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Extrusion, NSCs & Equine Metabolic Disorders


What is extrusion and why is extrusion the preferred manufacturing method in food science and the pet food industry? Extrusion technology has progressed significantly within the past 40 years. This method involves pushing the diet through a small opening at the end of a barreled shaft under steam pressure. The key carbohydrate in the diet is processed by friction, steam pressured heat, and water that mixes with the starch and becomes soluble allowing gelatinization to occur. The gelatinized starch glues the diet together and forms a new texture by expansion and binding. The product becomes a unique composite and forms a shaped nugget.

The Benefits of Extrusion:

  1. Increased starch digestibility
  2. Increased bulk density
  3. Increased protein digestibility and improved amino acid absorption
  4. Inhibits harmful enzymes such as trypsin
  5. Decreased fungi, bacteria and mycotoxins
  6. Decreased rancidity of fat

Improved Digestibility & Non-Structured Carbohydrates

An extruded diet is an excellent choice for horses that show symptoms of hormone metabolic disorders. Extrusion improves the total availability of nutrients in the diet. The extruder makes starch more digestible by gelatinizing starch and increasing digestibility from 20-40% up to 90%. Gelatinized starch is a chain of carbohydrates (such as a long chain) that slows down the breakdown of COOH and in combination with the diet and water releases glucose at a slower rate. This slower release allows amylase to work more efficiently in the breakdown of starch into glucose. Rapid fermentation of starch is not good (such as wheat) and can cause acidosis or founder in sensitive animals.

The extruded diet with less grain and slower digesting NSCs (non-structured carbohydrates) provides the same starch digestibility but without the rapid increase in glucose levels.

Metabolic Disorders

Metabolic disorders normally occur in older, less active horses that are overweight and not fed properly. Metabolic disorders can also occur in horses grazing on grass pastures. The three major metabolic disorders discovered in horses are: insulin resistance, Cushings disease and laminitis. Veterinarians can diagnose these disorders by conducting one or more of the following four tests:

  1. Insulin levels
  2. Blood glucose levels (blood sugar)
  3. Thyroid level
  4. ACTH levels (a hormone produced by the pituitary gland)

Eating Right & Exercise

These metabolic disorders are much like the Type II diabetes found in humans. Type II diabetes is prominent in humans who are obese, consume too many starchy based foods and do not get enough exercise. Exercise and a diet consisting of low glycemic foods (carbohydrates) and restricted caloric intake can improve the condition. There is no significant difference between diabetes in humans and metabolic disorders found in equines. Keeping an active lifestyle with plenty of exercise and eating the right food promotes good health in humans and equines.

Daily Ration of Grain for a 1000 lb Adult Horse

EQUIDAE - 2 lbs feed at 33% NSC = .66 lbs starch

Other Brand Low Starch Feed - 5 to 7 lbs feed at 11-15% NSC = .55 - .77 lbs starch

Equidae fits right in the middle with a much more digestible source of starch that does not cause sugar production.