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Effect of Nutrition on the Production of Young Stock, DOD’s and Hoof Growth

Info: 3263 words (13 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in Biology

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Title: Equine Nutrition


Assessment Title: The effect of nutrition on the production of young stock, DOD’s and hoof growth



Table of Contents

       Page number

Introduction       3

Monitoring Growth Rates    4

Feeding      4 – 5

Bone Development     6

 Factors In Bone Development  6

Nutrition     6

DODS      6

Angular Limb Deformities   6

Physitis     6 – 7

Flexural Deformities    7

Hoof Growth      8

Nutrition Of The Foot     8

Proteins      8

Vitamins      8

 Biotin      8

Minerals       9

 Copper      9

 Zinc      9

 Manganese     9

 Selenium     9

 Calcium     9

 Essential Fatty Acids    9

Available Hoof Supplements    9 – 10

References      10


In this assignment I will discuss three different topics, beginning with monitoring growth rates in foals, weanlings and young horses and the effect feed stuffs have on their growth rate, I will then outline the factors that effect bone development and explain how different nutrients play a vital role in the development of strong and healthy bone and I will also discuss the process involved in healthy hoof growth and how minerals proteins and vitamins effect this process.

It is a big help to stud people to understand these things, as mismanagement of the nutrients, minerals and vitamins can be detrimental to young stocks development.  A greater understanding of these topics will lead to a much more productive stud farm.

Monitoring growth rates

It is very important to monitor the growth rate of horses from the foal stage right up to maturity.  Their growth should maintain an even and upward curve up until maturity usually at five years of age.  The reason we should try and assist them to develop in this pattern is to stop sudden growth spurts which will put extra pressure on their joints and lead to poor conformation or even diet related disorders such as laminitis, Bog spavin, contracture of tendons etc. 

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We must be careful to feed the correct nutritional foodstuffs at the right time in the young horses development as if we overload a horses system with certain nutrients or deprive them of nutrients they can lead to DOD’s occurring.  Feeding to much to young horses can cause fluctuation in hormone levels, such as insulin, thyroid and growth hormones, it can also lead to the horse becoming to heavy and increasing the risk of DOD.  Sudden changes in a horses diet which alters their nutrition levels is also a major factor in the risk of DOD to young stock as suddenly increasing protein or energy intake can cause sudden growth spurts, likewise a sudden decrease in energy or protein intake can contribute to DOD’s.  This often happens at weaning time when the foal is suddenly deprived of the mare’s milk.


Feeding is very important in a young horses growth rate, as overfeeding can often be as harmful as underfeeding.  The most important nutrients for growth are protein (amino acids), energy, vitamins and minerals.  It is important to continually assess and re-assess each horse to see what nutrients it needs as their needs differ at different stages in their development. 

This is easily shown by comparing two types of feed from the same company but for different ages of horses.  I have researched two Redmills feeds, Foal & Yearling mix and Redmills Stud cubes.

We can see from the table below that two feeds are meant for different age group horses as the feed for foals and yearlings has more crude protein and crude oils and fats, it also has slightly higher percentages of calcium and phosphorous than the older horses feed as a foal will need these at that time in their development to develop correctly.  You will also notice that the stud cubes which are meant for older horses has a higher percentage of fibre, sodium and chloride which is needed at that stage of their development.  In both feeds there is trace elements found in the form of iron, iodine, copper, manganese, zinc and selenium, although these are found in both feeds they are much higher in the foal and yearling feed, as they need them more at this time compared to an older horse.

Redmills Foal & Yearling mix                     

Analytical Constituents

Crude Protein


Crude Fibre


Crude Oils & Fats


Crude Ash














Digestible Energy

12.8 MJ/kg

Redmills Stud Cubes

Analytical Constituents

Crude Protein


Crude Fibre


Crude Oils & Fats


Crude Ash














Digestible Energy

11.5 MJ/g




Bone Development

Factors in Bone Development

From my research I have learnt that there is many factors that effect bone development, the amount of exercise that a horse receives greatly affects it, as does the diet of each horse. Kentucky Equine Research is an international equine research company with the aim to promote greater understanding of the equine nutrition and exercise physiology; they have conducted many research projects into how nutrition and exercise affect bone strength.


