that people who donate blood frequently which lowers their iron content have fewer ailments.


The Equi-Analytical link for a 1100 pound Morgan moderate work shows iron 371mg, copper 93mg, and zinc 371mg. So there is one set of ratios but they do change for different situation.


My own forage tested for 20 pounds of dry matter was iron 3680mg, copper80mg, zinc280mg. Enough copper and zinc need to be added to bring the ratio of iron down from around a 10 to a 4. This compares well with what Arizona Copper Complete adds which is based on average hay in Arizona.


Watching horses graze and rejecting one blade of grass while accepting another causes me to wonder if horses that are left on their own in the wild have developed ways to adjust the trace minerals themselves.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I've never heard of iron poor soil/hay so you are very lucky.
Well, you say that, but it also means that human food grown in our soil is mineral deficient. Take, for instance, spinach. Spinach is supposed to be a decent source of iron, but the spinach grown here has almost no iron in it. Same for any other typically iron-rich plant. Of course, I can just supplement (and I do), so it's not like it's the end of the world.

Same with lime. Our soil is probably 95% lime (that's just me guessing). People in other parts of the country may see that and be jealous ("I have to lime my pastures every year!") but it's terrible. Hard water, lime scale. We have to drain and clean the water heater every year. We didn't before, and the old one got completely clogged up with lime and had to be replaced. It wasn't even that old. You have to add acidizer to the soil, but that's really expensive. Plants that do well in normal soil don't do well here. Again, growing food for human consumption is difficult. Plants don't want to grow in what is almost pure lime.

Who knows, maybe I'll feel differently after we move to our place in Seattle, with the exact opposite soil and weather conditions (way too much iron in the soil I already know that just from seeing the well water). But for now, I really loathe our terrible soil.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I just wish I could take that soil from Seattle and mix it with this soil here. Half and half. Then both of them would have nice, well-balanced soil.

It was really interesting learning about the possible link between iron in grass and spring laminitis. It might explain why my fat Pony has had no problems so far, despite being fat (our soils being deficient and all). And it makes me that much more worried about how he's going to do when we move up there. Obviously I would drop the iron well before that time. Honestly, at this point, I'm thinking I'm going to finish the supplement I have now and then switch to a low or no-iron one.
 

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This has sent me off looking for grasses/hay that grows well in alkaline soils. Buffalo grass is one listed and is the predominant wild grass in the area where I now live.


So now I'm thinking I may not have the iron problem from before and may be over supplementing on copper and zinc.


Looks like a trace mineral test needs to be done on the Buffalo grass. But most of his food comes from Az bermuda which is all high in iron.


Complicated!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Yes, it is! If my source of hay didn't keep changing, I'd get it analyzed to see. Our alfalfa mostly comes from New Mexico, where I suspect there would be higher iron (I could be wrong though) and Teddy, who is the one with the hoof issues, eats more alfalfa than the others (I've been trying to put weight on him). Our Bermuda is mostly "coastal," which around here must mean Gulf Coast. I can check my soil maps to see what the iron content of the soil down there is.

But then of course there is the issue of how much of which nutrients they are actually absorbing. I'm still thinking about getting bloodwork done for him, to see if that could tell me anything.
 

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Plants have to have iron to grow and survive. Have to. Deficiencies show clearly. Toxicities do as well. Even if a soil is low in iron the plants growing there are going to utilize what is available or show signs of being deficient. Each plant has a range that it tolerates for any nutrient. Talk to the extension agent in your area. They should be able to come up with average numbers of iron content in the hay. I assume it was grown if not in your county then close by.

Horses need much lower than what they typically get. Figure out just what is in what feeds and supps you already give. The form supplied in as some forms ate better absorbed others not so much or not at all. Get the numbers for the hay and if you need help put the weights for amounts you feed and someone will be able to get a ball park for you. Even the soils high in iron may not be a problem depending on the amounts you feed because plants get toxic too and they can only take up so much.
 

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If a significant amount of hay from NM is eaten by your horse, I'm betting your horse is already over the maximum intake of iron just from the hay. But check the soils map you mentioned.


I'm biting my tongue about alfalfa and an overweight horse.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
If a significant amount of hay from NM is eaten by your horse, I'm betting your horse is already over the maximum intake of iron just from the hay. But check the soils map you mentioned.


I'm biting my tongue about alfalfa and an overweight horse.

Teddy (the one who is getting all the alfalfa hay) isn't the overweight one, he's the one I've been trying to put weight on.

The overweight one is Pony, who has perfect hooves.
 

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One of the things that can affect the amount of iron uptake in grass is manganese. In the soil, there has to actually be more iron than manganese, or you have what's called an inverted ratio. Our agronomist, Kinsey Agricultural Services, actually ordered application of MORE iron in our iron rich soil, and the following hay crop came out with less of both iron and manganese when the soil ratio was corrected.



But you don't get this advice from yield oriented university and other labs, they will only advise to apply whatever improves yield. With mineral balancing you get more balanced nutrition in the crop, with high yield as a side benefit. But it's expensive for a farmer to add something that doesn't improve his bottom line. Mostly, he's not going to care about what's IN the crop, nutrition wise. That's why we have supplements. If you want to learn more about how the mineral balance in the soil affects the plants growing in it, in fairly understandable format, get Neal Kinsey's book, "Hands On Agronomy". Send a soil sample to kinseyag.com and for about 50 bucks you'll get fertility recommendations that will ultimately improve the metabolism of the plants. This isn't airy fairy stuff. Grass plants are nutrition factories and if they don't have the parts to assemble the nutrients, you'll get way too much of one thing and not enough of the other in terms of nutrition for the horse. Grass plants need 18-20 minerals from the soil to do their job.



We think of things like calcium, magnesium, etc. as horse nutrients. But a lot of minerals taken up from the soil by the roots act as catalysts for all the processes in the plant that create phytonutrients. If the plant doesn't have these essential "keys" to its metabolic processes, it cannot complete the transformation of solar energy into nutrients for its own complete metabolic processes, much less a horse's. It's no different than our own need, or our horses' need, for balanced minerals.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
Got it.


Are you supplementing Teddy with anything?
Yes, they all get the same stuff. They get it every time I go out there, which is usually 3-4 times per week. 1-2 cups feed (Crypto Aero, which is mostly hay pellets and oats, I feed it to have something to put the supps in and as a little bit of a treat, not to provide nutrients), Farnam Vita Plus (which has more iron (100mg) and less selenium; I bought it to reflect our soil deficiencies), and SmartPak Smart Combo, which contains all the hoof supplements, including 400 mg copper and 400 mg zinc.

I do think I'm going to switch out the Vita Plus, the more I think about it. I bought it last year when they were on 100 acres of pasture and got very little supplemental hay. This year they are on a much smaller pasture and had been, until about two weeks ago, living almost entirely on hay. So they are probably getting more of their nutritional intake from hay now, whereas it was forage before. So I need to think about not supplementing based on what the soil minerals are, but on what the hay they are getting is.
 
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