DDGS stands for Dried (or wet) Distiller’s Grains with Soluble (DDGS). DDGS, a byproduct of the ethanol production process and  it needed a place to go so they are putting it into to livestock and horse feeds as a protein source. What is the issue or concern? There are more than several which I will highlight.

First, there has been little research done in feeding DDGS to horses.  The studies that have been done examined feeding DDGS for only a short period of time, so we don’t know the long-term effects or feeding DDGS to working horses, pregnant mares and foals.

Second, horses are very susceptible to fumonisin poisoning from moldy corn. When ingested by a horse in significant amounts, fumonisin causes a neurological condition in horses such as equine leukoencephalomalacia and porcine pulmonary edema. Fermentation during ethanol production doesn’t destroy the mold, rather it is concentrated.

Third, DDGS has a high phosphorous content. Why is this a concern? In the world of equine nutrition, micronutrients and minerals high phosphorous can cause a calcium imbalance. Mature equines require a one-to-one ratio, while growing horses need a two-to-one ratio of calcium to phosphorus. DDGS is also high in sulfur. The excess sulfur in the diet has been shown to block proper absorption of copper. Copper, along with vitamin C, is necessary for the formation of collagen and the building of healthy connective tissue for strong hooves and joints. For more detailed information on mineral imbalances and how to test for them, check our blog article on “Hair Analysis Linking Diet and Data For Success”

Fourth, heat damage caused during the drying process can bind nutrients (especially proteins and amino acids) that can reduce nutrient availability. With complete feed prices at $40 plus per bag we want every ounce of that feed to benefit our equine partner. Nutrient availability is similar to comparing natural vitamin E to synthetic vitamin E . Natural Vitamin E (d-alpha Tocopherol) has higher biological activity compared to synthetic vitamin E (dl-alpha Tocopherol) since there is greater absorption and therefore retention of its natural form in the body. According to the Food and Nutrition Board, NRC (2000), 1mg of synthetic Vitamin E (dl-alpha Tocopherol acetate), has a maximum of 50% of active substances compared to its natural form.

DDGS is not the only feed ingredient that is chemically processed You would be surprised to find a large percentage of the vegetable oils like flaxseed, soy and corn are processed using a similar petrochemical process. We all want to feed our horses what they need to succeed no matter the riding disciple. Because we are our horse’s health advocate, we need to put in the time to do the research.