“Extruded” is a word you’ve no doubt seen on feed bags, but do you really know what it means? Choosing an extruded feed over pellets or other types of nugget can make a big difference in your horse’s nutrition.
Extrusion is a common process for manufacturing both human and animal foods, such as dog kibble or some breakfast cereals. The ingredients are first ground and mixed, then cooked with moist heat to a high temperature. The resulting mash is then pushed through a die to shape it. The sudden drop in pressure after the feed emerges from the die into the cooler air causes the starch molecules to explode, “popping” it into a nugget shape. (In contrast, pelleted feeds are also processed and pushed through a die, but without the pressure-induced popping.)
The extrusion process makes the starches and other nutrients in the feed easier for a horse to digest and absorb. Horses who have dental problems or digestive issues may do better on an extruded feed. In addition, the “airy” texture of extruded feeds means that a horse can be fed a larger quantity of food that provides fewer calories. This can be a significant benefit for an overweight horse who is on a restricted diet but still needs the satisfaction of chewing while his barnmates are being fed.
However, because extruded feeds are lighter than other types, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s feeding guidelines. It would be easy to underfeed a horse if you measure only by scoopful without considering the actual weight of the feed. Horses unfamiliar with extruded feeds may take a while to warm up to the new texture, but most will adjust if you introduce the change gradually.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #456, September 2015.