Monthly Archives: January 2016

Got nutrients? Why you should add a ration balancer to your horse’s diet

Horse Chewing on Hay

 

Adding a ration balancer to your horse’s diet helps them get essential nutrients that may be missing from their forage. It’s also great for easy keepers that require limited calories. Ration balancers help ensure a well-rounded diet, important for growth, performance, reproduction and more.

You might assume your horse is getting all the nutrients they need on a forage-only diet. But are they really? Forages vary in nutrient quality, and stored hay loses vitamin E within a few weeks. A ration balancer can help fill in the nutritional gaps.

What is a ration balancer?

Ration balancers are a nutrient-dense horse feed that often come in a pelleted form and have a low feeding rate. They provide protein, essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins that the horse might not be getting enough of in their usual diet. Think of a ration balancer as a multivitamin.

If you’re concerned that this highly nutritious feed will add a lot of calories to your horse’s diet – and therefore cause weight gain – don’t fret. Ration balancers aren’t high in starch, sugar or fat, so they won’t add significant calories.

Some people also question the “high” amount of protein in ration balancers. Coming in at about 25-35% crude protein, that’s a lot more than the 10-16% in standard feed. However, the nutrient-dense ration balancers have a lower feeding rate. Since you’re feeding less to your horse, it adds up to about the same (or sometimes even a little less) amount of protein they would get from feeding the recommended amount of a standard 12% crude protein feed.

GRO ‘N WIN™, the original ration balancer, has 32% crude protein. It can complement a diet consisting of grass or grass-legume mixed forage for horses of all life stages. To complement a diet that is 75% or more alfalfa, BUCKEYE™ Nutrition offers GRO ‘N WIN™ Alfa. Senior Balancer has the same high-quality nutrition as GRO ‘N WIN™, with added MSM (to support joint health) and yeast culture (to support healthy digestion).

What’s missing from your horse’s forage-only diet?

As we said before, forages can vary in nutrient quality and quantity. In a perfect scenario, pasture would provide all the daily nutrients a horse requires. But factors such as Poor growing conditions like drought or flooding, and seasonal changes can affect what the horse is consuming.

When you start supplementing pasture with hay, you may not be supplying adequate nutrients. As soon as hay is harvested, it begins to lose vitamins and continues to do so the older it gets. Adding a ration balancer to a horse’s forage-only diet can help provide the vitamins, minerals and amino acids they need.

How to add a ration balancer to your horse’s diet

There are a few ways you can incorporate ration balancers into your horse’s diet any time of the year. Since the balancer needs to be fed with forage, hay or pasture, you can combine it with a feed that has good quality forage or supplement a commercial concentrate feed plus forage. It’s best to divide the recommended daily amount of a ration balancer in at least two daily feedings. This practice will help your horse maximize nutrient absorption throughout the day.

A ration balancer can be good for horses who need limited starches and sugars in their diet, like horses who suffer from polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) or other forms not related to sugar/starch; horses who suffer from PPID or Equine Cushing’s Syndrome; and insulin-dysregulating horses. A ration balancer can also help limit potassium for horses with hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) when fed with a forage low in potassium concentration.

When looking for the best ration balancer for horses, make sure you get one that is made with pure, safe ingredients. At BUCKEYE Nutrition™, we use 100% traceable ingredients and produce our feeds in a single, medication-free facility.

 

Extrusion and Extruded Feed: What's the benefit?

Have you ever stopped to think about how your horse’s feed is actually cooked? At BUCKEYE™ Nutrition, it’s our job to think of things like this every day. When we asked our customers what they’d like in a feed designed for senior horses, one of the common comments was that it was easy to chew. So we went to work! How can we make a horse feed that maximizes ease of chewing? Simple – we can extrude it! Fortunately, our mill in Dalton, OH has extrusion capability, which gives us amazing flexibility in our manufacturing processes. The result is our new SAFE ‘N EASY Senior. Extrusion has long been used in pet food manufacturing, but has also recently become utilized for equine feed. If you’re now wondering what extrusion actually is, read on!

