Benefits of Extruded Horse Feeds

What is Extrusion?

Extrusion is a process in which ingredients are cooked under pressure with high-temperature steam for a short period of time. Feed is then pushed through a die, which gives it a unique and uniform shape.

Advantages of the Extrusion Process in Horse Feeds

  • The heat from processing breaks down structure of the feed, making the nutrients more digestible and available to the horse.
  • Research has shown extruded feeds to be as much as 30% more available than the pelleted versions of the same feed.
  • Research has shown extruded feeds to be as much as 40% more available than whole grains and sweet feeds.
  • The extrusion allows for much more fat to be added to feeds, which is the reason that most dog foods are extruded.
  • Extrusion extends the shelf life of feeds from weeks to months.


How Does Extrusion Affect Major Nutrients?

  • Protein: The extrusion process breaks down (or denatures) the primary bond holding the chain of amino acids together. The heat of extrusion also denatures undesirable compounds such as urease and the trypsin inhibitor present in raw soybeans.
  • Carbohydrates: The utilization of carbohydrates (starches) is greatly improved by the extrusion process. As starch is extruded, it is gelatinized, and when it leaves the extruder, it expands. Once the starch granule is gelatinized, it cannot revert to the original state and is water-soluble. The most important effect of cooking starches is to make them readily absorbed in the small intestine as glucose. This means fewer soluble carbohydrates are presented to the hindgut where bacterial fermentation might take place. This can have a significant impact on the incidence of gaseous colic caused by carbohydrate overload in the hindgut.
  • Fat: During the extrusion process, oil from soybeans and other raw ingredients is released from the seed cell, making the fat more available for absorption. The oil helps fulfill the fatty acid requirement and increases the energy density of the feed.
  • Fiber: The effect of extrusion on fiber is related to bulk density. Because of the mechanical action, grinding, and attrition, the hollow structures of fibrous materials are crushed, thus changing their bulk density and making the fiber more easily accessible to microbes in the hindgut. The expansion of the extruded feed products causes horses to eat and chew slower, which leads to increased salivation, improved digestion, and fewer digestive disturbances.


There are many benefits to feeding extruded horse feeds:

  • The cooking process involved with extrusion improves digestibility and availability of all nutrients in a feed including fiber, starch, proteins, minerals, and fats, resulting in higher absorption and reduced risk of digestive upset.
  • It ensures that ingredients are getting into the horse and not being wasted, so you feed significantly less feed.
  • Extruded feeds are more bulky than traditional sweet feeds or pellets, which reduces how fast horses eat their grain. Horses don’t bolt down extruded feeds as quickly as other feeds.
  • Extruded feeds pass through the digestive tract slower than other feedings, once again, improving digestion of the feeds.
  • Extruded feeds have been shown to reduce colic. Nutrients become more readily absorbed in the small intestine, which helps prevent overload in the hindgut by reducing fermentation and gas problems.
  • Extrusion increases the availability of all nutrients to the horse.
  • Extruded feeds encourage chewing and saliva production. Saliva production is essential for preventing gastric ulcers because it acts as a buffer to stomach acid.
  • Extruded feeds virtually eliminate dust and fines. Less dust at the bottom of the bag means more nutrients actually getting into the horse.
  • Extrusion allows for higher amounts of fat to be added to horse feeds.
  • Progressive Nutrition extruded products like Envision® do not contain added sugars or molasses.