Equine Colic and Direct-fed Microbial Products
Colic. The five-letter word that all horse owners fear. Many horses experience colic of various degrees
at some point in their lives. Understanding colic and your horse’s susceptibility can lead to a
management program to reduce the incidence or severity of colic. However, colic may occur due to
many reasons and no horse should be considered "safe" from colic.
Research studies are attempting to determine the exact causes of colic; however, the answers seem to
be evasive. .
All breeds of horses are susceptible to colic, and gender does not influence the likelihood
of colic. Parasite infection, soil consumption, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, strenuous exercise,
or shifts from heavy exercise to no exercise are among the many situations pre-disposing a horse to
colic. Changes in a horse’s day-to-day activities or schedule alter the body’s metabolism and digestive
A steady, constant environment and schedule is the healthiest for your horse.
Over-feeding of grain, or even high-concentrate consumption, is cited as the most frequent cause of
colic. A confounding factor is that horses fed large amounts of grain are generally undergoing intense
training or performance events. However, the greater the grain content of the diet, the greater the risk of
colic. Starch from grain and any dietary fat needs to be digested and absorbed in the small intestine.
Enzymes breakdown starch into its building block units of glucose, which in turn are absorbed by the
horse. Unfortunately, the limited amount of starch-digesting enzymes secreted by horses may be
overwhelmed when high levels of concentrates are fed. Undigested starch flow from the small intestine
to the forage fermentation vat, known as the large intestine. Starch fermentation changes the microbial
balance and pH of the large intestine. Many researchers and horse people cite excessive digestion of
starch in the large intestine as the greatest cause of colic.
The equine digestive tract features a large intestine design to ferment and utilize grazed forages and
Enhancing the microbial population and environment of the large intestine would increase the
extraction of energy from forages consumed by the horse. Horses with high-energy requirements should
be fed prime-quality hay and then fed a concentrate to fill the energy deficit.
Research studies suggest that beneficial bacteria, such asLactobacillus acidophilus and Enterococcus
faecium, could aid in starch digestion and absorption in the small intestine. Increasing starch utilization
in the small intestine would reduce the starch flowing to the large intestine, thereby lowering the potential
for digestive upset. Yeast culture(Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is noted for increasing the populations of
fiber-digesting and pH-stabilizing bacteria for a more efficient utilization of forages. Supplementing a
direct-fed microbial product featuring beneficial bacteria and yeast culture could theoretically increase
energy utilization of forages, improve the efficiency of starch utilization and reduce the level of
concentrates needed by a horse.
An excellent-quality hay or forage is the basis of a sound horse nutrition program. Some horse owners
and trainers supplementing the Fastrack® direct-fed microbial products to their horses report the ability to
maintain excellent performance and condition in their horses while lowering the concentrate proportion of
the diet. Horses vary greatly in their metabolism and digestive efficiencies, and should be monitored
individually for their response to the Fastrack products and need for concentrates to obtain optimal
results. The Fastrack products do not prevent or treat colic. However, many horse owners and trainers
utilize the Fastrack products as management tools in their nutrition and performance programs.
Contact Conklin Co. Inc. (551 Valley Park Drive; Shakopee, MN 55379; firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information on direct-fed microbials
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