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Yearling Feeding Program Guidelines

A well developed, muscular and tall looking yearling is very desirable but is it always achievable?

When bringing a yearling in from the field with prep work in mind it is important to be realistic about what can be done and what can’t. There is a famous saying about having the wisdom to accept the things you cannot change and structure a yearling has at that age cannot be greatly changed. It can be developed and smoothed over but not fundamentally changed. With the right yearling feeding program you can ensure your yearling receives the right proteins and the right amount of feed for optimum growth and muscle gain.

Yearling Weight and Muscle Gain

When at 12 months old a yearling will have approximately 94% of its mature height reached, by 22 months it reaches 97% of this height. Whilst you cannot ‘grow’ the skeleton during the prep period you can create an appearance of greater height through increasing the yearlings muscle mass and strengthening of the sling muscles that raise the whither. To meet the demands for both growth and increased work there is an increased need for protein in the yearling’s diet. Poor quality and inadequate supply of protein will results in reduced growth rates and underdeveloped yearlings.

Yearling Protein Requirement

Typical protein requirement for yearling is 800g per day, which increases to 900g when moderate work is introduced and may increase to 1000g for intense periods. When at pasture protein is readily available through the grass where content can range from 16-20% during summer months. In general the prepping period allows little or no pasture access and so the hard feed must meet the gap between what dried forages can provide and what is required to ensure a consistent growth pattern.

Choosing the Correct Amount of Feed

Choosing a hard feed by protein content alone for your yearling is not advisable and consideration is needed for the amount that is to be fed. Diets will vary from 14-20% protein with the higher content diets designed to be fed at lower rates. If feeding minimally at 3-4kg then an 18% diet will results in an intake of 540-720g of protein per day and is well suited. If feeding strongly at 6-7kg per day then a 14% diet will result in an intake of 840-980g of protein per day and is better suited. Dried forages will also be contributing to daily intake and depending on their quality and protein availability can make significant contribution. For example 5kg (approx. 12lbs) of a 9% protein hay provides another 450g of protein. Whilst excessive protein is not proven to influence development of DOD’s (Developmental Orthopaedic Disease) it can affect behaviour and at very high intakes can affect muscle function.

Expected Yearling Growth Rate

Growth in terms of condition and body weight can be influenced during the prep period as yearlings have at 12 months only achieved approx. 65% of their mature body weight, which increases to 90% by 22 months. The additional carbohydrates found through hard feeds and supplementary fats given during this period can easily meet and exceed the normal calorie requirement for both growth and workload. Typical weight gain for a yearling is 0.5kg per day which would be considered a steady level of growth. Feeding for a faster rate of growth and added body condition can result in bone abnormalities including epiphysitis, a common complaint associated with, but not exclusively caused by, a sudden increase in musculature and increased level of nutrition. A longer and steadier prep period is always an advantage, giving the body a chance to adapt to the change in environment, diet and workload.

If you are looking for any advice on yearling feeding programmes you can get in-touch with one of our equine nutrition experts by leaving them a quick question.

  • Tags:
  • Horses
  • Yearling Feeding
  • Yearling Muscle Gain
  • Yearling Protein