Here is something (nerdily) interesting… the molecular formula for Vitamin B12. It is the ‘biggest’ of all of the vitamins and yet required in the diet in the smallest amounts.
It contains the mineral cobalt which constitutes somewhere around 5% of its weight.
The only reason a horse needs cobalt in its diet is to allow their gut bacteria to produce Vitamin B12!
Researchers currently don’t know how much vitamin B12 a horse needs.
And… it appears that natural levels of cobalt present in forages and other feedstuffs is enough to meet a horse’s cobalt and therefore Vitamin B12 requirement.
It is important to keep in mind however that a horse’s gut bacteria population needs to be healthy if your horse is going to have the capacity to produce enough B12.
Your horse’s diet is going to determine how well the gut bacteria can make vitamin B12 for your horse. In cattle, it has been shown that a high forage diet supported the production of 3 times more vitamin B12 than a high starch diet!
Loss of appetite is one symptom of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Fatigue and poor performance will also occur when a horse is B12 deficient.
Horses receiving adequate cobalt (which it appears they should do just from their forages) AND with a healthy hindgut, shouldn’t need additional vitamin B12 in their diet.
For information on how you can keep your horse’s hindgut healthy (and therefore vitamin B12 production at a maximum) see our article Keeping The Hindgut Healthy.
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