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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

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All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Re: Flax question

Hi Katie,

Thank you for writing. The key is as you mentioned... the microflora have to adjust. But, that is not the goal when feeding flax. You don't want the microflora to have anything to do with digesting flaxseeds. You want the flaxseed to be digested in the foregut, not the hindgut. The inside of the seed contains fat (mostly in the form of omega 3s), protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals -- an excellent food, indeed. And these nutrients should never reach the hindgut where they can be digested by the microflora.

That's the whole point in not feeding flaxseeds whole. You do not want them to be digested in the hindgut. And they will be digested there if they bypass the small intestine (foregut) because of the outer hull that cannot be penetrated by the digestive enzymes produced by the small intestine.

The fact that you don't find any seeds is not a good sign. It says that the bacterial population did end up digesting the outer hull, and therefore got to the inner pulp of the seed. Fermentation of the pulp's components can lead to lactic acid formation and the potential for cecal acidosis, as well as endotoxin-related laminitis is a real risk.

So, flaxseeds should be ground before fed. Added vitamin E can reduce oxidation of fatty acids and well as a form of microprocessing that Horsetech products used to give their ground flax a two year shelf life.

All the best,

Dr. Getty
Author of Feed Your Horse Like A Horse

I was wondering if you have seen this article about feeding whole flax seeds, and what your thoughts are. Thank you!!!

Why do we use whole flax seed vs. ground flax seed in FOCUS SR?
When we first developed FOCUS SR, we tried to use ground flax. We quickly determined that it was not stable enough to withstand the rigors of distribution all across the US. At first, it seemed that the only alternative was to use one of the heavily processed flax meals or one with preservatives.

Clearly, Mother Nature does a superb job of protecting the nutritional goodness within the seed hull, but as soon as it is cracked open in the air, it begins to degrade. We had also read that "whole flax" was indigestible. This may be true for people, but it turns out not to be so for horses!

We ran an informal digestibility trial at the Kentucky Equine Research facility. At first, most of the seeds came though whole. However, to our surprise and delight, we found that within a few days, the microflora in the hindgut adjusted, and in less than a week virtually all the seeds were digested.

We made the easy decision then to provide the flax whole, best protected by the seed hull until it's eaten. You can see for yourself. After a week, you'll have a very hard time finding an undigested seed!

Where are you from? Waverly, Ohio

Re: Flax question

Thank you so much for the response!!! I was dying to know the answer. Happy holidays =D