Phosphorus is an essential nutrient that is an important component of cell membranes and bone.
It is required for any process that uses energy in the form of ATP or adenosine triphosphate. Phosphorus is also part of the backbone of DNA and contributes to pH and electrolyte balance in bodily fluids.
Phosphorous is the second most abundant mineral in the horse’s body, with most of it found in bones and teeth. It works closely with calcium to form hydroxylapatite, the main compound that gives bones their strength.
It is typically recommended to feed horses at least equal levels of phosphorus and calcium or preferably slightly higher calcium than phosphorus.
Horses get phosphorus from many different feeds, including forages and oats. Feeds with particularly high phosphorus concentrations include wheat bran and rice bran.
The phosphorus found naturally in grains and forages is considered organic, and is often bound to molecules called Phytates.
Feed manufacturers typically add inorganic Phosphorus, which comes from mining and processing phosphate into commercial horse feeds.
Inorganic Phosphorus sources are often listed on feed labels as monosodium phosphate or mono-, di-, and tri-calcium phosphate.
Inorganic phosphorus is a non-renewable resource, as it is mined from the earth. It is well known that inorganic Phosphorus is released from animal waste into the environment at high levels and can cause environmental damage.
Today, research is focused on striking a balance between feeding enough Phosphorus for optimal horse health and metabolism without overfeeding it to help reduce the environmental footprint of horses.
It has also been concluded that both growing and mature horses can effectively utilize the majority of Phosphorus bound in plant Phytate and might not need inorganic phosphorus added to their feed to meet their phosphorus requirements.
Wondering if your horse is meeting their phosphorus requirement? Contact Mad Barn for a complimentary diet analysis and one of our equine nutritionists will help you decide if supplemental phosphorus is right for your horse.