How much flax seed do you need to feed to match intake from grazing?
We know that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential elements of the diet for mammals because their bodies cannot synthesize them. What we don’t know is how much of each is required for health. No research has been done.
We can look at the omega-3 and omega-6 content of the horse’s diet though. Grass is by far the major portion of a feral equine’s diet. Young growths of grass are about 4% fat with 75% of that omenga-3 as alpha-linolenic acid. This high level of intake is not available all year but it is representative of peak nutrition.
How much is in the grass is one thing but we don’t know how digestible it is. To get around this another way, a study recently reported at the Equine Science Society meeting fed stalled horses an omega-3 supplemented feed and compared their blood levels of omega-3 to horses on pasture.
It was found that feeding a 1000 pound horse the equivalent of 4.5 ounces of flax seed or a supplement based on flax seed resulted in blood levels of omega-3 comparable to horses on pasture.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD