Horses with diseases including insulin resistance, Laminitis and Cushing’s disease experience very high levels of blood insulin when feeds or forages containing more than about 12% sugars (non-structural carbohydrates) are fed. Recent research (Asplin et al. 2007) has shown that these high insulin levels can cause laminitis.
Horses with these diseases must be maintained on a ‘low sugar’ diet to avoid laminitis.
The problem for horse owners
A diet that is low in ‘sugar’ is an essential part of the management of horses affected by insulin resistance, laminitis and Cushing’s disease. One of the most difficult, yet most important parts of the diet to get right for these horses is the type of forage that is fed. Many grass hays contain more than 12% sugar and are not suitable for sugar sensitive horses. The sugar content of hay is also highly variable and almost impossible to predict by looking at a bale, making buying suitable hay difficult.
Haylage® – The low sugar forage alternative
Manuka Haylage now provides owners of horses with these diseases a consistently low sugar forage alternative. Haylage contains just 2.5% sugars on an as fed basis. When compared with other commonly used forages, this makes it one of, if not the lowest sugar forage available (Table 1).
Table 1: Level of sugar (starch + water soluble carbohydrate) in common forages
* data from Dairy One, Ithaca USA
Why is Haylage so low in sugar?
Because of the way Haylage is made it contains consistently low levels of sugar. The following diagram explains the production process and why the levels of sugar are so low:
Lucerne is cut and allowed to wilt in the paddock – the plant uses up some stored sugars trying to stay alive
The wilted lucerne is baled and tightly wrapped to exclude all air. Good bacteria within the bale ferment most of the remaining sugars and produce organic acids
These organic acids preserve the lucerne and its nutrient value. The Haylage is now ready to be fed with a sugar level of 2.5%