The problem of equine laminitis
High levels of non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) in the introduced grasses lead to equine laminitis. These NSC compounds are simple sugars such as fructose and glucose, which are readily absorbed by the gut microflora in ruminants. An elevated content of NSC in pasture grasses, and in particular fructose, has been found to be one of the main causes of laminitis / founder in horses and ponies.
Horses do not digest NS’s in the same manner as other ruminants such as cows. It is high sugar content in grasses that are causing laminitis and founder. The recommended thresholds to avoid equine laminitis are to keep NSC’s below 10 g/ 100 g of the fodder. This is causing many horse owners not only a major expense, but a lot of heartache and grief too.
The solution: native pasture
Equine laminitis can be prevented With low sugar, high structural carbohydrate grasses. Australian native grasses are generally lower in sugar and higher in structural carbohydrates than introduced Pasture species. Wallaby grass (Rytidosperma spp.) and Weeping grass (Microlaena stipoides) both easily fall under this threshold having contents for Fructose of less than 0.2, Glucose of less than 0.2 and total sugars of less than 1.0 g/ 100 g.
In comparison, the latest test results from the Dairy One website which amalgamates pasture tests across all of North America gives the content of NSC’s in ryegrass at 15.9, the water soluble carbohydrates at 13.2 and the simple sugars at 10.9. While these are not exactly the same measures they tell the story of high NSC’s being produced by ryegrass.
Gallop horse pasture
Gallop horse pasture blends have been specifically formulated to recue the risk of equine laminitis and founders. The grasses in these blends were selected for their low free sugar and high structural carbohydrate properties. With three ready-made blends available for the different climatic zones in Australia there is a Gallop pasture blend suited for your property.
Email communication on 25 October 2014 at 19:51
We bought the southern temp horse pasture from you over 6 months ago. The paddock was bare when we had it sewn . Thought you would like to see the end product! (Please see photo to the left)
Had an agronomist come thru to identify the grasses (we didn’t do the test samples as you advised!) and he said the pasture has taken really well. We have had some old rye come thru but it is pretty diluted with the new pasture.
If horses could smile I am sure mine would be.
Jane Myers from Equiculture
Obesity and conditions such as Laminitis, Insulin Resistance and Cushings are now a sign of the times in modern domesticated horses. Our horses are living longer but working less hard and their ‘lifestyle’ now mirrors the modern human condition – living longer, less physical work, more junk food, many age and obesity related problems. Much of the information that circulates about horses and what to feed them is very much out of date because it comes from a time when horses did work for a living and the plants that they ate had not been scientifically ‘improved’ to increase their energy levels. That has all changed now and horses grazing high energy grasses are therefore at a much higher risk of many conditions that were relatively rare just a couple of human generations ago. There is now much interest in Australian Native grasses by horse owners because these grasses suit both horses and the Australian environment. This publication is a welcome source of information for horses owners as they seek to learn more about the natural grasses of Australia and their numerous benefits, for example these grasses have adapted to the Australian climate and therefore cope with Australia’s extremes of climate without stress.