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The Sugar Myth Explained

Being low in sugars doesn’t mean short grass is necessarily safe.

Some of the Analyses showed Crude protein levels at well over 20% with one coming back at 36%.

This high CP also had an NPN (Non-Protein Nitrogen) content of 2,290 mgs/kg nitrates. It tipped a Tb horse (non EMS, non obese, never had laminitis before) into laminitis. The grass was very short.

Mature grass
Mature grass

24/7 turnout can work for people who have large acreages and are not over-stocked and can keep long, more mature grass ahead of their horses, as can those who have a track for the horse to be on over spring while the grass is left to grow.

They don’t tend to run into as much trouble as those people who, due to their small acreages, the soils/climate where they live, or their agistment arrangements, are keeping their horses on the same area all year round consuming grass which is more or less always short because of constant grazing.

short green grass
Short and green

As people rightfully point out there are a lot of variables influencing the nutrient composition of grass on any given day but to be clear -in forage analyses we have conducted on grass around 2cms long, (as above), DESPITE variations in regions, soils, season, weather at the time of sampling, sugar levels come back low – often well under 10%, as do total NSC (sometimes as low as 4.8%DM)**

Carbohydrates are produced in the leaves through the photosynthetic process. Carbohydrates which are not used immediately are stored as starch in the chloroplasts in the leaves during the day and used up in growth at night.

This is why it is recommended to graze EMS or laminitis prone horses and ponies between 3.00am (not exactly convenient!) and 10.00am in the morning and grass is usually at its highest sugar wise by late afternoon.

However this strategy is still risky and the stakes are high. And doesn’t work for horses with other issues such as Head-Shaking for instance, because Head-Shaking doesn’t correlate with sugar levels – whereas it does with potassium and CP levels (in our experience).

ex-head flicker  on brown grass
Ex- Head-Shaker Lochie only goes out on the grass late summer when it is not green/growing. He has been HS free for 5 or 6 years now.

**- where NSC = 100 - (CP + Ash + CFat + NDF).

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