Biomass: Future Feeding Trend for Horses?

In a recent review of novel feeding strategies to help horses with equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), veterinary researchers identified “biomass” as a possible ingredient for nutrient-enriched feeds*.

“In this instance, biomass refers to biological materials such as algae, bacteria, seaweeds, yeasts, fungi, lichens, peat, leaves, eggshells, and nutshells. These materials have the ability to absorb metals from water and are commonly used in processing wastewater,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research.

What’s the link is between wastewater, metals, and horse nutrition, you ask?

The researchers theorized that the biomass that absorbs metals, such as chromium, copper, manganese, zinc, and cobalt, can be reused instead of discarded. The biomass used would not be the waste from water treatment; instead, a specific type of biomass, such as algae, would be used to absorb a specific mineral from an aqueous solution. The microelement ions in the biomass could then be used as additives to augment livestock diets, the researchers said.

“Of the above-mentioned nutrients, chromium and manganese are the most well studied. The available research shows a beneficial impact of these nutrients in managing glucose dysregulation in horses with EMS,” Crandell shared.

One study noted, for example, that yeast enriched with chromium improved glucose metabolism in ponies and horses. Based on those that data, the researchers postulated that algae or other forms of biomass naturally rich in chromium could positively influence EMS horses.

While awaiting the commercial availability of biomass suitable for equine consumption, consult with a Kentucky Equine Research nutrition advisor to ensure your EMS horse’s diet contains all of the recommended nutrients to maximize health, longevity, and minimize the development of laminitis—a common and life-threatening consequence of EMS.

“For horses requiring a dietary vitamin and mineral supplement, Kentucky Equine Research offers Micro-Max, a palatable, low-intake pellet formulated to provide the required nutrients for horses on forage-only diets, like many horses diagnosed with EMS,” noted Crandell.

Australian horse owners should look for Gold Pellet, Nutrequin, or Perform.

*Krzysztof Marycz, K., I. Michalakc, K. Kornicka. 2018. Advanced nutritional and stem cells approaches to prevent equine metabolic syndrome. Research in Veterinary Science 118:115-125.