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The Facts About Protein

Friday, August 18, 2017 by Dr. Nettie Liburt

Protein is important for more than just muscle building. Protein is a component of most tissues in the body, and is essential for cell structure, the immune system, transport of oxygen and minerals in the blood, enzyme activity and many other biological functions.

What is protein?

All protein is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are like the letters of an alphabet that make up the words that are proteins. Essential amino acids must be consumed in the diet because they cannot be made by the body. Examples of essential amino acids are lysine, methionine and threonine. These amino acids are contained in protein sources such as fresh forage, soybeans and alfalfa.

Protein Myths Busted

Excess dietary protein does not cause horses to be hot tempered, have excess energy or contribute to growth abnormalities (developmental orthopedic disease, or DOD) in young animals. The main causes of DOD include genetics, high calorie intake and mineral imbalances. If DOD is suspected, a veterinarian and nutritionist should be consulted promptly. In addition, high protein diets do not cause damage to kidneys or the liver.

Dietary protein

Healthy, mature horses require about 10% of the total diet as good quality protein. Horses in heavy exercise, such as race horses or high level eventers, may require a little more protein in the diet. Young, growing horses, pregnant and lactating mares have much higher protein requirements compared to the average adult.

Protein in Feed

One pound of BUCKEYE® Nutrition’s ration balancer, GRO ‘N WIN™, contains 32% crude protein, and provides 145 grams of protein, about 23% of an 1,100 pound horse’s daily maintenance need.

Five pounds of a grain concentrate with 12% crude protein, such as EQ8™ Gut Health, provides 272 grams crude protein, or about 35% of a moderately exercising horse’s daily need. The balance of protein should be provided by good quality forage.

Excess Protein

Excess dietary protein is broken down and excreted in the urine. Nitrogen is a component of all amino acids in protein, therefore consuming excess dietary protein will cause increased excretion of nitrogen. Excreted nitrogen can then be converted to ammonia by bacteria in the process of decomposition. If nitrogen from horse waste (or other sources, for that matter) runs off into surface water, the potential for eutrophication of waterways increases. Horses with kidney disease or liver dysfunction should be placed on a low-protein diet. It is still important to provide quality protein for these compromised horses without excess, which can strain already struggling organs.

Insufficient Protein

Inadequate dietary protein will stunt growth, cause weight loss, fetal loss in pregnant mares, decreased milk production in lactating mares, and loss of muscle mass. These will occur despite adequate intake of calories.


Good quality hay contains healthy protein to support the overall health of the horse. Protein is not harmful when consumed in excess and does not cause excitability. A balanced diet that provides protein with essential amino acids is the baseline for a healthy horse.


The Ecosystems Center, Primer on Nitrogen. Online at:

National Research Council. 2007. Nutrient Requirements of Horses, 6th Revised Edition. National Academies Press, Washington, DC.

Westendorf, M. 2004. Horses and manure. Rutgers Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet #036.

What is Tying Up?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 by BUCKEYE Nutrition

Tying up, or exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER), is an exercise-induced syndrome of muscle pain and cramping.  Classic signs of ER include muscle pain and stiffness, excessive sweating, and reluctance to move.  Researchers have uncovered several different causes for ER, including nutrition, over-exertion and genetics.  The two main chronic forms are recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER) and equine polysaccharide storage myopathy (EPSM).  Horses may experience single acute episodes of ER although they do not have the same muscle defects as RER or EPSM. 

RER is a potentially heritable disease affecting the regulation of calcium between cells that leads to the breakdown of muscle during exercise.  Young horses in training, fillies, and horse with nervous temperaments appear to be most affected by RER.

EPSM (also called PSSM) is most often seen in stock-type horses (Quarter Horses), Warmbloods (Hanoverians, Westphalians), and some draft breeds (Percherons, Belgians).  It is the result of a defect in the storage of sugar in the muscles.  Sugar stored in the muscle is known as glycogen.  Normally, glycogen is broken down by an enzyme known as amylase and used as energy for performance.  Horses with EPSM cannot break down the glycogen due to an abnormality making it resistant to breakdown by amylase.  This results in the buildup of muscle glycogen and causes the horse to tie up.  Symptoms include those associated with ER, but may include exercise intolerance, muscle stiffness, back pain, shifting lameness, muscle atrophy, and a camped-out stance.

