Understanding NSC Content in Horse Feed and Supplements 

Understanding NSC Content in Horse Feed and Supplements, Horse Feeds, Slow Horse Feeds

If you are a horse lover, it’s likely you have been to more than one feed or farm store looking for the ideal horse feed for your trusted equine companions. And, oh the decisions! They make horse feed and supplements for nearly every scenario you can imagine. And that can be a good thing.  

Like humans, horses have unique tastes, likes and dislikes. They also have unique health conditions and dietary needs. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all feed regime wouldn’t work for an entire stable

Preventing IR and Obesity 

One condition that is becoming more prevalent in horses is insulin resistance (IR). Horses that are insulin-resistant are often prone to obesity. Insulin is a hormone that enables the body to utilize glucose from carbohydrates. When the horse’s body stores up that hormone and can’t break it down, it becomes stored up as starches and fats, which leads to obesity. 

Laminitis in horses, Understanding NSC Content in Horse Feed and Supplements 

Like most things in life, prevention is the best treatment for insulin resistance, which often does lead to obesity. There are several prevention methods including feeding your horse a proper diet, ensuring it gets plenty of exercise and avoiding excessive sweet treats. Let’s examine each of these in more depth. 

Exercise your Horse

Your horse needs to exercise. And like humans, their exercise requirements will be different. Horses are natural grazers, so they might have originally gotten 20-40 miles a day in, without even trying. However, with many horses living the “stable” life, exercise is more important now than ever. 

Make sure your horse gets in at least 20 minutes of exercise each day, for at least five days a week. This can vary depending on your schedule. Exercise includes hand walking, riding and turnout. However, if you are doing any type of vigorous exercise, be sure to include at least five minutes of warming up and cool down, to keep your horse’s temperature and heartbeat regulated. 

Importance of Low Starch Feed, Supplements 

Just like humans who experience IR or can’t break down insulin, your horses need to be fed a diet that is low in starch and sugar. That is why it is vital that you take the time to read the label and understand the ingredient profile of what is going into your horse feed. 

Non-structural carbohydrates or NSC refers to the sugars and starches found in horse feeds. Some performance horses might require a certain level of NSC to meet their energy needs. However, prolonged feeding of high levels of NSC can have unfavorable effects, especially for horses with metabolic disorders or starch sensitivities. 

NSC are broken down and absorbed in the horse’s small intestine. Once absorbed, they can be stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. However, only a certain amount of NSC can be broken down while in the small intestine. Undigested NSC then passes to the hindgut where it undergoes fermentation by microbes. 

Hindgut Fermentation

The fermentation process produces lactic acid, which lowers the pH of the hindgut, ultimately leading to several hindgut issues. Those challenges may include hindgut acidosis, gas, colic and metabolic problems. Therefore, it is important to control the amount of NSC fed to a horse, especially those prone to metabolic diseases such as laminitis.  

Generally, it is recommended that a horse with metabolic issues receive a diet with no more than 12% NSC. While a “healthy” horse can easily tolerate NSC levels of around 20%, be advised this recommendation represents the total percentage of NSC in the diet. Some individual components of the diet, especially those included in small quantities, may be much greater without causing any harm to the horse. For example, a half-pound inclusion of something with an NSC of 30% should not be of concern to most horses, given their total daily intake is generally 2% of their body weight, or 24 pounds for a 1,200-pound horse.   

Read the Label, Test your Forage 

Many fortified grains are now listing the percentage of NSC as part of the guaranteed analysis on the feed tag. That is why it is paramount that you always read the ingredient labels to know exactly what is included in your horse feed. If the NSC level is not listed on the tag, that does not mean it is not low NSC. You can always reach out to the manufacturer to ask the percent of NSC in any of their products. 

However, it is also important to take into consideration the NSC content of the horse’s forage source. Many horse owners often think of spring grasses as being high in sugar and starch and a trigger for laminitis. But, depending on conditions, fall grasses can have NSC as high as those lush spring pastures. This is especially true when it is sunny during the day and very cold at night.  

During the day, the grass uses sunlight to generate energy (sugar), but, if the grass does not use that energy to grow during the night, as is the case when it is cold, the extra sugars remain in the grass. When horses consume that grass early in the day, they may receive a high level of NSC. This is very important to keep in mind, especially when managing horses who have a history of or are at a high risk of developing metabolic problems like laminitis. 

It is also critical to test your forages, as you need to know your overall nutrient content, not just the NSC content.  

Hay Testing Services, Understanding NSC Content in Horse Feed and Supplements, Horse Feeds, Slow Horse Feeds

Vitalize® Can Help 

BioZyme® Inc., makers of high-quality equine supplements, Vitalize®, produce several products research-proven to be low in NSC. This is just one way of making sure we are providing safe, accurate products to our customers. 

“We know how important it is to our customers to make sure their horses get the best nutrition possible, and that includes products that are lower in starch and sugar content. You can feel good about feeding products from Vitalize. They are low in NSC, backed by science and contain our research-proven prebiotic so your horse will feel its best,” said Hayley Keck, Senior Brand Manager.  

