Archive for October, 2020

Benefits of Beet Pulp for Horses

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

Fiber fermentation in the hindgut provides the horse with energy to grow, work, and play. The fiber fraction of a horse’s diet typically comes from pasture or hay, but there are forage alternatives that can help supplement energy, benefit the digestive system, and provide fiber for horses that have trouble chewing traditional forage. One such forage alternative is beet pulp as a benefit for horses.

What is beet pulp?

According to Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research is, “Beet pulp is an energy-rich source of digestible fiber that helps promote a healthy microbial population in the hindgut.”

Beet pulp is a byproduct of the sugar beet industry. Sugar beets are grown and harvested to make sucrose and sugar leaving beet pulp, which is the plant material once the sugar has been removed. Because of the processing, beet pulp contains minimal sugar.

“Dried beet pulp products are usually available with or without added molasses. The sugar content of unmolassed beet pulp shreds is less than 10%, making it a safe feed for horses that need a low-sugar diet. Shreds with added molasses contain, on average, less than 15% sugar,” explained Crandell.

Beet pulp is considered a prebiotic, meaning it is beneficial to the millions of microbes in the horse’s hindgut. A robust, well-functioning microbiome contributes to overall health. Despite its prebiotic benefit, beet pulp should never be the sole fiber source of the diet. Beet pulp is low in protein (typically 8-10% crude protein) and rich in calcium but is devoid of vitamins and low in other minerals. While research reported in Nutrient Requirements of Horses, published by the National Research Council, showed that a diet consisting of 45-55% beet pulp had no negative effects on the horses consuming it, beet pulp alone will not provide sufficient nutrients, noted Crandell.

How can beet pulp be used?

Beet pulp can be used to help underweight horses gain weight. It provides approximately 1,000 kcals per pound (one quart of dry beet pulp shreds weighs approximately 0.5-0.6 pounds). Byproducts of microbial fermentation of beet pulp in the hindgut include volatile fatty acids, or VFAs, which are absorbed and turned into energy. This energy does not cause a spike in glucose or insulin and is released slowly for a more steady supply. Beet pulp is a common ingredient in commercial grain concentrates because of its energy density and benefit to the microbiome.

Beet pulp can also be used as a top-dressed supplement. Because beet pulp holds moisture, making it useful for adding water to the digestive system, soaking is recommended*. Dry shreds will not swell in the throat or stomach when fed appropriately. Soaking is required if feeding beet pulp pellets, because of the hardness of the pellet and the significant change in volume once pellets are wet.

Beet pulp has an unfair reputation for causing choke in horses. Any feedstuff, including forages, eaten greedily and swallowed without proper chewing can cause choking.

In summary, beet pulp is an option for adding energy and promoting digestive health in horses. Visit J & J Hay Farms for advice on whether beet pulp is right for your horse.

Article brought to you by Kentucky Equine Research.

*Moore-Colyer, M.J.S., J.J. Hyslop, A.C. Longland, and D. Cuddeford. 2002. The mobile bag technique as a method for determining the degradation of four botanically diverse fibrous feedstuffs in the small intestine and total digestive tract of ponies. British Journal of Nutrition 88:729-740.

Horse Hay: Understanding Sugar and Starch Content

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

Horse Hay: Understanding Sugar and Starch ContentHorsemen recognize the importance of good-quality forage for horses and ponies. As such, horse owners are becoming savvier in choosing the best hay for their horses, especially when those horses are affected by metabolic conditions.

In order to gauge how much sugar or starch a hay contains, it must be submitted to a laboratory for analysis. In some instances, hay growers or brokers will have hay analyzed prior to offering it for sale. By reviewing these reports, horse owners have an idea if the hay is appropriate for their horses as a result  (assuming the sellers have the starch and sugar analyzed).

The most common sugar and starch measurements available from a laboratory are water-soluble carbohydrates, ethanol-soluble carbohydrates, and starch.

  • Water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) are extracted from the sample with water. WSC include simple sugars, short-chain polysaccharides, and fructans.
    –  Simple sugars are digested in the small intestine, and their absorption significantly affects glycemic response.
    – Fructans, on the other hand, are fermented in the large intestine. Their absorption has a less significant response on glycemic response but can affect the pH of the hindgut. In some horses, overconsumption of fructans is thought to have a role in the onset of laminitis.
  • Ethanol-soluble carbohydrates (ESC) is a subclass of WSC and measures only simple sugars and short-chain polysaccharides. Because of this, the amount of fructan can be estimated by subtracting ESC from WSC.
  • Starch is a complex polysaccharide carbohydrate that is preferentially digested in the small intestine. When large amounts of feed are offered at one time, some undigested starch flows to the hindgut, where it is fermented.
    – Fermentation of starch can lead to production of lactic acid, which can disrupt the carefully balanced microbial population of the hindgut.

How can a horse owner determine the level of nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) in forage from this information?

“Traditionally, NSC can be calculated by adding WSC and starch,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research. “NSC would include all of the monosaccharides and disaccharides as well as all polysaccharides, such as fructan, and starch.

