You’ve read all the books and examined bag upon bag at your local feed store. You might even have talked to your veterinarian about how best to feed your horse, given his age, condition and workload.

But all the knowledge in the world won’t help if your horse isn’t getting what he actually needs from his feed, and getting it in a way that works well with his uniquely sensitive system. That’s where digestibility comes into play—and where extruded feeds really shine.

The Process

Most commercial horse feeds are processed in one way or another for example, pelleted, textured and extruded. Extrusion—a technologically advanced method of feed processing that involves pressure cooking—offers multiple nutritional and digestive benefits. While this method is not new, it is relatively new in the equine feed industry.

The process of extrusion begins with the usual ingredients ground up, blended together and then quickly pressure cooked using a combination of steam, moisture and heat. The cooking breaks down the starch and protein bonds, allowing for changes in shape and density as well as exposure of the molecules to greater enzymatic digestion in the small intestine.

Rapid cooling of the feed, which is reshaped into low-density, lightweight nuggets when forced through a die, ensures that the high nutritional quality of the ingredients is retained. The result is a feed that works safely and naturally in conjunction with horse’s unique digestive system, which is designed for continuous intake of small amounts of forage and fiber.

The System

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The horse has a unique digestive track. Let’s look at the way a horse’s gastrointestinal tract works—and how extrusion works with it.

The stomach and small intestine (foregut) are built to handle the enzymatic digestion of proteins, starches and fats in relatively small amounts, due to their limited capacity. The caecum and large intestine (hindgut), which has a larger capacity than the foregut, is where digestion of fiber occurs via bacterial fermentation.

Any factor that results in a deviation from this design can lead to digestive challenges and ultimately affect horse health. Undesirable eating behaviors, impaired digestive function, reduced nutrient absorption or feed management such as meal feeding of high grain diets can result in decreased fore-gut or pre-caecal digestion of starch and protein. Undigested protein that passes to the hindgut may not be absorbed as readily and is subject to microbial attack that alters the quality of the amino acids. Undigested starch that continues into the hindgut will undergo rapid fermentation, which can lead to potential digestive upsets such as colic and laminitis (founder). A pre-caecal digestibility of starch and protein is desirable.

The Benefits

Research proves that extruding feed increases the availability and the digestibility of the ingredients—including the starch—before they reach the hindgut. Safety is reportedly improved, too, since the heat generated through the extrusion process reduces the amount of potentially harmful pests or microorganisms that may be found in the grain. Research also shows that horses consume extruded feed at a healthier rate than traditional rations. Because slower intake more closely mimics the way nature intends horses to eat, this can help prevent common digestive disturbances.

Have a senior horse with dental problems or reduced saliva production? Extruded feed may be a boon for him because the nuggets are easy to chew and digest. Hard keepers are another group that might benefit from the enhanced digestibility and increased nutrient utilization offered by extruded feed.

So for a healthy and efficient way to give your horse the nutrition he needs, extruded formulas are worth a look. 

For more information on Sentinel® extruded feeds, check out this video:

One of the leaders in the field of extruded horse feeds, Blue Seal has manufactured these equine formulas for more than 30 years and offers a complete line of extruded feeds under the Sentinel® brand. These Nutrient Release Formulas are designed to maximize nutrition and digestion, utilizing natural, low-starch and low-sugar ingredients such as soybean hulls, beet pulp, rice bran and flaxseed, along with vitamins and minerals. To further explore the benefits of extruded feeds, visit the Blue Seal website: https://bit.ly/36yX83U

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