Vitalize is a line of supplements for horses, dogs and cats with proven solutions to keep your animal healthy and performing.  

All four of our pellets contain less than the recommended maximum 20% of NSC. Let’s learn a little more about these Vitalize products. 

Vitalize® Protein Pellet 

The Vitalize Protein Pellet is a pelleted, natural protein supplement for horses that is fortified with vitamins and minerals. It contains:  

  • AO-Biotics® Amaferm®, a prebiotic research-proven to enhance digestibility  
  • 28% natural protein.  
  • Highly fortified levels of vitamins, minerals, organic sources of trace minerals 
  • Vitamins A, D and E along with niacin and B-12 for growth, bloom and health  
  • NSC level of approximately 19% 
  • Feeding rate of 1 pound (16 oz) per horse per day 

Vitalize® Equine Digest More® Plus 

Vitalize® Equine Digest More® Plus is a pelleted supplement for horses designed to support hindgut health and digestion of nutrients as well as hoof and coat health. Key ingredients include: 

  • Amaferm 
  • MOS (Mannan oligosaccharide) to help normalize hindgut microflora and support the immune system 
  • Biotin and zinc to promote healthy skin, hair and hooves 
  • NSC level of approximately 14% 
  • Feeding rate of 3 oz per horse per day 

Vitalize® High Performance  

Vitalize® High Performance is a pelleted supplement highly fortified with vitamins and minerals designed to support the nutritional needs of performance horses. High Performance contains: 

  • Amaferm 
  • Fortified vitamins, minerals and organic trace minerals. 
  • High levels of calcium to help maintain proper gut pH 
  • NSC level of approximately 12% 
  • Feeding rate of 8 oz per horse per day 

Vitalize® Equine Free Choice 

Vitalize® Equine Free Choice is a highly fortified, free-choice vitamin and mineral supplement for horses of all ages and stages while on pasture. Vitalize Free Choice provides optimized health and performance via the convenience of a highly fortified free choice equine mineral. It contains: 

  • Amaferm 
  • Organic zinc, manganese and copper, high levels of Vitamin E, niacin, biotin and other B vitamins to help overcome the stress of pasture life 
  • Garlic to deter insects 
  • NSC level: 9% 
  • Feeding rate of 4 oz per horse per day 

With low NSC and the benefits of Amaferm, the Vitalize products will add value to your daily horse feeding routine. 

What is Amaferm? 

Amaferm is prebiotic research-proven to enhance digestibility. It is backed by more than 70 years of research and more than 100 published and/or presented research studies. In horses, research shows increased digestion and volatile fatty acid (VFA) production. This leads to increased cool energy for the horse to perform.  

Amaferm’s primary function is improving digestibility. A horse that digests better, feels better, and typically has fewer incidences of colic. Amaferm has been proven to leave your horse with a #goodgutfeeling. 

With increased digestibility, you should be able to give your horse less feed, due to the fact they utilize more. When you are buying less horse feed, you are saving money, and that will give you a good feeling, too!  

Avoid Sweet Treats 

This last tip to prevent IR might be easier said than done. But it can be accomplished. Most horses, like all animals, do have a sweet tooth. And just like horse feed and supplements, there are a plethora of horse treats on the market for them.  

If you have a horse that suffers from IR or is borderline for IR, try to avoid the treats with added sugars and starches. Even natural treats like carrots and apples have natural sugars. 

Vitalize® Horse Treats are a great alternative. They are a lower sugar, prebiotic treat for horses. They contain Amaferm to enhance digestibility and carrot and beetroot to make them flavorful without artificial flavors. 

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More about BioZyme 

Not only does BioZyme focus on making low sugar content products for your IR horses, we emphasize making safe, accurate products across our family of brands for all animals. With corporate headquarters in Saint Joseph, Missouri, and a sister company in Lexington, Kentucky, you can be sure that our products undergo the most rigorous testing.  

We are research-based. With care that comes full circle as our company motto, you can be sure that our employees believe in each and every product and use them on their own animals, too. 

“I’ve been with BioZyme®️️️ for more than 5 years, and I trust all of our products for my own horse and two dogs. My horse, Ari, gets Alimend®️, Free Choice, Equine Gels as needed, and of course the Horse Treats! Before he was on Alimend️, he was quick to buck when he was fresh. He has been on it since I started leasing him in May, and it has really helped his rideability. I think a big part of that is attributed to his stomach feeling better,” Keck said.  

Understanding NSC Content in Horse Feed and Supplements, Horse Feeds, Slow Horse Feeds

“The gel is also amazing – you have to experience it to understand it! He was off feed one night, so I gave him a tube, and 10 minutes later, he finished his dinner. My former horse would get a gel and drink a whole bucket 5 minutes later – they really come in clutch for those awful winter months when we need them to drink well. I hear customers tell me their experiences all the time, but it is different when it’s in your own barn with your own animals.”  

Where can you Purchase Vitalize? 

Would you like to give your horse the #goodgutfeeling it deserves? You can! All of our products are available to shop online

Do you prefer to shop in person and support your local feed store? You can do that, too. Find a local dealer. 

Learn more about Vitalize 

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