Cuckoo For Coconuts; Coconut Meal & Oil in Your Horse’s Diet

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While I believe that following fads in equine nutrition is all too common and sometimes risky, every once in a while, something comes along that has the potential to really add to value. Coconut meal and oil is such a product.

What is it and where does it come from?

Copra meal, or Coconut meal, is a feed ingredient that is the by-product of the oil extraction from dried Coconut kernels.  It comes from the white part of the Coconut, not the shell or husk.  The nut is split and the kernel is removed and dried to below 6% moisture.

The dried Coconut is ground, flaked and cooked until moisture is brought down to 3%. The oil is mechanically extracted from the flakes using an expeller machine, resulting in low-colored oil and a copra cake containing about 7% oil.

Coconut oil for alternative therapy

Coconut meal is rarely a main ingredient in horse feed. Currently it seems to be fed primarily as a supplement in regions where Coconuts are grown and processed or where the product is easily available.

Coconut meal can be pelletized and used as a feed or be used as a protein supplement for grass-fed animals, either alone or in combination with other protein sources.

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Carbohydrates in the Equine Diet

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You know we can’t discuss equine nutrition without covering Carbs.  Especially since Carbohydrates pretty much make up your horse’s entire diet including forages, grains, and by-products of forage and grain.  

sugary-grain-n-treats2.jpg                                                                                                                                                                              I want to keep it simple so you finish with a good understanding of what all the fuss is about regarding Carbohydrates.  Carbohydrate (CHO) is the collective term for starches, sugars and fiber in your horse’s diet.  If you are feeding correctly, this diet should be composed mostly of forage, as in grass, hay, haylage, beet pulp, etc.  Forages provide the structural CHOs a horse can ferment well.  Forages also provide a horse with some simple Carbs such as starch and sugar.

There are two kinds of Carbohydrates; Structural and Non-Structural. Continue reading

Counting Calories in the Equine Diet

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How many of you have counted Calories in your own diet?  Probably most of you are at least familiar with the term and that it provides your body with energy.  A Calorie is actually a measure of energy provided by the food we eat. It is the basic unit of heat energy defined as the amount of heat required to raise one gram of water one degree Celsius.  

All living things have energy requirements. The goal for health (and a healthy weight) is to balance the energy obtained through eating with the energy required by the body. You know, “Calories in/ Calories out.”  This is also true for your horse.

All animals need a certain amount of energy for basic body functions like keeping their hearts beating, digestion, and to maintain body temperature.  This maintenance level of energy is considered the basal metabolic rate. In general, when we refer to “maintenance” levels it usually refers to a mature horse (not growing) that is not in any work, breeding, reproducing or under any weather stressors. But that isn’t very realistic because as we all know there are “easy keepers” and “hardkeepers” with very different “maintenance “needs.

So, in reality this amount of maintenance energy is really related to body size and disposition, for example a hot 17 hand thoroughbred will have a higher energy requirement than a laid back Shetland pony.

Equine Nutrition Nerd_Horse and Shetland standing next to each other in front of white background

In 2007, The National Research Council (NRC) finally updated The Nutrient Requirements of the Horse (the nutrition bible) and they added three levels of “maintenance”; high-level (think hard keeper), medium level and low level (think easy keeper).

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Calcium Phosphorus Ratio in the Equine Diet

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I have found that this equation in minerals gets a lot of attention but little understanding as to why it is so important.  Therefore, I would like to keep this simple and stress that a horse fed a diet based on quality forage should not have any issues with this, and their owners should have little concern.  When I see diets that are heavy in grain or a particular feedstuff (let’s say rice bran) then I will do a ration analysis to make sure this ratio is not out of whack.  Here’s why.

Why is it so important?

Besides salt, Calcium and phosphorous are the two critical minerals needed in horse nutrition.  Calcium and phosphorus are the most abundant minerals in the body, making up 70% of the total mineral content.  They are both macro minerals and needed in large quantity by the horse.

In contrast, the micro minerals such as copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium, and zinc are required by the horse in small (trace) amounts.

As with humans, Calcium is necessary for strong, healthy bones with 99% of the Calcium in the body being contained in the bones and teeth.  In the horse it plays a vital role in maintaining strong and healthy bones, cartilage and joints for performance without injury/breakdown.

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Other less known functions of Calcium in the horse include roles in metabolism, nerve impulses, heart and diaphragm contraction and the functioning of the GI muscle for digestion. Calcium also has a role in specific metabolic reactions such as blood clotting, normal cell membrane function, glandular secretion, temperature regulation, regulating activity of many enzymes, and cellular activity.

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Choke in Horses

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Green slobber, gasping horse, frantic owner.  An episode of choke is one of the worst things a horse and horse owner can experience.

As an equine nutrition nerd I deal with all kinds of feeding programs and in every type I have heard of an incident of a horse choking.  Heck horses can even choke on long grass. With that said, let’s look deeper in to “Need-to-Knows” about equine esophageal choke.

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