Is Copra a suitable feed for laminitic horses?

Is Copra a suitable feed for laminitic horses?
17 Jan 2016

Laminitic prone horses can be difficult to maintain on a high energy diet without setting off the condition. Recent studies show that laminitis can be induced by a large and prolonged spike in insulin levels caused by feeds high in Non-structural carbohydrates (NSC). It is recommend that horses and ponies prone to laminitis are kept on a diet containing 12% NSC or less. These recommendations also apply for horses with Equine Metabolic Syndrome, Cushing’s Disease and some forms of Tying Up.

Researchers in Australia conducted a study to see if Copra was a suitable feed for laminitic horses. Copra meal is a coconut based feed that is often used to help horses gain or maintain weight, it is also known to be low in NSC consisting of around 11%. In the study, scientist examined the insulin and gluscose spikes caused by Copra meal and compared with those of Sweet feed (33.7% NSC), Pellets (25.3% NSC) and Pasture (7% NSC).

Four horses were fed four different diets, with each diet lasting 5 days and with one adjustment day in between when swapping to a new diet. The diets were fed at 0.5% bodyweight per day (not including pasture), the diets were:

  • Pasture and Copra Meal
  • Pasture and Pellets (Mitavite Economix)
  • Pasture and Sweetfeed (Barastoc Cool Command)
  • Pasture only

Blood glucose and blood insulin levels were obtained by taking blood samples from the horses after their last meal at the end of each five-day diet period. The Sweetfeed and Pellet diets caused a significant spike in the horse’s blood glucose levels post-feeding, compared to the Pasture diet and the Copra diet, which did not cause significant spikes.

The Sweetfeed and Pellet diets also caused significant spikes in blood-insulin compared to the Copra and Pasture diets. The Copra meal also caused an insulin spike that was less than the Pellet and Sweetfeed diets but more than the Pasture diet. However, the spike was still lower in intensity and duration than what recent studies have shown causes laminitis. Therefore, the researchers conclude that Copra is a suitable feed for equines prone to laminitis.

Interestingly, one of the horses did not seem to like the Copra meal and kept leaving behind some of its ration.

Another thing to note from this study is that pasture can have different NSC content depending on the grasses it is made up of and depending on the time of year. In this particular case, pasture samples were collected throughout the study and the average NSC content was found to be 7%.

It should be noted that this study was funded by Stance Equine who are makers of a Copra Product in Australia. Stance Equine states that they were not involved in the design of the study, nor the processes of collection and analysis. The copra meal used in this study was purchased from a feed store without the company’s knowledge of where it would be purchased from. All statistical analysis was conducted by Statistical Advisory & Training Service Pty Ltd.

Do you have a laminitic horse or pony? What do you feed them?

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Reference
Richards, N., and T. J. Kempton. “The post feeding glycaemic and insulin response to copra meal in horses.” Animal Feed Science and Technology 211 (2016): 100-108.

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