Horses > Feeding & Nutrition
Rye grain may be used on a limited basis in horse diets in conjunction with other more desirable grain products, usually at a level not exceeding 1/4 of the grain mix.
Probably the only reason that you would consider using rye in horse feeds is low cost. If the cost of purchasing rye is similar on a weight basis to oats, barley or corn, it wouldn't make much sense to incorporate rye.
The reason that I hesitate to recommend rye as a feed grain for horses is that this grain does have some potential drawbacks. The major reservation I have is that rye is more prone to be infected with a fungus called ergot than most grains. Ergot poisoning takes on two different forms: acute poisoning where the symptoms are muscular trembling, lack of coordination, convulsions, and painful contractions of the muscles and chronic or gangrenous poisoning in which animals become dull and depressed and may develop gangrene of the extremities. Rye tends to also be less palatable than most grains, due to both its gummy texture and also to a problematic carbohydrate fraction known as rye pentosans. Pentosans are soluble and insoluble carbohydrates found in the plant cell walls of both wheat and rye. The soluble pentosans, which are in much greater concentration in rye, can cause feeding problems when high levels of rye are used in domestic bird and animal rations. Rye pentosans have been linked to depressed weight gain and reduced feed conversion in poultry.
However, using clean rye that has been properly screened for the presence of ergot at a low inclusion rate is possible in horse diets.
Kevin H. Kline, PhD Professor of Animal Science University of Illinois
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