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We are new horse owners,we've been feeding our horses a coffee can of ground corn twice a day,each horse.Is that okay for them?


It is not possible to answer this question fully without further information. One would need to know the horses' age, weight, body condition and stage of production (i.e.: lactation, gestation, type of work or exercise being done, intensity of training, etc.). Additionally, one would need to know the type and quality of forage being consumed as the basis of the horses' diets to get a handle on the energy, vitamin, mineral and protein levels that are present before supplementation. However, you may find the following thoughts to be helpful in making decisions about the use of ground corn.

Ground corn is one of the more energy dense grain products available, which may be good or bad, depending on the circumstances. Corn has the lowest cost/calorie ratio of all grains, which makes it a very attractive energy supplement economically. It is a very effective source of calories for horses that need to gain weight, but is unnecessary for horses that are overweight. Because it is so energy dense, it is also more prone to spoilage and mold contamination if improperly stored when compared to less dense grains such as oats. During growing seasons that cause stress to the corn plants, due to drought or excessively wet conditions, corn may have elevated levels of a mold toxin called fumonisin, that may be deadly if consumed at high enough levels. However, good quality corn that has been screened and determined to have acceptably low levels of contaminants is often used as a safe and effective energy supplement for horses. It is generally recommended that corn should comprise only a portion of the grain mix (no more than 50%) because corn starch is incompletely digested in the small intestine, and some will be digested in the hind gut. If too much corn starch is fermented rapidly in the horse's hind gut, the risk for colic and/or founder is elevated. Feeding the ground corn in conjunction with plenty of free choice hay, or incorporating it into a pelleted complete feed that also includes forage products greatly reduces the risk of digestive problems. The University of Illinois Horse Farm has fed a completely pelleted diet that contains 40% ground corn for many years without incident, but we don't feed pure ground corn due to the risk of digestive problems. By keeping the percentage of ground corn in a feed to 50% or less, the chance of toxicity is reduced even if a contaminated batch of corn is inadvertently used, due to the dilution with uncontaminated feedstuffs.

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