Copra Meal or Rice Bran to Help Horses Gain Weight?

Is rice bran or coconut (copra) meal a better option to help a horse gain weight? Our nutritionist shares her thoughts.
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Copra Meal or Rice Bran to Help Horses Gain Weight?
Copra meal consists of the dried, baked, and ground flesh of the coconut. Copra meal’s low NSC content makes it a potentially good choice of additional calories from fat for NSC-sensitive horses. | Photo: iStock

Q. My gelding needs to gain weight. In addition to hay I feed him a ration balancer, and I’ve considered adding rice bran for extra fat calories. However, a friend suggested adding coconut meal instead of rice bran. What is the difference between these two products, and is one better than the other?

A. Rice bran and coconut (copra) meal are commonly added to equine diets for their fat content. Rice bran contains about 15 to 18% fat while copra meal is about 8 to 10% fat. On a calories-per-pound basis both feeds are comparable at around 1.4 to 1.6 mega calories (Mcal) of digestible energy per pound; for comparison, most grass hays typically provide just under 1 Mcal per pound. Therefore, both feeds add concentrated energy to equine rations.

While some high-fat food products are at risk of rancidity, commercial high-fat horse feeds tend to contain perserving antioxidants (such as extra vitamin E), and some rice brans have gone through a process to deactivate the endogenous lipase enzyme, so the fat becomes stable and less at risk of rancidity. Copra meal has a naturally lower risk of rancidity due to the type of fat it contains, but be aware that it can still become rancid

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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