Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Dietary Energy for Horses - Full Article

By Dr. Joe Pagan · December 19, 2012

Horses get energy for exercise, growth, and body maintenance from the forage and concentrates they consume. Dietary energy is usually expressed in terms of kilocalories (kcal) or megacalories (Mcal) of digestible energy. Digestible energy (DE) refers to the amount of energy in the diet that is absorbed by the horse. Digestible energy requirements are calculated based on the horse’s maintenance DE requirement plus the additional energy expended during exercise. Basically, DE can be provided to horses by four different dietary energy sources: starch, fat, protein, and fiber.

Starch, a carbohydrate composed of a large number of glucose molecules, is the primary component of cereal grains, making up 50 to 70% of the grain’s dry matter. Of the grains
commonly fed to horses, corn has the highest starch content. Starch is a versatile energy source for the performance horse. Horses break down starch into glucose units in the small intestine, where it is absorbed into the blood. Once in the blood, these glucose units can be oxidized directly to fuel muscle activity or they can be used to make muscle glycogen, liver glycogen, or body fat...

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