Feeding Integrity

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When was the last time she had her teeth checked? Were they evaluated for loose molars, redness in gum, etc.? Any animal that has irritation in their mouth will avoid chewing. Grass is approximately 80% moisture so easier to mouth and swallow. Hay and hay pellets are approximately 10% moisture which requires the horse to chew more, thus producing saliva so that the food will be moist to swallow. It would be helpful to know more information about your mare such as size, how much hay is she eating, amounts of anything else she is being fed?

Chopped hay and molasses will contain as much as 10% to 20% molasses; so, if 10 lbs. is fed, 1 to 4 lbs. would be molasses. Excess molasses could compound the diarrhea problem. The issue with diarrhea could be related to an unhealthy bacteria population in the gut (not eating adequate forage can precipitate that problem) so I would suggest feeding a probiotic to encourage a population of the “good” bacteria. Integrity products do contain probiotics, prebiotics, and soluble fiber sources (beet pulp & soy hulls). The Integrity product line in addition to complementing the forage portion of the diet, is also intended to promote a healthy gut. However, clinically you need to first work with your vet to stabilize the diarrhea with treatment and adequate forage intake.

Once she is stabilized, I would suggest Integrity Lite No Molasses which is high in soluble fiber and modest in fat (4%), also contains probiotics and prebiotics. Additional calories can be added with a fat source, rice bran or oil. Depending on the size of your mare and forage intake the amount would most likely be not more than 2 to 2 ½ lbs. per day for a 1,000 lb. horse (assuming she is not active, that is NOT being worked). However, first and foremost the diarrhea needs to be stabilized before adding a balanced formula like the Integrity product. Keep in mind that changes in feeds and feed amount will influence the bacteria of the gut which is why feed transitions must be gradual. There is a fact sheet in Dr. Bray’s Corner on Feeding Guidelines for Horses that outline transitions in feeds and feed amounts.

Below is a table of approximate CHO values for hay pellets including timothy hay pellet. Your request for NSC would suggest your primary concern is with laminitis and/or Cushing. If not and are more interested with issues such as IR, PSSM, Cushing, lower sugar/starch intake, etc., then you would want to your focus on ESC and starch levels. If you need any guidance in feeding, please feel free to contact me.

Hay Pellet Data*

Hay Pellet Type % WSC % ESC % Starch % Starch + % WSC = % NSC
Alfalfa/Bermuda, 3/8 6.4 5.4 1.2 7.6
Oat hay, 1/4 6.3 5.3 0.7 7.0
Bermuda, 1/4 7.7 6.0 3.3 11.0
Alfalfa 1/4 7.8 8.1 6.4 14.2
Timothy, 1/4 11.5 9.3 1.3 13.8
Alfalfa, 3/8 6.0 5.2 5.1 11.1
Alfalfa/Oat, 3/8 6.9 7.2 2.7 9.6
Alfalfa/Timothy (50/50), 1/4 9.6 6.0 1.4 10.4

*Approximate values reported on as sampled or as fed basis

  • Water Soluble Carbohydrates (WSC) – primarily simple sugars, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, fructans, & may include some polysaccharides.
    • Fructan content of feeds will vary but a crude estimate can be calculated by subtracting ESC from WSC.
    • Fructans are primarily digested in the hindgut; more an issue with laminitis if consumed in large amounts; fructans highest concentration is early morning spring forage.
  • Ethanol Soluble Carbohydrates (ESC) – primarily simple sugars, disaccharides, & oligosaccharides
  • Starch – alpha-linked glucose carbohydrate
  • Nonstructural Carbohydrates (NSC) – NSC = Starch + WSC.

The percentage of starch content for these 3 products are 17.3%, 8.7% and 5.4% respectively. Additional nutrient profiles for all Integrity products can be found on the individual feed pages.

Rice bran products are always high starch. Integrity Performance and Adult/Senior are both balanced formulas and the only time I would recommend both in a blend would be transitioning from moderate to heavy work or the opposite.

Orchard hay in general is 10 – 12% WSC and 2% starch (hence 12-14% NSC). I cannot provide specific information on the current hay pellet because of the continuous change in supply and making of the forage pellet. Each year there are multiple cuttings of hay and the cuttings are usually consistent with time of growth and hay maturity. There can be some differences in sugar and fructans relative to time of year of the cutting with the influences of dryness, growth days at harvest and irrigation method. Because of the consistency in forage management, nutrient analysis is not something mills do with every batch and would clearly not be cost effective as analysis of every batch would increase the cost of the product significantly. The content of iron in grass hays is more than adequate for horses. The more acidic the soil the more iron available in the soil for the plant.

