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Corn – King of the Grains?

Corn has been a staple of nutrition for man and beast alike since time immemorial. Of all the grains, corn packs a powerful nutritional punch.

Granted, it is not a perfect diet in and of itself, yet more and more horse owners are looking to the humble to provide their animals with the nutrition they need. Some, however, are still rather hesitant.

Citing such facts as the condition brought on by mold-infested corn – aptly named “moldy corn poisoning” – this circumstance has been known to cause “Equine Leukoecephalomalacia,” commonly referred to as ELEM. It is a fatal illness that leads to an aberration in the consistency of the brain-matter brought on by the chemicals contained within the mold.

While this is indeed a worrisome situation, it is important to note that feedstuffs made from other grains are also susceptible to problems. The same chemicals associated with the infection of corn are also found in sorghum grains and even the ever popular barley. They are produced during the growth of the plant and are dependent on handling or storage after harvesting. Furthermore, horse owners know that any kind of grain may become moldy if not stored properly or for too long. Following this line of reasoning, the hesitant horse aficionado will also need to keep in mind that even hay – a staple of horse feed everywhere – may become infected with botulism if it becomes moldy.

There are some ways of protecting your horses from ingesting grains that may lead to ELEM. First of all, keep in mind that the chemicals associated with this condition occur in grains that were harvested during wet conditions, or that grew in a drought year. Additionally, corn that has been damaged in some way is more likely to contain them than healthy, full kernels. To this end, you will be able to protect your horses simply by not feeding off-grade corn but the good quality kind. To further protect your animals, you will want to purchase your corn from a supplier that regularly tests grains for the chemicals. These suppliers more than likely are also on the forefront of keeping the feed stuff safe from contamination by being members of the American Feed Industry Association which will alert them to potential outbreaks of deadly bacteria and other contaminants that might have a bearing on their own feeds. Grain mixtures are oftentimes adjusted to take out harmful substances.

With all these safety procedures in line, even the last holdouts amongst horse owners should be convinced that this tasty grain is a great form of digestible energy for the animals that need a little help in maintaining a great body condition and also high levels of activity, such as working horses or performers. Add to this the fact that it is reasonably priced, and you can easily ascertain why this grain is indeed the king of the grains.

Read the next horse nutrition article on Feed Ingredients: Reading the Nutrition Facts.
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