Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Otto, OCD and High Glycemic Response Feeds

Yes, we are altering the feed program AGAIN for Otto. You might ask why  because we all know that frequent feed changes for horses isn't really a good thing.

Otto is now at near optimal body condition for his age. That is a good thing. My vet is pleased with his weight, I am pleased with his weight and he seems like he feels good judging from his playing and overall attitude. Maybe a little too good! The improved quality feed  has paid off. His feet are even beginning to show some noticeable rings indicative of the feed change.

So why fix it if it isn't broke??

After speaking to the vet  about his growth, his "previous" feed program,  and discovering that the Safeshoice Original formula is not TRULY a low starch or controlled carb feed,  (thanks to Mel for discovering what I overlooked!) it was time to reconsider.

(**Note to self in the future-  READ the damn feed tag in detail and DON'T ASSUME it truly is a low carb feed because that is what the pretty packaging said.. Seriously.. I do know better.. )

More than ulcers, risk of colic or anything else related to feed  or feed changes,  our biggest concern for Otto is developing OCD (Osteochondritis Dissecans)

There is a direct correlation between horses developing issues with Osteochondritis Dissecans ( OCD)  and feeds that contain high glycemic responses.  There is also an increased risk for foals that were born large, with faster than average growth rates i.e. Otto.

There is a ton of information out  there on this subject.  Kentucky Equine Research did a study in the 90's and I also found this Field study.  An interesting read if you have the time. If not, I will spare you the time and summarize the basic concept from one of many articles on the subject:

"The source of calories for young horses may also be important, as hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia have been implicated in the pathogenesis of OCD. Foals that repeatedly experience an exaggerated and sustained increase in circulating glucose or insulin in response to a carbohydrate (grain) meal may be predisposed to the development of OCD."  
( date accessed 11/26/2014 ;

Otto was not only born a large colt (according to his previous owners) but he was also not being fed the best of feed the first year and half of his life. If the hay quality they sent him here with is any indicator of the typical hay he had access to through his short life, then he was probably not meeting his nutrition requirements. That,  compounded by the fact that he was also being fed a 3 way cob with corn and molasses and oats.. ??? That's two strikes in my opinion.

The first thing I did when he got here was  transition him to beet pulp and Safechoice Mare and Foal along with Equipride for the fat. He was underweight so getting some weight on him was a priority especially since we were headed into winter.

As you may recall, he decided one morning he didn't  like the Mare and Foal and refused it so we switched to another feed , Safechoice Original formula (see note to self above).

He has certainly enjoyed this grain but it's not exactly a good fit for what he needs. So ... it was back to shopping for the right product.

Walking down the aisle at the local feed store retailer these days is almost as bad as walking down the aisle of skin care at the local walmart. There's a choice for whatever ails ya , but scratch the surface a bit , and it's the same old pig , only with wheels.

In my hunting and researching, I have been able to whittle it down to some basic guidelines to look for as far as ingredients when you want a true low starch grain.

1st rule of thumb-(not trying to be captain obvious here but still worth the mention)

 AVOID CORN, OATS, BARLEY in all cases.

  1.  Wheat Middlings- This is the the part of the wheat hull that is the smaller part of the wheat ( as opposed to the wheat bran part used in processing flour). It is known for adding good fiber digestibility to feeds. Midds actuaully have a high NSC level, about 33% BUT  because of the fiber and being combined in feeds with fat, it levels things out. It also packs a punch when you look at the DE megacaloris per pound.  It is often one of the FIRST ingredients found on several Low starch grain available. 
  2. Dried Distillers Grain - a by product of grain fermentation for either alcohol for consumption or producing ethanol.  They are grounded and yeast is added. It is then heated to convert the starches and sugear into alcohol leaving behind a low NSC ingredient that is high in protein and fat. It's then dried and used in livestock feed. 
  3. Soybean Hulls:This is a by product of crushing soybeans. They are low in lignin and high in fiber. They are considered a source of protein .
  4. Alfalfa meal- ground up alfalfa and considered a high calorie fiber
  5. Shredded beet pulp: most of us are familiar with this miracle fiber for horses,however there is still some misconception out there that it is high in sugar because its derived from sugar beets. The processing removes the sugars, leaving a by product with very low NSC (well under 20%) and very digestible fiber. One thing about beet pulp is that is has some odd mineral properties that can throw off a horses balance if not careful
  6. Rice Bran- yet another fiber and it also serves to add calories to a horses diet without the carb load. The main problem with Rice bran , when fed in large amounts, is that the Calcium and Phosphorus ratio is reversed from what a horse actually needs so back in the day when people would often feed warm rice bran mashes to their horses, it really wasn't the best practice. 
  7. Molasses or Cane Molasses- i was surprised to see this as an ingredient in low carb/low starch horse grain but it was there nonetheless in some. Its  used for palatability and combined  with soy oil , keeps textured feed from separating. It seems it doesn't necessarily need to be feared, if it is on a feed tag as a 3rd , 4th or further down ingredient number . It may only make up 1% of the total feed. 
Last rule of thumb- Possibly more important than anything else, is that really , no matter what grain I choose, the key is the forage,  long stem good quality hay , as much as he wants at this point.  Otto is fortunate and I am reminded to be very grateful.  I am able to keep him in a fairly ideal setting on our pasture . It's not alot, but its more than what alot of horse owners have. While our pasture is pretty much gone, there is still some dormant grass he is able to pick at throughout the day. In fact,  he will actually choose to pick and graze at that over  his hay at various times through out the day.  I keep hay in front of him most of the time and this alone goes a long ways to keeping him as healthy as possible. 

As far as which grain I select goes, I am looking at a couple of options of feeds. Price wise they are similar and within a few dollar of each other. Ingredient wise they are also similar. One has some cane molasses in it as a 5th ingredient so it's really not a huge concern to me. The other product I am considering has NO molasses but also contains flaxseed which is a bonus.

The biggest difference is availability and/or convenience with sourcing it on a monthly basis. I am not always good at getting my new supply of grain 2 weeks before I run out. Most times it's more like 2 days before I run out. If the grain choice is not available when I need it last minute, I don't want to be faced with waiting a week for the feed store to get it back in.

Ah,  the joys of living somewhere with limited choices!

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