Bone development is greatly affected by the minerals and nutrients that a horse takes in through its diet.  The main sources that effect bone growth and development are calcium, phosphorous and manganese, the calcium: phosphorous ratio should be 2:1.  Copper, zinc, vitamins A and D and many other nutrients have a significant effect on bone development. 


The term DOD (developmental orthopaedic disorder) was first used in 1986 and cover all orthopaedic problem that can befall a foal or young horse, such as angular limb deformities, osteochondritis dissecans, physitis, flexural deformities, juvenile osteoarthritis.  The underlying problem in these growth irregularities is the cartilage failing to develop and mature properly.

Angular Limb Deformities

Angular limb deformities can be seen from looking at the horse from a head on or rear view and it is when the inside or outside of a joint or joints are higher or lower on one side.  Many of these issues resolve themselves in a young horse and cause no problems.  For instance a foals knees will often appear like they are leaning inwards (carpal valgus) and this will usually rectify itself but if they are leaning away from each other (carpal varus) this requires serious and immediate attention by way of transphyseal bridging to halt growth on one side of the plate and let the other side rectify itself.  If the deformity is in the fetlock or below the farrier should be able to deal with any abnormalities as long as they are called before the growth plate closes.  A rapid growth spurt as a result of poor nutrition, mostly over-nutrition, can result in uneven growth within a growth plate and bring on angular limb deformity.


Physitis can be diagnosed by swelling around the growth plates in the young horse.  Its is mostly in the distal extremities of the metatarsal bone, third metacarpal, tibia and radius, you can notice flaring at the level of the growth plate and gives a “boxy” appearance.  Poor conformation, toxicosis, excessive exercise, overweight horses, rapid growth and malnutrition mostly cause it.  It is often seen in overweight, top-heavy foals during periods of dry weather when the ground underfoot is hard and on land where the calcium: phosphorous ratio is low which makes the diet is imbalanced.  The best form of treatment for this type of DOD is to put the horse on a restricted diet so as to bring their weight back to a manageable level and slow down their growth rate, reducing the size of the horses paddock or even moving it to a large well ventilated area with a soft surface is also a big help when combatting physitis.  Regular treatment by your farrier is also strongly advised aswell as correcting the diet, most importantly bringing the calcium: phosphorous rate back to 2:1. 

Flexural Deformities

Flexural deformities, foals are often born with this condition or may acquire them at an older age.  Uterine malposition, teratogenic insults (arthrogryposis), and genetic defects have been either implicated or proved to cause contracted limbs in newborn foals.  Chronic pain is the commonest cause of this if the foal is not born with it, the pain often stems from osteochondritis, physitis, pedal bone fracture, degenerative bone disease or soft tissue wounds.  The pain brings on muscle contraction and shortening of the flexor musculotendinous.  You will notice the foal try to move around on his tippy-toes or even roll over on his fetlocks or pastern joints.  Poor nutrition balances within the diet that lead to poor bone growth are a major factor in this condition, they must be addressed as part of the treatment.  The older the animal the harder it is to treat this condition.  Unless the condition is severe in newborn foals it can often be rectified by itself otherwise the diet must be properly managed by the handler to make sure the right ratios of calcium and phosphorous (2:1) are received by the foal. Splints or cast may also be recommended but must be changed regularly to prevent sores from chaffing and resized as needed.  Oxytetracycline can also be administered at high doses (40-60 mg/kg).  Surgery is often required in severe case but the prognosis is favorable if caught early enough as long as post surgery care of nutritional correction, foot trimming and analgesia are properly done.

Hoof Growth

Horses hooves grow from the coronary band downwards.  A normal healthy hoof grows between ¼ and 3/8 of an inch every month, which means a horse will grow a new hoof every year as a normal hoof is between three and four inches in length.  The quicker the foot grows the healthier and higher quality it tends to be.  This also makes it easier to keep properly trimmed and/or shod.  Hoof growth is affected by numerous factors such as age, season, injury of sensitive structures and nutrition.

Nutrition of the Hoof

A horses hoof requires a readily available source and large amounts of glucose in comparison to other tissues, energy (glucose and fatty acids) and protein are very important for a healthy hoof due to the makeup of keratine and protein.  Fatty acids, minerals and many vitamins are also integral in a healthy hoof.


