Q&A: Nutritional value of feed

  • Expert advice from HORSE magazine on how to avoid losing nutrients in grain during storage

    Q: I have heard that barley and oats lose much of their vitamin content two to threeweeks after crushing. Does the same apply to maize and how important is this when assessing the food value of these grains after storage?Also, what are “naked oats” and will coating them with oil, to exclude the air, help to prevent them losing their vitamin content?

    Nutritionist Kate Jones replies The nutrient content of all feed will deteriorate over time, including maize.

    Vitamins, in particular, are susceptible to the effects of heat and air, so vitamin content will be adversely affected by the processing and storage of concentrate feeds.

    If you are feeding a good-quality prepared feed, at the recommended amounts, then the micronutrient requirements of your horse should be met.Vitamin and mineral content will drop away the longer the bag is open.

    Rather than increasing feed levels – your horse’s condition and energy levels will suggest whether this is necessary – you can use a general-purpose vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure your horse is receiving all that he requires.

    If you are using ‘straights’, then a multi-vitamin would be recommended. The micronutrient content of straights tends to be poor and unbalanced and, because there is no requirement for consistency, as with coarse mixes and cubes, it varies from bag to bag.

    Naked oats are a modern development – oats which lose their fibrous husk during processing to leave a clean grain that is higher in energy, protein and oil than regular oats.As they can contain over a quarter more energy than normal oats, naked oats are primarily designed for performance horses.

    If you are thinking of using them, feed small amounts and keep up fibre levels in the diet. Naked oats are just as susceptible to micronutrient loss as other cereals.

    Coating with oil is not a suitable way to preserve cereals. Since the natural oil content of grains, such as oats, is largely responsible for their deterioration, additional oil would only encourage rancidity.

    To preserve nutrient content, buy concentrates from a reputable dealer who is not likely to have kept processed grains for a long time.

    Check the sell-by date on prepared feeds and store them in airtight, vermin-proof containers.

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