Horses are herbivorous animals, meaning they primarily consume plant materials such as grasses, hay, and grains. Considering corn a plant, can horses eat corn husks or corn cobs?
Horses can eat corn husks and digest this plant. However, a horse is typically fed in the form of corn kernels or ground corn. Corn husks are not typically considered a suitable food source for horses. They are low in nutritional value and may cause digestive issues if taken in large quantities.
This article explains what corn husks are and how to properly feed your horse with this plant.
What Are Corn Husks?
Corn husks, also known as corn shucks, are the protective outer layers of the corn ear. They are typically removed from the corn ear prior to the corn being consumed by humans or animals. Corn husks are composed primarily of cellulose, a complex carbohydrate that is indigestible by horses. They also contain small amounts of protein, fiber, and other nutrients. But it’s not enough to provide a significant source of nutrition for horses.
Why Horse Owners Consider Feeding Their Horse with Corn Husks
Despite their low nutritional value, some horse owners may consider feeding their horses corn husks and corn stalks for various reasons. One reason is that corn husks are a byproduct of corn processing, and they are readily available and relatively inexpensive. They may be seen as an inexpensive alternative to traditional horse feed options, such as hay or oats.
Corn husks can be used as a natural source of roughage for horses. Roughage, also known as forage, is an essential component of a horse’s diet. It helps to promote healthy digestion and prevent colic, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by intestinal blockages or disturbances. Feeding horses corn husks may help to provide them with additional roughage. This can help to keep their digestive systems functioning properly.
However, keep in mind that eating corn husks should not be fed as the sole source of roughage or nutrition for horses. They are low in nutritional value and can cause digestive issues in case of overfeeding. It’s always best to consult with a veterinarian or a certified equine nutritionist before making any changes to a horse’s diet.
The Main Risks of Feeding a Horse with Corn Husks
Feeding equines with corn husks may seem like a convenient alternative to traditional horse feed options. But it is vital to consider the potential risks of feeding corn husks before making any changes to a horse’s diet.
1. Nutritional Value Is Not Worthy
One of the main risks is that corn husks are low in nutritional value. They are composed primarily of cellulose, a complex carbohydrate that is indigestible by horses. They also contain small amounts of protein, fiber, and other nutrients. But those are not enough to provide a significant source of nutrition for horses. Feeding horses with corn husks as a sole source of nutrition can lead to nutritional deficiencies and health problems.
2. High Risk of Digestive Issues
Another risk is that corn husks can cause digestive problems in horses. Horses have delicate digestive systems and are prone to colic, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by intestinal blockages or disturbances. Feeding horses inappropriate or indigestible materials, such as corn husks, can increase their risk of colic. Corn husks are often tough and can be difficult for horses to chew and digest. This can also cause digestive problems.
3. The Corn Plant Is Too Moldy
Corn husks have a high moisture content which can lead to molding, if not stored properly. Moldy husks may cause respiratory issues and other serious health problems for the equines. One of those is Equine Leukoencephalomalacia, which is “moldy corn disease” and may lead to cognitive issues.
4. Balancing the Diet Is Too Challenging
Feeding too many corn husks to horses can also cause an imbalance in their diet. It’s essential to ensure that their diet is well-balanced and meets their nutritional needs. An unbalanced horse diet can lead to health problems such as weight loss, muscle wasting, and decreased immunity.
5. High Risk of Finding Mycotoxins
Mycotoxins are toxic compounds produced by certain types of fungi that can grow on various types of crops, including corn. The presence of mycotoxins in corn products, such as corn husks, can pose a significant risk to the health of equines.
Mycotoxins can occur in corn husks as a result of improper storage or a lack of proper sanitation during the growing and harvesting process. When corn is not stored properly, it can become damp and moldy. This can lead to the growth of mycotoxins. Mycotoxins can also develop during the growing process if the corn is exposed to high humidity or if the crop is not harvested at the right time.
Ingesting mycotoxins can lead to a range of health problems in horses. These include liver and kidney damage, decreased immunity, reproductive problems, and even death. Mycotoxins can also cause respiratory issues, neurological problems, and cancer.
Can Horses Eat Corn Cobs?
Corn cobs are the structural support of the corn ear and are composed of tough fibers and lignin, which are indigestible by horses. Feeding horses with corn cobs can cause blockages in their digestive tract and increase their risk of colic. Therefore, it is not recommended to feed horses with corn cobs.
While a corn cob is not suitable as a feed for horses, corn husks may be used as a source of roughage, as an additional component of a horse’s diet. However, as mentioned before, corn husks are low in nutritional value and should not be fed as the sole source of nutrition for equines.
Can Horses Eat Corn Kernels?
Yes, corn kernels are digestible for horses. Feeding horses with corn kernels can provide them with crucial nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Corn kernels also contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B1, vitamin B5, and magnesium.
One of the benefits of feeding horses with corn kernels is that they can provide a concentrated source of energy. Corn kernels are high in carbohydrates, which can be converted into glucose and used as energy by the horse’s body. This can be particularly beneficial for a horse that is in heavy work or needs to maintain a high level of body condition.
Corn kernels can help to promote healthy weight gain in horses that are underweight or have poor body conditions. This plant is high in calories and can provide the equine with the extra energy they need to gain weight.
If comparing corn kernels and husks, the first one is a good alternative to the second one. As the latter are low in nutritional value and can cause digestive issues if consumed in large quantities. Corn kernels are more digestible and provide more nutrition to horses.
Keep in mind, however, that corn kernels should be fed in appropriate amounts as part of a well-balanced diet. Overfeeding corn kernels can lead to health problems such as obesity, laminitis, and metabolic issues. The number of corn kernels that a horse can eat a day will depend on their individual nutritional needs and level of activity. Typically, a horse should be fed no more than 2-3 pounds of corn kernels per day as part of a balanced diet.
Feeding horses with corn husks can provide them with some source of roughage. But it is crucial to ensure that they are fed in appropriate amounts and that the horse’s diet is well-balanced. However, corn husks provide little nutritional value and may not be worth including in the diet. It is always wise to consult with a veterinarian before making any changes to nutrition.