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Horses - Diet and Nutrition/raw milk for under developed baby horses


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under developed  
hello ma'am. top trainers at our local racetrack provide raw milk for newly arrived 2 year old horses. especially for under developed babies like the one i have attached an image. are they doing right? does milk play a vital role in horse growth?

Hello Caine,

Thank you for your question.  By the time a horse reaches 2 years of age, its ability to digest the lactose in milk is practically non-existent, and the horse is not able to derive the benefit from milk that a 2 month old horse can.  Horses are born with the ability to break down mares milk and convert it to energy, protein and other nutrients, but that ability decreases over time as their digestive systems begin to evolve to being able to digest forages.

In my opinion, feeding milk to 2 year old horses is a waste of resources.  You are better off formulating a diet with quality forages and concentrates.

But there is a more important force at play here.  Horses have largely predetermined growth patterns, and are designed to reach certain levels of growth and maturity by certain times in their life.  If you miss those growth milestones, you can't fully make them up.  

A horse is expected to reach 64% of its mature body weight by 12 months of age, 86% by 2 years of age and 95% by 3 years of age.

So if you have an underdeveloped 2 year old, it doesn't matter what you start feeding it at the age of 2, its never going to get back the growth it lost in those first 2 years.  If you want 2 year old horses to reach 86% of their mature size, you need to focus more on the first 24 months of their lives.

Thanks, Corlena  

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Corlena Patterson


I can help with any of your horse nutrition questions and concerns. I have been involved with horses for closing on 40 years, with a B.Sc in Animal Science and currently working on an M.Sc in Equine Science with the University of Edinburgh. I have owned my own feed store, consulted professionally as an equine nutritionist, and lectured in the fields of equine and dairy nutrition at the University level for 5 years. I have developed and currently market 'Ration-X', a ration formulation program for horses...designed for the everyday horse owner. I am happy to help in any way I can.


Experienced in developing and implementing feed programs for horses of all disciplines, creating custom horse supplements and managing inter-disciplinary equine facilities. Specialize in equine nutrition consulting.

The American Society of Equine Appraisers

'Stable Management' Handbook, Equine Canada.

M.Sc (Equine Science-current), B.Sc(Agr) Animal Science, Equine Sports Massage Therapy Certification, Farrier Certification, Equine Consultant Certification, Certified Equine Appraiser, Certified in Emergency Equine Rescue.

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