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For Integrity Adult/Senior–No Molasses: 5.4% starch, 6.1% ESC, 9.4% WSC. For Integrity Adult/Senior–With Molasses: 5.6% starch, 8.6% ESC, 12.5% WSC. The 6th edition of the National Research Council identifies %NSC as %starch plus %WSC.

The breakdown of sugars, starches and fructans is listed because of the confusion and inconsistencies in how NSC is published. If you have a horse that has clinically been diagnosed with Cushing, IR, PSSM then the focus should be on sugars (%ESC) and starch (%Starch). If you have a horse that has been clinically diagnosed with laminitis, founder, Cushing, the focus should be on %Starch and %WSC.

WSC includes fructans which are more prevalent in forages, particularly early spring harvest forage. There can be inconsistency in the estimate of fructans in a feed thus inconsistency in the NSC value. Keep in mind that forage is the bulk of the horse’s diet. The average grass hay is 1 – 2 % starch, 6 – 10 % ESC, 8 – 15 % WSC.

Another reason I do not place-much-stock in %NSC is that the values published are not always as defined in accordance to NRC. I have seen %NSC represented as the same as %starch, as %starch + %ESC, as %ESC + %WSC and as the empirical formula that does not reflect valuable information on carbohydrate content (mathematical calculation not laboratory determined). The confusion not only exists for horse owners but also in the veterinarian community.

Here is a simple overview of what each analysis provides

% Starch % ESC Ethanol Soluble Carbohydrates % WSC Water Soluble Carbohydrates
Represents starches, some are resistant to small intestine digestion Represents sugars digested in the small intestine thus are the carbohydrates that produce a true glycemic (blood sugar) response Represents simple sugars, oligosaccharides (several sugar molecules hooked together) and fructans

I do not add glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate to Integrity formulas. Any over-the-counter (OTC) medication needs to be administered by body weight of the animal. Feeds that contain medication thus would have different levels of the ingredients relative to how much is being fed.

For example, a horse fed 1 lb./day of a commercial formula would receive ¼ the glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate of a horse that is fed at 4 lb./day. In fact, relative to glucosamine & chondroitin products for humans there are two reports that found approximately 70% of these commercial products did not contain the levels of the active ingredients as listed on the packaging. If the human industry has difficulty in guarantees with active ingredient levels, then one must also consider that the animal industry has even less oversight.

There is also the question of effectiveness. Even in the humans the studies are mixed, with most reviews and studies NOT supporting the claims for these types of products. The injectable forms have demonstrated success, but the oral forms are only supported by anecdotal story lines.

If you do decide to use one of the OTC products, you would be better served to top dress the ingredients and feed relative to body weight.

I understand the popularity of these OTC products for treating/preventing arthritis, joint issues, etc. including omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine & chondroitin, copper, manganese & zinc, vitamin E, and herbs; nevertheless, there is no clear science base evidence that these products have any benefit and the professed stated or written evidence most often referenced are testimonial and antidotal.

There are injectables with hyaluronic acid that can provide some benefit. You will need to visit with your veterinarian regarding whether this type of product would benefit your horse. Of course, there are NASIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) that have also been proven effective, but you will need to discuss those options with a veterinarian as well. NASIDS administered daily as a prophylactic is not recommended.

I do believe that conditioning can delay the consequences of the disease. Horses that are over-weight, out-of-shape, will place more strain on the limbs; a body condition score of 5 (BCS 5) needs to be accomplished. Exercise is critical, must be consistent and should be linear. Of course, an accomplished rider who has a true balanced-seat will minimize the weight bearing effects on an exercising horse. Also, the horse’s hooves are critical for balance and should be managed every 6-weeks. I discourage shoes for arthritic horses since shoes restrict the natural mechanism of the hoof with blood/fluid circulation in the lower extremities.


Depends on the amount fed and if your horse is an aggressive “eater”. No harm in adding water to moisten the food but soaking is not necessary unless there are gum/hind teeth issues, or the horse is unable to adequately chew.


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