Dietary Goals for EPSM or RER horses

 Good Quality Hay: Provide 1.5-2% of body weight in hay per day

% Digestible Energy as NSC  EPSM: <15% NSC ------  ER/RER: <20% NSC but not < 10% for horses in intense work

% Digestible Energy as Fat for EPSM: 5-10% fat ------ ER/RER: 15-20% fat


Recommended Products For EPSM: GRO ‘N WIN ® + ULTIMATE FINISH® 25 or 40 SAFE ‘N EASY ™ Pelleted

                                                 ER/RER: TRIFECTA™CADENCE™ ULTRA

BUCKEYE® Nutrition partners with the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 by BUCKEYE Nutrition

BUCKEYE® Nutrition has partnered with the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, an internationally recognized equine research facility, to continue support of research dedicated to advancing the science of horse nutrition, specifically in the areas of obesity, laminitis and the senior horse.  By collaborating with key research institutes and universities around the world, BUCKEYE® Nutrition continues to set the bar for nutritional innovation and science-based solutions. 

The research partnership will be led by Amanda Adams, PhD, Assistant Research Professor at the Gluck Center along with Pat Harris, MA, VetMB, PhD, DipECVCN MRCVS, head of the WALTHAM® Equine Studies Group and Director of Science for MARS Horsecare.  Prof Harris comments that “this is a fantastic opportunity to work with Dr. Adams and collaborate on innovative research which will address both fundamental as well as practical questions of key interest to all those interested in the health and welfare of horses.”

Dr. Adams’ research focuses on improving the health and well-being of the aged horse and understanding the effects of obesity on various metabolic and inflammatory components, particularly in horses affected by equine metabolic syndrome (EMS).  Dr. Adams is a past recipient of the BUCKEYE® Nutrition & WALTHAM Equine Research Grant, in which data indicated that age does play a role in regulating certain aspects of inflammatory and metabolic function in geriatric horses.  She states “Collaborations are critical to the success of any research program and I very much look forward to collaborating with Dr. Pat Harris and the BUCKEYE® Nutrition & WALTHAM Equine Research team, who are truly passionate about the horse, and are a team that not only supports product development research but basic research in order to better understand the mechanisms of biology behind aging, obesity and laminitis, allowing us, as an industry, to provide better care for the horse.” 

Protein and Equine Ration Balancers: Let's Do the Math

By Clair Thunes, PhD Feb 27, 2017 The

Preventing Gastric Ulcers With Feed

For those who have had the misfortune of suffering from heart burn or gastric ulcers, you will be familiar with the pain and discomfort caused by excessive stomach acid.  Similar to humans, horses are at risk for gastric ulcers.  The trouble with the horse’s stomach is that it still functions the same as an evolutionary horse that roamed the plains and ate small, frequent meals.  Under natural conditions, the horse would eat for approximately 16-18 hours per day.  During this time, saliva is produced in the mouth to lubricate the food before it is swallowed.  Saliva is a natural defense against acidic gastric juices and is only produced when the horse chews, buffering the stomach acid and supplying bicarbonate, a buffer to help further prevent damage to the lining of the stomach.

The type of feed being consumed affects the amount of saliva produced.  Researchers have found that when hay and fresh grass is consumed, the horse will produce 400-480 grams of saliva per 100 grams of dry matter.  However, when a cereal-based feed is consumed, saliva production will drop by almost half to approximately 206 grams per 100 grams dry matter, in turn greatly reducing the buffering capacity.

Risk Factors for Gastric Ulcers


High starch meals

Access to poor quality forage, like straw

Inadequate amount of forage

Limited water intake


Little to no turnout

Extended time between meals


Weaning, trasportation


NSAIDs, for example


Intentse training and/or exercise

What can you do to keep the stomach healthy and help prevent gastric ulcers?

Increase the amount of forage in the diet to allow for longer chew time, stimulating more production of saliva which can help buffer the stomach.  Do not feed straw as the sole forage source.

Feed small, frequent grain and forage meals to mimic a horse’s natural digestive pattern, keeping meals under 5 pounds each;

Limit starch intake and utilize fat as a calorie source when necessary;

Always provide clean, fresh water at all times.

Recommended Performance Products

Performance Level: Light or Moderate


Low in starch (<10% starch)

High in fiber and 6% fat

Performance Level: Light, Moderate or Intense

Cadence™ Ultra

Moderate starch (<15%)

High in fiber and 14% fat


Moderate starch (<20%)

8% fat


Moderate starch (<20%)

High in fiber and 12% fat


Low starch (<10%)

High fiber and 8% fat

Zelko Farms Equine & Pet

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