Sne Senior Form

In your own kitchen, you may have a pressure cooker. Pressure cooking is essentially what the process of extrusion is. Ingredients are ground and conditioned with steam, then cooked for a short period of time under high temperature and pressure. The mixture is then forced through a die, which determines the size and shape of the final product. The extrusion process helps to break down the structures of starches (and, depending on temperature, proteins), resulting in a “gelatinization” of starch (Dunnett, 2013). Extrusion appears to improve starch digestion in the small intestine (Vervuert, et al. 2008), lessening the likelihood that starch reaches the hindgut. Protein in extruded grains also appears to have higher digestibility compared to ground or pelleted grains (Rosenfeld and Austo 2009). All of this means that an extruded product is essentially “pre-digested,” so that the horse can absorb starches and proteins a more efficiently. 

Extrusion also makes it easier to manufacture high fat feeds, which is beneficial for hard keepers. Moisture of the final product is typically low, helping to prolong shelf life and prevent mold, and are typically low in dust (Dunnett 2013). In addition, horses tend to consume extruded feeds slower than pellets or textured feed (Ely, et al. 2019), helping to lower the risk of digestive upset.

What you may not know about an extruded nugget is that it is less dense than other forms of feed (pellets or textured, for example). That means that if you fill a cup with pellets, and you fill the same cup with extruded feed, they will not weigh the same. The extruded feed will weigh less. That is one reason why it is so important to weigh your horse’s feed, and not just go by cups or scoops.

Because extruded feeds are less dense then other feed forms, they will fall apart in the horse’s mouth easier. Adding water to an extruded feed, like our new SAFE ‘N EASY Senior, will result in an oatmeal-like consistency within about 3 minutes. For the horse with poor teeth or lack of chewing ability, feeding this type of soup or mash is an excellent option for calorie and nutrient consumption with a reduced risk of digestive upset. As a bonus, soaking feed helps increase water intake, and that’s always a good thing!

Extrusion has many benefits for horses of all ages, from helping to maintain weight to improved digestibility. Please contact us with your feeding questions, we’ll be happy to help with your nutritional concerns!

 


 

References

Dunnett, C. 2013. Ration evaluation and formulation. In: Equine Applied and Clinical Nutrition. Geor, R.J., Harris, P.A and Coenen, M., Eds. Saunders Elsevier, London. pp. 405-424.

 

Ely, K., Harris, P., Kaufman, K., Liburt, N., Krotky, A., McIntosh, B. 2019. Digestibility and postprandial response according to processing method and meal time of day. JEVS. 76:67.

 

Rosenfeld, I. and Austo, D. 2009. Digestion of cereals in the equine gastrointestinal tract measured by the mobile bag technique on caecally cannulated horses. Animal Feed Sci Tech. 150(3-4):249-258.

 

Vervuert, I., Voigt, K., Hollands, T., Cuddeford, D., Coenen, M. 2008. Effects of processing barley on its digestion by horses. Veterinary Record. 162: 684-688.

When is a horse considered a "senior"?

When it comes to seniors, one of the most commonly asked questions is, “At what age is my horse a senior?” The answer, of course, depends on the horse. Horses, like people, age as individuals, and there is no hard and fast rule about when a horse is officially a senior citizen. The National Research Council (2007) suggests that while 20 years is an estimate of what is considered old age, there is considerable individual variation. A combination of chronological age (age in years) and physiological characteristics are best used for determining whether a horse is a senior (NRC 2007). However, many horses have some signs of aging around 20 years. Some of those changes may be visible, such as grey hair around the face or loss of muscle tone, while others may not be so obvious, such as hormonal changes or changes in the immune system.


 

As horses age, they typically fall into one of four categories:

  1. Young at Heart – generally healthy
  2. Aged with a tendency to gain weight/obese
  3. Aged with a tendency to lose weight/underweight
  4. Geriatric – other health problems involved

 

Still, one may notice that it is harder for a horse to work or compete at a certain level than it used to be. It may take longer to warm up for work, and it’s harder to cool down afterwards.

