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Amino Acid Nutrition for Horses

Little is known about the exact amino acid requirements of horses, however estimations can be made to improve the protein quality of horse rations.

In production animal industries (e.g. pig/poultry/dairy etc), nutritionists formulate diets based on amino acid requirements because they know that if just one amino acid is low, then the end product (e.g. lean meat, milk production etc) will be compromised. As we don't have a well-defined "end product" in horse nutrition, amino acid requirements are not as well defined. For this reason, many equine nutritionists formulate diets based on crude (or total) protein and just one amino acid (lysine) for which dietary requirements are known.

Estimations on amino acid requirements of horses can however be made, with the current published method applying ratios of amino acids in horse muscle (or mare's milk in the case of growing horses) to estimate dietary requirements. While this data is unlikely to be exact, it does give us a good indication of which amino acids might be low, potentially impacting growth rates, muscle synthesis and energy production.

High quality protein sources such as soy and canola meal will help to fulfil amino acid requirements but are often unpalatable to horses, especially those under pressure/in work. An alternative method is to use pellets or concentrates that are formulated based on highly palatable protein sources and fortified with specific amino acids that may be lacking.

The provision of essential amino acids in the ration is particularly important for growing foals, lactating mares and horses in heavy work promoting optimal growth, muscle development and recovery.

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