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

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

Take a look at my Nutrition Library and Tips of the Month for a variety of answers on selected topics. Be sure to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter, Forage for Thought

I also have a growing number of recordings on "Teleseminars on Nutrition Topics that Concern You" as well as the new, Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series -- printed versions of favorite teleseminars.

And finally, look for my articles in a variety of local publications and online newsletters, as well as the Horse Journal, where I am the Contributing Nutrition Editor.  


All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Vets!!!(Somewhat of a vent - sorry)

There is a 2 year old horse at my barn who just aquired a new owner. She has doubled his grain, added calf manna (like 2 quarts a feeding), and alf alfa cubes. Everyone has been freaking out about the alf alfa and the protein % - saying it will cause growth problems. I tried to explain that the real danger was in overfeeding period and the starch levels in the grain and Calf Manna and it has long been disproven that protein causes OCD. Anyway, he did start having problems and when she took him to the vet guess what she said - he is getting too much protein and that is causing him to have OCD. There goes my credibility - aren't they supposed to keep up to date?

So now she has been told to stop all grain and espeially the alf-alfa and just feed coastal. She also said horses should only be on an 8% protein feed unless they were in intense work. I didn't think the % of protein was the issue - don't horses need an "amount" of protein. There's horses on %14 protein that get less protein than others eating larger amounts of a 10% feed. If somebody only gives a few pounds of a %12 or even %14 how can that be too much protein when a horse on 5-6 lbs of a %10 is getting more?

Where are you from? Florida

Re: Vets!!!(Somewhat of a vent - sorry)

Hi Kim,

I understand your frustration. But, take heart in the fact that you are up to date on the facts, and your friends (and unfortunately, the veterinarian) are not aware of the research that has been going on for years regarding the problems with OCD and high starch diets.

Veterinarians have an enormous amount of medical information to keep up with and many vets (though there are exceptions) do not take a nutrition course during their vet school experience. This is why a qualified equine nutritionist can be a valuable asset.

So, to address your issue – Calf Manna is for cows, not horses – period. And, the percent protein in a feed is meaningless – what you have to look at is the quality of the protein. Since horse feeds are made from plants (not animal sources) the quality of protein is limited. Therefore, the only way to get an adequate amount of quality protein is to mix different plant sources (e.g., grains or grasses with legumes). The “percent protein” value on the feed tag is actually the “percent nitrogen.” Without knowing the ingredients, this percentage is not useful.

So, I generally recommend a feed that has at least 12% protein, that is made from such ingredients as alfalfa, soy, rice bran, beet pulp, and other non-starch ingredients.

Thanks for writing. Vent anytime!

Dr. Getty