Aging is usually associated with changes in strength, body composition and general physiological function, but how much of these changes occur is very much dependent on the individual (Ralston and Harris, 2013). We do know that older horses have a harder time regulating body temperature (McKeever, et al., 2010), and are more easily affected by extreme temperatures (hot or cold). Exercise capacity decreased, recovery time increases (Betros et al., 2002) and there is a natural change in the endocrine system (Malinowski et al., 2006) that can be mitigated to some extent by maintaining a light training program (Liburt et al., 2014). Recent research has also suggested that a decrease in microbial diversity in the hindgut may occur as a result of age (Dougal et al., 2014). Again, some of these changes are easily observable while others are not.

We love our seniors, no doubt. The 2015 USDA APHIS survey put the population of horses over the age of 20 years at 11.5% of the equine population, up from 7.4% in 1998. We know more about how horses age, and how to better care for them. One of the most important things we can do as guardians of our animals is to know what is normal and what is not. Note changes, work with a veterinarian to maintain regular healthcare, and adjust exercise regimens as necessary (according to ability and ambient temperature). Diet need not change unless there is a reason, for example, weight gain/loss or endocrine disease. I’ll leave you with this recommendation: Know Your Horse! Keep track of weight, changes in behavior, movement and attitude. Maintain open lines of communication with your veterinarian, and of course your friendly BUCKEYE™ Nutrition professional nutritionists! We’re here to guide your horse’s nutrition through every stage of life, so ask us when you need help.

The old adage, “Use it or lose it” holds very true for horses as well as their human caretakers – having a job, even if low level, helps keep the body moving, and the mind stimulated. Make accommodations for any changes a horse experiences, but don’t count them out just because the years add up!


References:

Betros, C.L., McKeever, K.H., Kearns, CF., Malinowski, K. 2002. Effects of ageing and training on maximal heart rate and VO2max. Equine Veterinary Journal. 34(S34):100-105.

 

Dougal, K., de la Guente, G., Harris, P.A., Girdwood, S.E., Pinloche, E., Geor, R.J., Ninelsen, B.D., Schott, H.C., Elzinga, S., Newbold, C.J. 2014. Characterisation of the faecal bacterial community in adult and elderly horses fed a high fibre, high oil or high starch diet using 454 pyrosequencing. PLoS One 9(20:e87424.

 

Liburt, N.R., McKeever, K.H., Malinowski, K., Smarsh, D.N., Geor, R.J. 2013. Response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to stimulation tests before and after exercise training in old and young Standardbred mares. Journal of Animal Science. 91(11):5208-5219.

 

Malinowski, K., Shock, E.J., Rochelle, P., Kearns, C.R., Guirnalda, P.D., McKeever, K.H. 2006. Plasma beta-endorphin, cortisol and immune responses to acute exercise are altered by age and exercise training in horses. Equine Veterinary Journal Suppl. 36:267-273.

 

McKeever, K.H., Eaton, T.L., Geiser, S., Kearns, C.F., Lehnhard, R.A. 2010. Age related decreases in thermoregulation and cardiovascular function in horses. Equine Veterinary Journal. Nov (38):220-227.

 

National Research Council (NRC). 2007. Unique aspects of equine nutrition. In: Nutrient Requirements of Horses, 6th Ed. National Academies Press, Washington, DC. pp. 235-267.

 

Ralston, S. and Harris, P. 2013. Nutritional consideration for aged horses. In: Equine Applied and Clinical Nutrition. Geor, R.J., Harris, P.A and Coenen, M., Eds. Saunders Elsevier, London. pp. 289 -303.

Nutrition Nuggets-Gastric Ulcers

Let's start 2019 off on the right foot with Nutrition Nuggets! Our own Dr. Nettie Liburt explains all about gastric ulcers, and how nutrition plays a role in managing the risks for ulcers.

