NSC content in Australian horse feeds

NSC content in Australian horse feeds

What is NSC and what are the levels in different Australian horse feeds?

What is NSC?

NSC stands for Non-structural carbohydrates.  These are essentially the starches and sugars  found in feeds.

Why is the NSC content of horse feeds so important?

High levels of NSC can have serious negative impacts on some horses including those with insulin sensitivity, insulin resistance and Cushing's disease. It is believed that the negative impact on these horses is through the effect of NSC on blood insulin concentrations after a meal.

Feeds which contain low amounts of NSC should be preferentially selected as feeds for metabolically sensitive horses. The difficulty for horse owners is selecting a suitably low NSC feed, as currently, NSC is not a labelling requirement.

Testing NSC in feeds

To explore the levels of NSC in Australian horse feeds, a range of commercially available feeds, targeted at the ?pleasure and equestrian' segments of the Australian horse industry were sub-sampled from point-of-sale.  They were analysed by an independent Laboratory in the USA for starch, water soluble carbohydrate (WSC) and ether soluble carbohydrate (ESC). The results are shown in the above Graph.

What level of NSC is safe?

While a "safe" NSC content has not been formally established for metabolically sensitive horses, a level of <10% to 12% NSC seems to be generally accepted as safe.  Feeds with levels of NSC >20% should almost certainly be avoided for these horses. Copra meal is the only low NSC, high digestible energy feed available.