Thursday, June 21, 2018

Benefits of soaking hay

Research published recently supports the practice of feeding soaked hay to ponies with insulin dysregulation (ID).

Ponies with ID may have raised levels of insulin in the blood at rest or after feeding. Hyperinsulinaemia is known to increase the risk of laminitis. It is often suggested that hay fed to such ponies should first be soaked to reduce the water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) content.

Researchers at the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom carried out a study to compare the insulinaemic and glycaemic responses of ponies to three different roughages: soaked hay, dry hay and haylage. Soaked hay was immersed in water for 14hours , and then drained for30 minutes, before being fed.

Twelve native or native-cross ponies were used in the study. They ranged from 3–15 years old, were mostly overweight (>6/9 BCS) and were maintained on hay and pasture. Six had insulin dysregulation; six did not.

The researchers monitored blood glucose and insulin levels before and after feeding. They found that insulin-dysregulated ponies showed a higher and more prolonged increase in serum insulin levels in response to all forages than did ponies without ID. 

Soaked hay, dry hay and haylage produced significantly different insulinaemic and glycaemic responses when fed on an equivalent dry matter (DM) basis to ponies with a wide range of insulin sensitivity. 

The lowest increases in blood insulin and glucose were seen in ponies fed soaked hay. Haylage with similar non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) content to dry hay resulted in a higher insulinaemic response to feeding.

The authors comment that feeding diets that minimise the insulinaemic response is likely to be particularly important in ponies with ID.

They conclude that their findings support the practice of soaking hay with water to reduce postprandial insulinaemic responses in ponies. They advise against feeding haylage instead of soaked hay to ponies with ID.

For more details, see the open access article:
Insulinaemic and glycaemic responses to three forages in ponies
H.B.Carslake, C.McG.Argo, G.L.Pinchbeck, H.A.Dugdale, C.M.McGowan
The Veterinary Journal, (2018) Vol 235, pp 83-89

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