Nutrition Nuggets-Bran Mashes

Do you feed your horse or pony a warm bran mash on cold winter days? Our Senior Nutrition Manager, Dr. Nettie Liburt, explains why feeding bran mashes in the cold, winter months might not be beneficial to your horse's digestive system and overall diet.

Nutrition Nuggets-Weighing Your Feed

Nutrition Nuggets is back and is all about weights and measures. Our own Dr. Nettie explains the importance of weighing your horse's feed and gives you some tips on how to do so.

Nutrition Nuggets-How To Use PERFORM 'N WIN

In this episode of Nutrition Nuggets, Dr. Nettie explains how to use PERFORM 'N WIN electrolytes to help keep your horses hydrated in the summer.

Nutrition Nuggets-Cost Per Day

Nutrition Nuggets is back! In this episode, Dr. Nettie explains how you can calculate how much you are spending per day on your horse's feed and why cost per day is more important than cost per bag.

 

 

 

Nutrition Nuggets-100% Med-Free Mill

Dr. Nettie Liburt brings us great information with her Nutrition Nuggets. In this episode, Dr. Nettie talks about our single mill in Dalton, Ohio and why being 100% medication-free (including ionophores) and is so important to us, as well as the health and well-being of your horse or pony.

The Facts About Protein

Perception Studio Feed Photo

Protein is important for more than just muscle building. Protein is a component of most tissues in the body, and is essential for cell structure, the immune system, transport of oxygen and minerals in the blood, enzyme activity and many other biological functions.

What is protein?

All protein is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are like the letters of an alphabet that make up the words that are proteins. Essential amino acids must be consumed in the diet because they cannot be made by the body. Examples of essential amino acids are lysine, methionine and threonine. These amino acids are contained in protein sources such as fresh forage, soybeans and alfalfa. 

Protein Myths Busted

Excess dietary protein does not cause horses to be hot tempered, have excess energy or contribute to growth abnormalities (developmental orthopedic disease, or DOD) in young animals. The main causes of DOD include genetics, high calorie intake and mineral imbalances. If DOD is suspected, a veterinarian and nutritionist should be consulted promptly. In addition, high protein diets do not cause damage to kidneys or the liver. 

Dietary protein

Healthy, mature horses require about 10% of the total diet as good quality protein. Horses in heavy exercise, such as race horses or high level eventers, may require a little more protein in the diet. Young, growing horses, pregnant and lactating mares have much higher protein requirements compared to the average adult. 

Protein in Feed

One pound of BUCKEYE® Nutrition’s ration balancer, GRO ‘N WIN™, contains 32% crude protein, and provides 145 grams of protein, about 23% of an 1,100 pound horse’s daily maintenance need.

Five pounds of a grain concentrate with 12% crude protein, such as EQ8™ Gut Health, provides 272 grams crude protein, or about 35% of a moderately exercising horse’s daily need. The balance of protein should be provided by good quality forage. 

Excess Protein

Excess dietary protein is broken down and excreted in the urine. Nitrogen is a component of all amino acids in protein, therefore consuming excess dietary protein will cause increased excretion of nitrogen. Excreted nitrogen can then be converted to ammonia by bacteria in the process of decomposition. If nitrogen from horse waste (or other sources, for that matter) runs off into surface water, the potential for eutrophication of waterways increases. Horses with kidney disease or liver dysfunction should be placed on a low-protein diet. It is still important to provide quality protein for these compromised horses without excess, which can strain already struggling organs. 

Insufficient Protein

Inadequate dietary protein will stunt growth, cause weight loss, fetal loss in pregnant mares, decreased milk production in lactating mares, and loss of muscle mass. These will occur despite adequate intake of calories. 

Summary

Good quality hay contains healthy protein to support the overall health of the horse. Protein is not harmful when consumed in excess and does not cause excitability. A balanced diet that provides protein with essential amino acids is the baseline for a healthy horse.

 

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