Have you ever stopped to think about how your horse’s feed is actually cooked? At BUCKEYE™ Nutrition, it’s our job to think of things like this every day. When we asked our customers what they’d like in a feed designed for senior horses, one of the common comments was that it was easy to chew. So we went to work! How can we make a horse feed that maximizes ease of chewing? Simple – we can extrude it! Fortunately, our mill in Dalton, OH has extrusion capability, which gives us amazing flexibility in our manufacturing processes. The result is our new SAFE ‘N EASY Senior. Extrusion has long been used in pet food manufacturing, but has also recently become utilized for equine feed. If you’re now wondering what extrusion actually is, read on!
In your own kitchen, you may have a pressure cooker. Pressure cooking is essentially what the process of extrusion is. Ingredients are ground and conditioned with steam, then cooked for a short period of time under high temperature and pressure. The mixture is then forced through a die, which determines the size and shape of the final product. The extrusion process helps to break down the structures of starches (and, depending on temperature, proteins), resulting in a “gelatinization” of starch (Dunnett, 2013). Extrusion appears to improve starch digestion in the small intestine (Vervuert, et al. 2008), lessening the likelihood that starch reaches the hindgut. Protein in extruded grains also appears to have higher digestibility compared to ground or pelleted grains (Rosenfeld and Austo 2009). All of this means that an extruded product is essentially “pre-digested,” so that the horse can absorb starches and proteins a more efficiently.
Extrusion also makes it easier to manufacture high fat feeds, which is beneficial for hard keepers. Moisture of the final product is typically low, helping to prolong shelf life and prevent mold, and are typically low in dust (Dunnett 2013). In addition, horses tend to consume extruded feeds slower than pellets or textured feed (Ely, et al. 2019), helping to lower the risk of digestive upset.
What you may not know about an extruded nugget is that it is less dense than other forms of feed (pellets or textured, for example). That means that if you fill a cup with pellets, and you fill the same cup with extruded feed, they will not weigh the same. The extruded feed will weigh less. That is one reason why it is so important to weigh your horse’s feed, and not just go by cups or scoops.
Because extruded feeds are less dense then other feed forms, they will fall apart in the horse’s mouth easier. Adding water to an extruded feed, like our new SAFE ‘N EASY Senior, will result in an oatmeal-like consistency within about 3 minutes. For the horse with poor teeth or lack of chewing ability, feeding this type of soup or mash is an excellent option for calorie and nutrient consumption with a reduced risk of digestive upset. As a bonus, soaking feed helps increase water intake, and that’s always a good thing!
Extrusion has many benefits for horses of all ages, from helping to maintain weight to improved digestibility. Please contact us with your feeding questions, we’ll be happy to help with your nutritional concerns!
Dunnett, C. 2013. Ration evaluation and formulation. In: Equine Applied and Clinical Nutrition. Geor, R.J., Harris, P.A and Coenen, M., Eds. Saunders Elsevier, London. pp. 405-424.
Ely, K., Harris, P., Kaufman, K., Liburt, N., Krotky, A., McIntosh, B. 2019. Digestibility and postprandial response according to processing method and meal time of day. JEVS. 76:67.
Rosenfeld, I. and Austo, D. 2009. Digestion of cereals in the equine gastrointestinal tract measured by the mobile bag technique on caecally cannulated horses. Animal Feed Sci Tech. 150(3-4):249-258.
Vervuert, I., Voigt, K., Hollands, T., Cuddeford, D., Coenen, M. 2008. Effects of processing barley on its digestion by horses. Veterinary Record. 162: 684-688.