Factors That Affect NSC Levels in Hay

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Text-only version of “Factors That Affect NSC Levels in Hay”

NSC = Simple Sugar and Starch aka Nonstructural Carbohydrates.

In order to know the true NSC value of your hay you will have to test it. Multiple cuttings from the same field of grass can yield hay with different levels of NSC.

The recommended NSC level in hay for insulin-resistant horses is 10%.

Understanding the factors that affect NSC levels will help you pick hay that is more likely to meet your horse’s needs.

1. The type of plant

Cool-season mixed grass:

  • NSC range: 7% to 18 % (average 13%)
  • ESC* (simple sugars): average 7%

Warm-season Bermuda grass:

  • NSC range: 9% to 17% (average 13%)
  • ESC (simple sugars): average 6%

Legume (alfalfa and clover):

  • NSC range: 8% to 13% (average 11%)
  • ESC (simple sugars): average 7%

*ESC = Ethanol-Soluble Carbohydrates

Source: Equi-Analytical Laboratories, Ithaca, NY.

2. Maturity when harvested

YOUNG PLANTS tend to be higher in sugar

MID-BLOOM, MATURE GRASS tends to be lower in sugar

MATURE PLANTS contain large amounts of indigestible fiber and can be unpalatable

3. Time of cutting and time spent curing in the field

↑NSC – Grasses harvested in the morning, following evenings when temperatures are 40°F or above will be lower in NSC.

↓NSC – The longer hay is dried in the field, the lower the NSC.

↑NSC – Western hays tend to be harvested later in the day and baled more quickly than Eastern hays, so they can be higher in NSC.

↓NSC – Hay that has been lightly rained on will be lower in NSC; however, it must be completely dry when baled or it will become moldy.

4. Environmental conditions during harvest

↑NSC – Grasses stressed from drought conditions or freezing temps will contain higher percentages of NSC.

↓NSC – Stressed warm-season grasses, such as crabgrass or coastal Bermuda grass, tend to be lower in NSC.

↑NSC – Stressed cool-season grasses, such as fescue, orchard grass, and Timothy, tend to be higher in NSC.

To support healthy insulin levels, ask your vet about InsulinWise™

  • Maintains normal metabolic function and healthy insulin levels.
  • Supports a healthy body weight and normal fat distribution.
  • Sustains healthy laminae within the hoof.
  • InsulinWise is available only through a licensed veterinarian.

To support healthy insulin levels, ask your vet about InsulinWise™ 

  • Maintains normal metabolic function and healthy insulin levels.
  • Supports a healthy body weight and normal fat distribution.
  • Sustains healthy laminae within the hoof.

InsulinWise is available only through a licensed veterinarian.

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