Friday, August 31, 2012

Carbohydrates in Equine Nutrition - Full Article

By Dr. Joe Pagan · June 21, 2012

About 75% of all plant matter is comprised of carbohydrates. This fact means that carbohydrates are an extremely important part of a horse’s diet. There are a number of different types of carbohydrates in horse feed, and they vary considerably as to how well horses digest and utilize each one. In nutritional terms, carbohydrates can be divided into two broad categories: nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) and structural carbohydrates (cell wall).

Nonstructural carbohydrates are those that either occur as simple sugars in the horse’s feed, or can be broken down by enzymes produced by the horse. Included in this category are glucose, fructose, lactose, sucrose, and starch. They range from being almost nonexistent in a grass hay diet to comprising a high percentage of the total diet in a high-grain, low-fiber ration.

Structural carbohydrates are those that are resistant to the horse’s digestive enzymes. These carbohydrates occur in the cell wall portion of the plant and must be fermented by bacteria living in the horse’s gut before they can be utilized by the horse. As a group, these carbohydrates are called plant fiber, and they consist primarily of cellulose and hemicellulose...

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