There are lots of terms, and even more opinions, when it comes to carbohydrates in horse feed. Here, we break it down to the basics so you can have a foundation to understand what’s important to your horse!
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The topic of carbohydrates for horses has gotten a lot of people asking questions and has created a certain amount of confusion, particularly when comparing carbohydrates in equine diets to human dietary recommendations. Starches, carbohydrates, sugars, non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) and non-fibrous carbohydrates (NFC), among others, are terms thrown around for equine diets, and all those terms can get very intimidating, when it comes to what these nutrients mean to your horse and how much your horse needs or doesn’t need.
This category includes primarily the carbohydrates that are part of the cell wall in plants.
This includes the sugars and starches, and is a very important group of nutrients for horses because these are the carbohydrates that can be broken down by enzymes and absorbed from the small intestine into the blood stream as glucose and stored as glycogen in the muscles and in the liver.
This is a different nutrient which is calculated in certain analytical techniques. NFC is equal to (100-Water-Ash-Fat-Protein-NDF). NFC is calculated by difference and is not measured by a specific analysis. NFC will contain all of the organic acids, starch, sugars, oligosaccharides, polysaccharides, beta glucans, pectins and gums. For this reason, NFC will be a larger number than NSC in a feed or hay analysis report.
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