Equine Nutrition FAQ’s – Feeding Integrity

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Our 20-something 14.2 quarter horse has started to refuse his Timothy and Orchard grass hay. He does seem to like Integrity Timothy pellets. How much should we feed him?

For Integrity Timothy, feed 10-15% less weight for the pellets relative to what was fed with the hay. So, if feeding 15 lbs. of hay, then approximately 13 lbs. of the hay pellets. Long-stem hay is important for gut health and horses drink more water with long-stem hay. I suggest you continue feeding at least 50% of the forage as long-stem hay and use the hay pellets to complement the balance of forage fed.

My horse is a 17-year-old Holstein that is in light to moderate work. Aside from a little arthritis, she is healthy and sound. A friend at the barn suggested I get the non-molasses Integrity Adult/Senior to reduce the amount of sugar in her diet. Can you advise what you think is best?

Integrity Lite and the Adult/Senior are both available in No Molasses. The Lite is lower sugar and starch. There is a lot of confusion by horse owners with the contribution of sugar from molasses. Molasses is 40% sugar. If feeding 1 lb. of a feed that has 6% added molasses, then the actual sugar contribution is only 10.8 g or little more than a 1/3 oz. or less than 1 tbsp. (12.6 g). If your horse has no health problems, such as IR, Cushing, PSSM, sugar contribution from a feed that contains molasses would not be my concern. There are feeds, including A&M, that are high molasses, 10-20%. I am more interested in the balance of energy sources from VFAs, fat and soluble carbohydrates (sugar/starch) in a feed.

My horse is on a combination of Integrity Performance and Integrity Rice Bran Nugget. I have been told by an equine bodyworker that Integrity Performance is bad for my horse because it contains molasses and molasses is toxic for horses. Is this true? My mare is getting approximately two scoops of Integrity Performance per day, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon.

No. Recently at the Murrieta Horse Expo, one of my speaking topics was Falsehoods in Horse Nutrition. That’s one of the falsehoods. Also, in Dr. Bray’s Corner there is a fact sheet, Is Molasses Unhealthy? Comments such as molasses is “bad” or “toxic” demonstrates a lack of knowledge nutritionally and how biological systems work in the body.

Listed are a few of the points of interest:

  • Yes, molasses is 40% sugar and is common with sweet feeds, but that 40% sugar content does not translate to 40% sugar in the finished product.
  • Key words with any diet – balance & moderation.
  • One needs to consider how much of the molasses-containing feed is fed. One to 2 cups per day? One to 2 lbs.? Eight to10 lbs.?
  • There was a study in which molasses was fed with either corn or oats. The authors suggested from the study’s results that molasses’ influence on blood glucose levels depends on what other feed sources provide sugars and starches and how quickly the horse consumes the feed.

Typical grass hay is 7.6% ESC (ethanol soluble carbohydrates). ESC lab analysis represents simple sugars, disaccharides (2 sugar molecules hooked together), and oligosaccharides (4 – 7 sugar molecules hooked together). If a 1,000 lb. horse consumes 16 lbs. of grass hay, then that’s 1.2 lbs. sugar or 552 grams. The sugar from molasses in 1 lb. of Integrity Performance is 9 grams or equivalent to 2 sugar cubes.

The body is designed to covert starches and sugar into a simple form of glucose. Glucose is required by the body to fuel the cell. For true performance horses (athletes), a readily available form of sugar in the diet is critical in priming cellular energy production. If your horse has a metabolic syndrome, such as Cushing’s or IR, then you would consider options to reduce some sources of direct sugars and starches and increase other energy forms such as fat or complex forms of carbohydrates such as beet pulp and soyhulls.

I have looked up the analysis of Integrity Adult/Senior feed and the amount for Omega 3 is not listed. Could you please tell me what it is? I am caring for a 27 yr. old gelding with Cushing’s disease. He is getting Integrity feed (maybe not enough) but his skin and coat are not healthy.

For the Adult/Senior, the omega 3 fatty acid is 0.64% and for the omega 6 fatty acid, 1.89%; thus, the omega 6 to 3 ratio is 3:1. In Dr. Bray’s Corner there is a fact sheet regarding the misunderstandings in the horse industry with omega fatty acids and what we know.

