Chaff is an important part of a horses diet. For laminitic horses and ponies it can be used with a balancer or vitamin and mineral supplement to make up a low calorie balanced diet, and for older laminitic horses with dental problems as a forage replacement.
It is important to consider when choosing which chaff to use what the ingredients are. Most chaffs are made up of chopped straw, alfalfa, dried grass, chopped hay or a mixture of several ingredients. In addition, molasses is often added for palatability. Other additives include oil, mint, garlic and various supplements. The quality of the ingredients used are essential, many brands of chaff use a cheaper type of straw (wheat straw) which is relatively indigestible to the horse, oat straw is more digestible and palatable.
When choosing which chaff to feed a laminitic, it’s important to consider the sugar and starch content. Even though the chaff is fed in a small quantity sugar content between different brands of chaff varies widely from 2.5% right up to 20%. Yes! 20% of sugar in a chaff!!! Which can be crucial for a laminitic. Ideally aim for a sugar and starch content of less than 5%, the lower the better.
My top 3 chaffs that fit all the criteria for laminitic horses and ponies and those with EMS are:
Dengie Hi-Fi Molasses Free
Baileys Light Chaff
TopSpec TopChop Lite
Because these chaffs are a forage, not a complete feed, you will need to add a vitamin and mineral supplement or feed balancer to them to provide a balanced ration. I would recommend for horses that need to lose weight to feed a vitamin and mineral supplement rather than a balancer which contains additional protein and energy.
For a complete feed, Dengie Healthy Hooves Molasses free provides a very low level of sugar and starch and no added molasses, and you can feed this on its own without feeding an additional balancer/ vitamin and mineral supplement. It is very important you feed this at the recommended feeding rate, anything less will not provide a balanced diet and defeat the object of feeding a complete chaff based feed.
It’s worth noting that because the complete feeds must be fed at the recommended feeding rate, they will provide a slightly higher amount of sugar and starch compared to one of the three suggested chaffs and a vitamin/ mineral supplement as they need to be fed in a larger quantity.
So to summarise, if weight loss is important, feed a chaff low in sugar and starch plus a vitamin and mineral supplement (I like Dengie Natural Vitality).
If your horse needs to maintain its current weight, feed either a chaff low in sugar and starch plus a balancer or a complete feed such as Dengie Healthy Hooves Molasses Free at the recommended feeding rates.
Feeding laminitics for weight gain and Equine Cushings Disease will be discussed in next weeks Blog!
Thank you for reading!
Jenny Staddon BVSc certAVP(EP) MRCVS
Ridings Equine Vets
** Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the feed companies in this article. I have not included Spillers as their website does not list the full composition and ingredients of their feeds.