When comparing the amount of protein supplied by different products we often just discuss protein concentrations as a percentage. We should also be taking into consideration the feeding rate of the products we are comparing. Some people become very concerned by products that they perceive to contain high amounts of protein for example, supplements or feeds that contain 25% protein that are meant to be fed at a rate of 1lb per day. Some simple calculations can help determine how much actual protein is being gained from a product if we take into account protein percentage and amount of the product being fed.

For example: a product that contains 25% protein but is designed to be fed at 1lb per day– now let’s put this in perspective.

25% of 1lb (16oz) = 4oz (113 g) of protein

If we were to choose a “lower protein feed” such as a typical 12% concentrate with a feeding rate of 4lb and do the same calculation – we get about double the amount of actual protein:

12 % of 4lbs = 8oz (227 g) of protein

Forage is typically where most of the horses protein actually comes from – but its protein content is often overlooked. Average grass hay contains approximately 8% protein and we would usually feed about 15lb per day.

8% of 15lb = 19.2oz (544 g) of protein

If one is looking to increase the protein content of the diet for a broodmare or growing horse alfalfa is generally a good option. Average alfalfa contains on average 17% protein; the addition of 5lbs of alfalfa can really boost the quantity and quality of protein provided.

17% of 5lbs = 14oz (397 g) of protein

Take home message – remember to consider the amount of a particular product that is being fed and NOT just the protein percentage.

Protein Required per Day

Horse (1000 lbs) Protein (g)
Maintenance 567
Light Exercise 624
Moderate Exercise 680
Heavy Exercise 765
Very Heavy Exercise 907
Early Pregnancy 567
Late Pregnancy 794
Early Lactation 1389
Late Lactation 1191
Weanling 595
Yearling 765


Contact your Poulin Grain Feed Specialist to test your hay quality and build a diet for your horse.

www.PoulinGrain.com | 800.334.6731