Should You Let Your Horse Eat Calf Feed?

Cows Eating In A FarmSome farmers find nothing wrong with giving calf feed to their horses. Even if they both come from Takanini Feeds, horse feed and cattle feed are not interchangeable. Though the basic ingredients of livestock feed are essentially similar, not all feeds carry the same nutritional specifications. In some cases, giving your horses cattle feed can even be fatal. Here are some key differences between cattle feed and horse feed:

Vitamins and minerals

Cattle feed doesn't contain much minerals and vitamins since cows require lower vitamins and minerals. Horses need more energy for exercising and breeding, thus they need more nutrients to live well. Horse feed consists of more concentrated nutrients such as B-vitamins as well as trace minerals. Compared to cattle, horses tend to easily lose electrolytes via sweating. Horse feed thus contains high electrolyte levels.

Digestive processes

A horse's gastrointestinal tract vastly differs from cattle. Therefore, the fat utilised in both animals’ feed needs to be also different. Though both absorb fat within their small intestines, the bacteria that reside in a cattle’s intestines have a low tolerance for large quantities of fat. Their food consists of a protected fat source, referred to as “rumen-protected”, to ensure digestion. This same rumen-protected fat cannot be digested by horses, and could even be fatal once ingested. The fat present in horse feeds comes from vegetable oil or rice bran.

Horses are picky eaters

While cows can eat mostly anything, horses are picky eaters. Cattle feed contains grains that are of low quality. At times, the ingredients aren't as purified and may contain foreign objects such as dirt, sticks, rocks, and weeds. Though cattle have no issues ingesting foreign substances, these same materials could be very dangerous when consumed by horses.

All in all, do give to cattle what is for cattle, and feed to horses what is best for horses. Both animals are built differently and must, therefore, be fed differently.