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Ask H&H: yeast supplements

Q: MY horse, who is in heavy work, tends to have loose droppings and I am worried that this condition will get worse with the onset of spring and rich grass. It also often worsens during the competition season with the associated frequent travelling and stress.
I’ve heard that feeding a yeast supplement can help. Is this true, and what should I be looking for?

AW, Leicestershire

“YOU should consult your vet initially to discount any infection and to ensure that your horse’s worming programme is up-to-date,” said Nick Berni from Biotal, a company specialising in products based on microbial and enzyme technology.

“Loose droppings can result from disruption to the normal balance of bacteria and other microflora in the digestive tract, particularly the hindgut.”

“Within the hindgut, live microbes ferment the fibre portion of the horse’s diet,” said Spillers nutritionist Isabel Stewart.

“Sudden changes in the diet or stress can upset the balance of these microbes, that at best can result in loose droppings, but at worst colic or laminitis. You should introduce your horse to spring grass gradually, as if you were introducing a new hard feed.”

Lizzie Drury, senior equine nutritionist at Saracen Horse Feeds, recommends that horses should receive no less than one per cent of their bodyweight as forage.

“Meal sizes greater than 2kg and containing high levels of cereals — and therefore starch — will increase the risk of undigested starch reaching the hindgut and causing acidosis. This will result in a drop in pH and cause loose droppings,” she said.

“A live yeast such as Biotal Equine Gold is a useful addition to the diet of competition horses and has been scientifically proven to help horses ‘cope’ with their high starch rations,” said Nick Berni.

“Live yeast supplements promote the growth and activity of friendly bacteria. To keep an appropriate balance of friendly bacteria in the hindgut, a normal pattern of fermentation can be maintained, which in turn supports water absorption from the digestive tract.”

Lizzie Drury recommends Yea Sacc to reduce the variation in pH and lactic acid concentration: “This stablilising influence may allow horses to avoid the digestive upsets that are sometimes caused by the stress of competition. But make sure that the foundation of your feeding programme is correct first.”

“Live yeast supplements have become popular among competition horses as they are the only digestive enhancer proven to support fibre digestion and are approved for use in the horse,” said Isabel Stewart.

“They work by improving the horse’s ability to digest fibre and stabilise the hindgut, making them a useful addition in the diet of any older or stressed or sick horse, or those suffering with digestive problems. They can also be a useful tool in the kit of the competition horse — after ensuring that the horse’s diet and management are as good as they can be.”

“When choosing a live yeast supplement, ensure that the product provides a concentrated source of live yeast cells measured as colony-forming units or cfu/kg,” said Nick Berni.

“Live yeast supplements need to be fed daily, as research shows that the yeast cells do not grow and multiply in the hindgut and are rapidly lost in the faeces if the supplement
is discontinued.”

Information

Biotal Tel: 02920 475550 www.biotal.co.uk
Saracen Horse Feeds Tel: 01622 718487 www.saracenhorsefeeds.com
Spillers Care Line Tel: 01908 226626

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (17 April, ’08)

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