What is starch?
STARCH is the way in which cereal plants store energy. The cereals most commonly used for feeding horses include oats, barley, wheat and maize.
How is it used and stored in the body?
The energy from starch can be used straight away or it can be stored in the body for use at a later date. Starch is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver or as fat in adipose stores.
What problems can starch cause?
Starch can cause problems if too much is fed in one feed, but also if the total daily intake is excessive too. Acute problems include laminitis and colic, chronic problems include gastric ulcers. It is also worth noting that cereals are higher in omega 6 fatty acids which, if insufficient omega 3 fatty acids are supplied in the diet, can put the body in an inflammatory state making the horse more vulnerable to inflammatory diseases.
Not leaving enough room for fibre
The horse has a finite appetite and so, if lots of cereal-based feeds are fed, there will be less room for forage. The horse will often consume cereal-based feeds in preference to forage, as they are sweeter but this doesn’t mean it’s right! Insufficient fibre in the diet causes problems such as colic and gastric ulcers, so it is important to ensure that the horse consumes at least 1% and ideally 1.5% of its own bodyweight as forage per day. If horses are chewing wood or eating their own droppings, it is a sign that they are seeking more fibre and aren’t receiving enough in their rations.
How much starch can I feed?
Guidelines from research suggests that to promote good health, each meal should provide less than 1g of starch per kg bodyweight, ie less than 500g for a 500kg horse. The total daily intake should be less than 2g of starch per kg bodyweight, ie less than 1000g for a 500kg horse. Just because a feed is low in starch doesn’t mean to say it’s low energy. Fibre and oil both supply energy with very low levels of starch relative to cereals. Dengie Alfa-A Oil for example provides 12.5MJ per Kg DE but the starch level is 10 times lower than a cereal feed of the same energy value.
If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact the Dengie nutrition team on 1800 911 809*, email: email@example.com or visit the website at www.dengie .com for more information.
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