“Occasionally, NSC is calculated adding ESC and starch, especially when dealing with concentrate feeds. Because of this, the fructan content is expected to be very low. In fact, grasses are more likely to form higher amounts of fructans than grains.

“However, when looking at NSC in forages, it is best to use WSC and starch for the calculation because of the negative effects both fructans and starch can have in the hindgut of sensitive horses.”

When faced with a metabolic horse, hay selection is critical. Of particular import is NSC content.

“For forages, I like to make sure the forage is under 12% NSC. Some nutritionists might go as low as 10%, but I feel there is little difference between 10 and 12% because forages have slow consumption rates. When horses eat a feedstuff over time, not as much sugar enters the bloodstream in one fell swoop,” said Crandell.

Though no hay can be reliably classified as low-NSC without being tested, some tend to be more appropriate for metabolic horses, according to Crandell.

“In my experience, warm-season grasses like coastal Bermudagrass and teff tend to be lower in NSC than cool-season perennial grasses, such as timothy and orchardgrass. One cool-season perennial in particular, ryegrass, can be very high in NSC and should be avoided for use in horses with any hint of metabolic issues. Believe it or not, legumes like alfalfa are usually lower in NSC than many grass hays.”

Stage of maturity can also influence NSC content, Crandell noted:

“Of course, there are always exceptions, but generally the more mature the grass, the lower the NSC or at least the lower the calories. Further, the more mature hays tend to be stemmier and require more chewing, resulting in slower consumption rates.”

Other factors may affect NSC levels, such as time of day the hay was cut (morning vs. evening), how quickly the hay was harvested out of the field, and whether it was rained on. If the hay spends more days drying before baling, NSC tends to be lower.

Horse owners often work with equine nutritionists to formulate rations. Having a hay analysis in hand allows the nutritionist to fine-tune the diet in a way that is impossible without.

When a hay analysis is not available, nutritionists must rely on average hay values. According to Crandell, that can differ considerably from the actual hay being fed.

“I am overjoyed when a horse owner has a hay analysis,” said Crandell. “If I have a forage analysis, then I can really nail down the nutrient levels in the diet.

“Imagine baking a cake by estimating the ingredients and their amounts versus using an exact recipe. Chances are, the cake will turn out satisfactory with estimated amounts, but the exact recipe will likely yield superior results.”

Horses on all-forage diets require vitamin and mineral supplementation for optimal nutrition. Choose a high-quality supplement formulated by a reputable manufacturer.

Visit J & J Hay Farms for more information.

Article brought to you by Kentucky Equine Research.

Four Autumn Feeding Facts for Horses

Friday, October 2nd, 2020

Four Autumn Feeding Facts for Horses

1. Deteriorating pasture quality warrants a diet overhaul.

“In the spring, we are often concerned about the pasture being too good in quality or high in fructans, which sometimes mandates the use of drylots and grazing muzzles to minimize intake. In the fall, the quality of the pasture could decline significantly, so much so that extra energy from supplemental feeds might be necessary for balanced nutrition,” advised Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc., director of nutrition for Kentucky Equine Research.

This means that horses doing well with just a well-fortified vitamin/mineral supplement in spring and summer may need extra concentrate in the fall.

Don’t forget these basic feeding facts when overhauling your horse’s diet:

  • The best forage possible should always be provided (apart from horses needing lower energy forages to assist weight loss);
  • Changes in diet must be made slowly;
  • Consider all of the feeds and nutritional supplements your horse receives to avoid nutrient imbalances; and
  • Seek professional advice in creating a balanced diet for your horse.
2. Fall pasture or forage can present risks.

“High levels of fructans and water-soluble carbohydrates often cause owners strife in spring, but even fall pastures and late-cut forages can produce health issues in at-risk horses as a result,” advised Huntington. Overconsumption of fructans and water-soluble carbohydrates can cause laminitis in certain horses.

Unsure about forage quality? Forage analysis can be done year-round, and is especially important for those horses with insulin resistance or equine metabolic syndrome.

3. Wilting maple leaves can be especially problematic, even fatal.

Several weeds and plants are potentially dangerous to horses in autumn. One such example is moldy, wilting maple leaves. Research has shown that seeds and leaves from maples and related species contain a chemical toxin, hypoglycin A, which causes atypical myopathy, also known as pasture-associated myopathy as a result.

“Atypical myopathy is most commonly seen in North America and Europe. In the Southern Hemisphere, the most concerning weeds and plants on pastures in the autumn include ryegrass in New Zealand, which causes staggers, and flatweed in Australia, which can trigger stringhalt,” added Huntington.

4. Manure stockpiling leads to parasite woes.

Manure management is always a pressing matter and needs to be maintained to maximize the health of horses and foals. By thoroughly removing manure from a stable and nearby paddocks and lots, the likelihood of reinfestation from one season to the next diminishes greatly. This is particularly true of bots and roundworms.

In addition to manure management, appropriate deworming based on fecal egg counts should be employed as needed.

Nutritionists and nutrition advisors can offer diet advice for horse owners who wish to ensure their horses have balanced diets.

Article brought to you by Kentucky Equine Research Staff