Learn more on the extrusion process, how the horse’s digestive process works and feeding recommendations for your horses needs.
Jeanne van der Veen, Equine and Specialty Nutritionist for the Sentinel nutrition team dives deep into the science behind the development process of making an extruded premium feed, how the horse’s digestive process works, key ingredients, and feeding recommendations.
There are many specialized and newly developed feeds and concentrates available for your horse, thanks to extensive research and testing done in the equine nutrition industry. Have you ever wondered why certain feeds look a certain way? Why nutritionists choose certain ingredients over others? Why some ingredients or feed forms are better for your horse than others? Well, we sat down with Jeanne van der Veen to discuss the several of those topics.
Q1: What is an extruded nugget and how does it work?
Jeanne rolls her sleeves up and dives in sharing how the extrusion process works and the nutritional and digestive benefits it brings to your horse. “Extrusion is the most technologically advanced method of equine feed processing. During the extrusion process, the ingredients are pressure cooked, combining high pressure, heat, and moisture to rapidly cook the ingredients and form the feed. The formula is forced through a die to determine the shape and size of the nugget. At this time, the pressure is released, and the starch molecules expand, resulting in a low-density food nugget or extruded nugget. The product is then rapidly cooled to retain its high nutritional quality. Through the extrusion process, the light and airy nugget is created and is significantly different compared to a much denser, hard-pressed pellet.
There are several benefits to this extrusion process. First, with the expansion of the nugget it becomes lighter and airier, which means there is more volume of feed in a pound of extruded product. Therefore, your horse will chew it longer which may minimize choke and other digestive upsets. The horse is a natural grazer and the system is used to taking in smaller amounts more often. Less feed moving through the digestive tract at once is healthier for the digestive process. The extruded form allows for this. Also, the stomach is better buffered from acids due to the saliva production with increased chewing. Third, research has shown that heat treatment through pressure cooking or extrusion increases digestibility and optimizes nutrient availability and utilization to the horse. Extrusion increases starch availability and digestion of grains in the small intestine or foregut effectively reducing the risk of starch to the hindgut. This increase of starch digestion in the foregut reduces the potential for digestive disturbances that may lead to colic and laminitis (founder).
Equine Digestive Tract
Click the gallery to learn more about the equine digestive tract!
Q2: What is the role of foregut and hindgut?
“The foregut is the stomach and small intestines. In the stomach, the natural enzymes and acids convert feed particles into essential nutrients for absorption. In the small intestines, absorption of nutrients is essential for life processes including respiration, metabolism, growth, reproduction and physical activities. The digestion of proteins, carbohydrates (starch & sugars), fats, minerals and vitamins takes place in the foregut. Extrusion may enhance the digestion of these nutrients. and may also minimize the undesirable passage of starch and sugar to the hindgut. The role of hind gut— cecum and large intestine— is to ferment forage and other fiber components and convert it into usable energy, protein, and other nutrients for the horse. Forage is a natural source of energy for the horse. The horse’s body is designed to digest a high level of fiber, not starch and sugars. It’s designed to breakdown forage (hay or pasture) and through microbial population convert it into energy or calories. Mainly fiber should be digested in the hindgut and a good healthy feed product will make that happen efficiently.
Check out the chart below to learn how extruded feeds are designed for maximum breakdown.
Q3: Why should a horse owner be aware of starch and sugar intake?
“When a horse has certain metabolic or digestive health issues, a low starch and sugar diet is recommended. The horse’s digestive system needs starch and sugar naturally, but when too much enters the small intestine and it’s not efficiently absorbed, it can pass to the hind gut and may cause digestive upsets or metabolic imbalances. Too much starch and sugar in the hindgut changes the normal high fiber microbial population and balance. It negatively alters the balance of starch digesting enzymes that produce components that can be toxic to the hindgut. Such as increased gas production that could lead to colic and founder.
Q4: Which feed or concentrates from the Sentinel line would you recommend for horse that provide a healthy balance of nutrients, minerals, and protein?
“It really depends on the specific horse, age, their body type and what type of work you are asking them to preform – especially how often. For the working horse or even a horse struggling for good body condition (EPSM horses for example) I would suggest Sentinel Performance L/S. The extruded nugget of Performance L/S really helps with the overall digestive health of the horse. For the younger horse that need more protein, there has been great success with Sentinel Grow and Excel. Then there are horses that don’t have a body condition issue and are not in heavy work, Sentinel Simply Lite is great at providing the nutrients they still need in a lower feeding rate. Depending on the metabolic condition or situation, such as horses with Cushing’s, obesity, insulin resistance – Simply Lite can be a good choice for them as well.”
To read more about more equine health topics from the Sentinel Nutrition Team, click here!