Proteins comprise of amino acids joined together and are broken down through digestion, digestion breaks down these chemical bonds and releases the amino acids for use by all tissues within the horse.  The hoof structures building blocks are comprised of sulfur containing amino acids, cysteine and methionine; they contain keratine and cell envelope proteins that make the hoof wall.  Methionine is not created within the horses body so must be provided in the diet of the horse, because of this many hoof supplements on the market contain methionine and many more sulfur containing amino acids.  A good diet with a high-quality protein source would usually provide enough organic sulfur to maintain healthy hooves.  Ideally we should supply our horses with all ten essential amino acids as limiting the diet to any less may create an amino acid imbalance and lead to other problems.


Vitamins apart from A and E are produced within the body.  The horse creates vitamins D and C, while the large intestinal microbial residents create vitamins B and vitamin K. Green forage such as grass contains vitamins A, D, E, K, as well as some B vitamins

Vitamin A plays an important role in cell differentiation, and there are studies, which indicate that its deficiency can lead to coronary band inflammation.

Biotin This is a water-soluble B vitamin, which is produced in a horse’s hindgut and used to form a strengthening substance for cell union during hoof wall cornification. Biotin helps to remedy defects in the structure of the hoof and in cases of hoof elasticity.  Commercially manufactured horse feeds comprising of quality ingredients include naturally occurring biotin.  Biotin is also found naturally in grains, bran, and yeast.


Copper A copper-dependent enzyme, thiol oxidase, is essential for building disulfide bonds in keratin.  Copper affects the strength of the outer hoof wall’s fully cornified cells and is an important element of antioxidant enzymes that protect cell membranes.  Most natural feedstuffs contain copper, but sometimes not in quantitys required to meet equine nutritional needs in horses.  Most feeds contain copper that meets equine dietary needs.

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Zinc is required for upkeep, repair, and reproduction of epithelial (outer tissue) cells, including hoof wall epidermal cells.  Zinc is an element of enzymes necessary for synthesis of keratins, keratin related proteins, cell envelope proteins, collagen, and lipoproteins, all which help and lead to hoof strength.  Zinc also has an antioxidant role.  Zinc is found in all natural feedstuffs, but it might be found in less than the necessary amounts particularly in hay, it is commonly supplemented through feed.

Manganese This mineral is vital to chondroitin sulfate synthesis which is fundamental to joint cartilage maintenance and bone formation, this means it contributes to internal hoof structures’ health.  Manganese is also an antioxidant.  Forage can be used as a manganese source, along with diet supplements.

Selenium Selenium is an essential mineral and is a component of an enzyme (glutathione peroxidase) that helps in cell membrane protection.  Selenium works along with vitamin E as an antioxidant.  Selenium deficiency can lead to impaired immune responses; it is common for horse owners to add selenium-fortified supplements to horses diets.  But, excess supplementation can lead to toxicity, selenium toxicity presents itself in horses with noticeable thinning of mane and tail, and these animals eventually develop cracks below the coronary band.  If not treated toxicity can cause the hoof’s laminar attachments, which connect the coffin bone to the hoof wall to separate, resulting in painful hoof sloughing that can necessitate euthanasia.

Calcium This mineral is essential for cell-to-cell attachment within hoof and for metabolism of intercellular lipids.  Natural feedstuffs contain calcium, but grains have higher amounts of phosphorus than calcium and this can prevent calcium absorption.

Essential Fatty Acids

Fats create a barrier to prevent permeability in the hoof.  Intracellular lipids assist in cell-to-cell linkage to keep bacteria and fungi from penetrating hoof.  Diets with sufficient levels of fat are valuable to the health of the hoof.

Available Hoof Supplements

Hoof First contains high levels of biotin (40 MG per day) and also contains all essential vitamins and minerals to help maintain healthy hooves.  The high levels of biotin help grow healthy hooves, fight problems such as thin soles and cracked or chipped hooves.

Hoofmaker Pellets contains all the nutrients required to develop and maintain a healthy hoof.  It contains high levels of Biotin – as discussed above (37.5mg per 50g serving) and sulphur, which are essential for the role of Keratin Sulphate that provides the structural matrix to the hoof. It also contains high levels of Zinc, which is a component of many metalloenzymes used in protein metabolism, and is imperative for healing epidermal tissue.


  • Stablemanagement.com
  • Ker.com/equinews/trainingandbonedevelopment
  • Msdvetmanual.com
  • Craig Wood, University of Kentucky
  • Thehorse.com

[i] https://redmills.ie/product-category/youngstock/


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