Omega 3 fatty acids are NOT the fat source for healthy coat/skin. Note the final paragraph of the fact sheet….

One final point of interest … what/which fat is better for skin and hair coat? Early foundation studies on omega fatty acids demonstrated that when feeding omega-6, the symptoms of skin conditions, loss of hair & kidney damage disappear. Feed omega-3, the skin symptoms remained, but the animal grew better. Corn, soy, and sunflower oils are good sources of omega-6 fatty acids.

I have a 26 year old Arabian that has Cushing’s disease and is underweight. Can you please let me know how much Integrity Adult/Senior (No Molasses) a day I can give him to help him gain weight? He weighs about 800 pounds.

Integrity Lite No Molasses is the lowest sugar/starch Integrity formula. With Cushing’s I am very cautious in giving any feed that provides additional sugar, starch and fructans to a hay diet. I would need to know more about your horse and current feeding program – the hay fed, lbs. of hay fed, other feeds being fed, medication, severity of Cushing’s disease, and is he active or just a companion?

Another option is to add a hay grass pellet (nothing else in the pellet but hay); usually grass hay pellets are from a more mature grass thus lower in sugar/starch. You can mix a grass hay pellet with liquid oil (any vegetable oil, no rice bran because bran is starch) and a generic vitamin/mineral supplement. You may need to soften the hay pellet with water.

Do you recommend soaking the Integrity Senior feed?

No. However, good management observations are always needed with any feed that is fed. If your horse bolts (aggressive consumer) his feed and you need to slow down consumption then softening food with water is an option or placing large stones (large as cannot be mouthed and picked up) in the feed tub to force navigating for the food. Also, if teeth issues influence chewing, then softening the food can be helpful. Quantity fed is also a consideration but would need a better understanding of how much will be fed.

When you are feeding a senior feed you have a 13% protein and 20% fiber and 4% fat. My question is do you want a higher fat or fiber to balance the diet?

Depends if the horse is a couch potato or active. Integrity Lite for protein, fiber & fat respectively is 12%, 20% & 6%; Lite is good for a couch potato, inactive senior and pleasure/light working horse. Integrity Adult/Senior is respectively 13.5%, 16.5% & 7.3%; Ault/Senior is good for a senior who cannot maintain body condition, working/pleasure senior or light/moderate working pleasure horse.

Do Integrity Lite and Integrity Rice Bran have added electrolytes? We currently supplement with electrolytes.

All the Integrity formulas (except Integrity Rice Bran which is a fat supplement) are balanced formulas. They are balanced for the dietary required nutrients that includes Na, K & Cl, the primary electrolytes, as well as Ca & Mg. If you are working your horse at moderate to heavy/very heavy intensity levels, then an electrolyte supplement may be useful. Humid, high temperatures also add to the need. I do not recommend daily electrolyte supplementation; Na, K & Cl follow water which translates. If fluid balance/pH is not a challenge, then the added electrolytes are eliminated via urine. The general recommendation is 2 hours prior to exercise and 2 hours after exercise. If in an endurance competition, then electrolyte supplement should also be included every 2 hours during exercise.

I have a 28 year old Arabian mare who started a lot of dropping weight and eating poorly. She won't touch alfalfa hay or pellets, picks at all types of other hay but likes to eat the crab grass growing around the barn. What would you suggest feeding to get weight back on her? Would chopped hay with molasses be ok? I don't know if all that molasses would be good for an older horse. She also has diarrhea which our Vet has given us Bio Sponge to treat her with.

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.

What is the NSC% for Star Milling Timothy pellets?

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
I am currently feeding my horse a combination of Integrity Rice Bran nuggets, Integrity Performance, and Integrity Adult/Senior No Molasses. What is the starch content of each of these feeds?

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.

Do you have a starch/sugar WSC/NSC chart for your hay pellets? I recently got some of your Orchard pellets and need to know if they are safe for my insulin resistant horse. Also, do you have the iron contents of these as well?

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.

What is the NSC in Integrity Adult/Senior?

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’m considering switching to Integrity Adult/Senior no molasses or Integrity Lite. I am curious about joint support in both of the above mentioned feeds. Currently I am feeding Elk Grove Milling Senior with Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Can you tell me how Integrity compares?

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.

Do I need to soak Integrity Senior feed? Does the beet pulp need extra water?

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.