3 easy steps to determine if a feed is “low starch”

Here are 3 easy steps to determine if a feed is “low starch” enough for your insulin resistant (IR) horse:

1) Check the NSC (nonstructural carbohydrates) value of the feed. NSC is a combination of WSC (water-soluble carbohydrates, aka sugars) plus starch. WSC + Starch = NSC.

The following guideline are used by feed manufacturers:

NSC of 35% or above = high starch
NSC of 35% to 20% = relatively low starch
NSC of 20% or less = low starch

The NSC level recommended for insulin-resistant horses is 10%. A horse feed can be labeled “low starch” and still not be appropriate for a horse with metabolic syndrome. Look for a feed that guarantees an NSC of 10% or less. You may have to call the manufacturer to find out this information.

2) When high-starch cereal grains are removed, fiber and fat are used to replace needed calories. Look for fat and fiber ingredients at the top of the ingredient list.

Common sources of fiber:
Soybean hulls
Beet pulp
Alfalfa meal

Common sources of fat:
Rice bran
Soybean oil
Soybean meal
Ground flax

3) It is okay for a low-starch feed to contain some cereal grains and even molasses if they are included in small amounts and the NSC level remains at or below 10%. Check the ingredients list on the tag or bag. Cereal grains or molasses found in small amounts will be listed at the end of major ingredients, but before the list of vitamins and minerals.

Always read and follow the feeding directions carefully. If you feed less than the manufacturer’s minimum recommended amount (usually 3 to 6 lbs depending on the feed) then you may need to supplement with a vitamin and mineral pellet to make sure your horse is getting all the nutrients they require.

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