Can Horses and Cattle Eat the Same Feed?

A horse owner who also has beef cattle wants to know if all-purpose, multispecies feeds are okay for horses. Our equine nutritionist responds.

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Can Horses and Cattle Eat the Same Feed?
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Q. My horses live with beef cattle. Our pastures are very poor and we are feeding hay, but all the stock is losing weight and I think I need to supplement them with some other feed. My feed store sells several all-purpose feeds which claim to be appropriate to feed both the horses and cattle. Are these really okay to feed to horses?

A. The short answer to your question is that all-purpose feeds are at best “okay.” Not optimal, but probably okay. This assumes that they’re really designed and safe for both species.

Ionophore Toxicity in Horses

I would never give horses feed made solely for ruminant species. The reason? Cattle feeds have the great potential of containing some type of ionophore (an antibiotic used in ruminant feed that is toxic to horses)

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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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