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Probiotics and Prebiotics – The Digestive Jewels in Blue Chip’s Crown

Probiotics and prebiotics are very hot topics in equine nutrition at the moment, with many horse owners often confused by the role they play within the horse’s gut. For example, our recent nutrition quiz challenge asked what role probiotics play in the horse’s hindgut with many people thinking they enhanced the digestion of starch, starch and sugars or even vitamins.

Probiotic yeasts are live micro-organisms which help promote the production of bacteria which digest cellulose (present in the fibre the horse consumes) in the horse’s hindgut. Probiotic yeasts contain a thick cell wall which allows them to travel through the horse’s digestive tract to the large intestine where they are utilized and then excreted requiring daily supplementation to ensure they are replenished in the large intestine. Promoting the growth of fibre-digesting bacteria probiotics can improve the digestibility of fibre by up to 100% allowing your horse to get twice as much out of his forage. However, it is important to remember that all probiotics are not created equal and vary in their effectiveness and key is the levels included. As the most expensive ingredient in any feed product the temptation with yeast probiotics is to skimp on the amount included but still say “contains yeast.” Some products only contain 1/10th of the recommended rate and at that level, they simply won’t work.

The method in which the probiotic yeast is manufactured will also have a bearing on its efficacy. It’s well known that heat during processing can destroy the delicate contents of the product and accordingly some form of protection through the pelletising process is required but not every probiotic will have this.  For  example, the commonly used Yea Sacc 1026 has no protection. Some yeasts may not even be approved for use in equines which is another important factor to take into account.

Blue Chip has always taken advantage of the latest most up to date research to find the most innovative ingredients for their formulations as a specialist Feed Balancer Company.  They go several steps beyond what many companies  would consider ‘sufficient’, and have sourced the most effective probiotic which is approved for equine use – Actisaf Yeast is the market leader in probiotic yeasts and is approved for use in equines having the strongest data set in horse; furthermore, Blue Chip uses the recommended levels advised by the manufacturers for the best response.

Prebiotics on the other hand, do not include live bacteria and serve as a feed source for the bacteria already living in the horse’s foregut. There are two main types of prebiotic found in feed balancers which are MOS and FOS. FOS is a simple sugar source, feeding the good bacteria in the horses gut whereas MOS is of greater benefit as it physically binds to and removes harmful bacteria from the gut. Prebiotics help promote a healthy gut to aid optimal absorption of nutrients, ensuring your horse gets the most out of his feed.

There are many different MOS Prebiotic products. Some are just crude cell wall preparations made from yeast left over from companies who produce yeast extract (the inside of the yeast) or just ground, dried brewer’s yeast. These are cheap and cheerful and have little or no data to support their use. They are classified as feed ingredients, not additives, so they don’t have to be licensed. Proper MOS products like those found in Blue Chip are manufactured specifically for the feed industry and tested for their bacterial binding capacity as part of the QC process and are therefore reliable and actually work. They are also more expensive, as you would expect.

As with probiotics it is important to do your research when selecting a prebiotic; MOS is the most expensive and effective form of prebiotic and therefore will only be found in premium quality feed balancers such as Blue Chip.

Prebiotics aren’t always necessary if your horse has a healthy gut environment, however if your horse has undergone a stressful situation, is recovering from illness or is a competition horse on hard feed – training, travelling and competing it will benefit from the inclusion of a prebiotic in the diet.

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John Ruskin