The Risks Of Excess Protein
Protein is frequently overfed to horses. People may think that if some protein is good, then more is better—that couldn’t be further from the truth. Excessively high protein feeds are not only more expensive, they are unhealthy.
Most active adult horses do not need a feed with more than 14% protein.
Balanced diets require a relationship of nutrients to nutrients and nutrients to energy. A formula that is concentrated with excess nutrients, such as protein, is not balanced. A “one feed fits all” approach is also not balanced. Always select a horse feed that is specific to a life or work level (Mare & Foal, Performance, Senior, etc.).
Excess dietary protein can…
- Trigger weight gain
- Increase blood sugar
- Have an adverse effect on performance
- Overwork the kidneys and liver
- Reduce efficiency of protein digested with bolus feeding of protein
- Adversely affect microbial population in the gut
- Translate to more calories fed
- Have a detrimental effect on growth and possible increase occurrence of growth disorders
- Lead to subclinical dehydration
- Interfere with other nutrient utilization and absorption, such as calcium
- Metabolically shift energy utilization to cellular breakdown of excess protein
- Increase wasted energy given off as heat
- Adversely affect the protein to calorie ratio
Protein daily requirements of adult horses range from 0.5 to 1.4 grams per pound of body weight. A pleasure horse has different nutrient requirements than a working horse, growing horse different than young adult horse, pregnant mare different than lactating mare, and so on.
A “one feed fits all” approach is also not balanced. A pleasure horse has different nutrient requirements than a working horse, a growing horse is different than a senior horse, and so on. Always select a horse feed that is specific to a life or work level (Mare & Foal, Performance, Senior, etc.).