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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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I read a recent question concerning foal nutrition and good and bad protein. Could you give examples of good and bad quality protein?

Where are you from? New Kent Va

How did you locate this forum? surfing

Re: Protein

Hello Joy,

It’s not that proteins are “good” or “bad” but rather "high" vs "low" in quality. High quality protein contains all of the amino acids that the horse cannot make on his own – called “essential amino acids.” And, a high quality protein has plenty of them.

A low quality protein, on the other hand, is generally missing one or more essential amino acids or only has them in very low quantity.

So, when a foal is growing, it is growing muscle mass, hair, bone, skin, red blood cells, etc. – all body proteins. In order to do this, he needs to have all of the essential amino acids. So, it’s important to feed a high quality protein.

Plant proteins are generally not of very high quality. But, if we mix certain plants together, we can create a high quality protein – a good mixture of all of the essential amino acids. Grains (oats, corn, barley, etc.) and grass hays are very low in the amino acid called, “Lysine.” Lysine is an essential amino acid. So, in order to make these feeds better, you need to add another feed that has plenty of Lysine. Legumes such as alfalfa, soybean meal, clover, peanut hay, etc. have lots of lysine to share with the grains and grasses.

One other point – when you look on a feed tag, it will tell you the “% Crude Protein.” This number is virtually meaningless because all it really tells you is the “percent nitrogen” – you have no way of knowing if the protein in that feed is of high or low quality. The way to tell is to look at the ingredients and look for a good mixture of plant sources including legumes.

Thanks for asking this very important question.

All the best,

Dr. Getty