When do honeybees eat oats?

Foal rearing

Feed foals and yearlings as needed

Nowadays it is not difficult to buy a horse with a particularly good pedigree. Genetically there is potential for high-class riding horses with enormous rideability and high sensitivity. The question that has to be asked, however, is can these blood-imprinted horses still be fed as they were 20 years ago? Or let's go one step further: Can we still feed these horses like we did 100 years ago?

Which factors also lead to the development of certain character traits? What role do epigenetic factors such as husbandry and feeding play in this?

Keeping thoroughbreds as a role model

As always, the rearing and feeding of thoroughbreds in huge areas that allow the mares to take in grass on these well-tended, seemingly endless pastures is exemplary. The topic of feed quality plays an extremely important role in the rearing of thoroughbreds. Silage or haylage are frowned upon and black oats are considered the ultimate in concentrated feed. Ultimately, this high-quality basic feeding also aims to protect the liver of the young performance horses and can only be fully confirmed.



In contrast, it doesn't always look like this in warmblood breeding. Limited pasture areas, limited feed quality and in many places too little exercise over the winter time limit the actually existing genetic potential. There is a risk that the genotypically existing potential will not be phenotypically expressed.

The number of young adolescent horses raised on silage or haylage is increasing alarmingly. Rearing characterized by the uptake of biogenic amines puts a long-term strain on the liver and costs valuable nutrient reserves, which the living being, which is in full development, needs to strengthen the musculoskeletal system and the immune system.

Are the nutritional needs of the weaners met?

To what extent can the nutritional requirements of the young animal be covered by simple mineral feed? A warm-blooded foal, whose body weight as an adult horse should be around 600 kilograms, weighs around 300 kilograms on average between the sixth and twelfth months of life. This number is of great importance in determining nutrients.

The protein requirement of growing foals is 3 grams per kilogram of body weight in the first months of life and then drops to about 1 g. Therefore, the protein requirement of a weaners is estimated to be about 610 grams of digestible crude protein.

The weaners' diet is based on hay and grass, of which they will ingest at least 6 kilograms a day to meet their protein needs. With a protein content of around 50 grams per kilogram, we have 300 grams of protein. Feeding oats with at least one to two kilos of oats per day (approx. 85g of raw protein) improves the situation to approx. 410 grams.

Covering your calcium and phosphorus needs

The calcium requirement for weaning is highest between the ages of seven and twelve months at 39 grams per day. Given a diet of assumed 6 kilograms of hay or grass (4.5g calcium per kilogram), a calcium supplement is obviously necessary. The phosphorus requirement is 21 grams per day, which is only insufficiently covered by hay and grass (2.5 grams of phosphorus per kilo). Here oats make a good contribution with 3.2 grams of phosphorus.

The downside - the big "but"

Determining the protein, calcium and phosphorus requirements of farm animals was one of the first achievements in nutritional physiology. It was not until many years later that the nutritional values ​​for magnesium or the trace elements were determined.

It cannot therefore be ruled out that, taking into account the perfect coverage of the magnesium and trace element requirements, lower levels of calcium, phosphorus and protein are conceivable. In principle, the inorganic calcium and phosphorus compounds presented in commercial mineral feeds are also questionable. Not only their resorption capacity play a role, but also possible displacement reactions which in turn can lead to a lower supply of trace elements.

The suspicion is that horses that grow tall with traditional and conventional mineral feed, but do not grow robust enough in terms of the musculoskeletal system.

Magnesium is the better calcium

The need for magnesium in growing foals should not be underestimated. 12% of the total magnesium is in the bones, the later use as a sport horse requires a certain storage, which should be filled very early. The requirement is at least 20 mg per kilo of body mass and can therefore be understood as being covered from 8 grams per day. High-quality hay contains around 2 grams of magnesium per kilo, so the magnesium requirement is considered to have been met. However, this does not take into account the fluctuating magnesium content in the hay and a possible increased need for nutrients due to the demands placed on today's genetic potential. Since the financial means are generally limited in rearing, the horse breeder falls back on commercially available mineral feed. In general, the magnesium is in the form of an oxide compound, a space-saving, simply knitted molecule whose availability for the body is only ensured in severe deficiency states and whose nutrient availability can be demonstrated in the blood, but not necessarily in the tissue.

Trace elements in the rearing of modern sport horses

Securing the trace element requirement already in the mother mare, during lactation and when rearing foals makes perfect sense. The studies that have confirmed the development of cartilage damage in foals due to a copper deficiency are almost old hat. Foregoing a needs-based zinc supply results in unnecessary veterinary costs for the breeder. Foal warts, muck, bronchitis, infections, wound healing disorders and finally castration problems are the obvious signs of a zinc deficiency in rearing.

Nutrient deficiencies in the area of ​​manganese lead to tendon-stilted feet, joint deformations, stunted growth or excessive legs. A good supply of selenium strengthens the heart and muscles as well as the immune system of the young horse.

Weaning a foal as a nutrient disaster

A particular challenge to high-quality and needs-based nutrition for the foal is weaning and thus separation from the mother, along with the loss of breast milk.

In general, the first transport and integration into a foal group is on the agenda. The foal experiences a first shock, both mentally and physically, which, like all stressful events, may result in increased nutrients that cannot even come close to being compensated for with normal commercial mineral feed. Before weaning, the foal should be adequately supplied with the trace elements that are so important for the immune system. Attention should also be paid to a sensible vitaminization, because autumn is approaching and with it a time with less vegetation. Stress, loss of breast milk and additional coat change are only three reasons to rethink the really needs-based mineralization of such a young animal.

Complete rethinking possible?

Not everything has to be changed. A look back at horse keeping 100 years ago shows how important high quality basic feed has always been for growing horse material. No literature ignores the fact that horses have completely different demands on the quality of their basic feed than cattle or pigs.

Due to the changed movement potential, the possible performance and nervous sensitivity of today's sport horses, however, in addition to the chemical composition of the mineral feed, the weighting of the individual components should also be reconsidered.

In our Institute for the development of nutritional concepts for horsesWe were able to observe in the rearing of yearlings that the development of the musculoskeletal system can be significantly improved through diet, which has been confirmed by imaging measures.

So it goes on: Feeding the yearlings


Photo: fotolia: # 212932015 | Author: Countrypixel

# 206703923 | Author: mavcon


Dr. Susanne Weyrauch-Wiegand November 2017 revised 2020