Feed Label Laws

Oregon implemented a provisional equine feed label law on June 1 that would allow feed manufacturers to add non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) to the list of nutrient requirements already found on feed bags in that state. Adding NSC to the feed label would assist owners when choosing feed for horses that have metabolic problems or laminitis and cannot tolerate high-carb feed.
Kathryn Watts, BS, research director for Rocky Mountain Research and Consulting, Inc., in Center, Colo., and Stephen Duren, PhD, of Performance Horse Nutrition in Weiser, Idaho, feed consultant for LMF Feeds, are working together to push for NSC to be added to feed labels.

"Oregon has allowed a provisional label, and California and Washington are still thinking about it," said Watts. Feed labels are regulated by each state's own regulatory and testing laboratory, and each state determines what will be on their feed labels unless it is overruled by federal law. Oregon's new feed label applies only for feeds tested and sold in Oregon.

Oregon's guidelines for the new label state that if the product makes a low-NSC claim, the maximum percentage of NSC guaranteed shall be 11%. The methods used to determine the level will be decided by expert laboratories. The guidelines in their entirety can be seen at http://egov.oregon.gov/ODA/AHID/commercial_feed/low_nsc605.pdf.

One problem with adding NSC to the feed label is that state regulatory feed labs would have to add this to their existing long list of tests. Many feed labs cannot test for NSC, or choose not to test for it, because there is no standard method of measurement. Watts said changing something as simple as the water temperature when testing can skew results.

"There is no standardization in testing (for NSC). In order to make this work, we need the National Forage Testing Association (NFTA) to come up with a standardized test," said Watts. The NFTA provides certifications to labs for feed analysis and testing and can ensure that the tests used for finding NSC are the same across the country.

Paul Sirois, BS, MS, forage lab manager of Equi-Analytical/Dairy One in Ithaca, N.Y., said, "This is going to be an additional and helpful piece of information for people when making feed decisions." Sirois said his lab is equipped to test for NSC, and frequently performs this test for major feed organizations.

"There are a few feed organizations that already find the NSC so they can provide this information to the customer," he noted. However, with this new law, Oregon companies that choose to claim low NSC will have to include this information on the label rather than just providing it in other customer communications.

"In the case of sweet feeds, where they are adding a fair amount of molasses that can be anywhere from 7-12% of the total mix, having the sugar value blended in with the NSC value would be a good thing overall," Sirois added. While it is possible to determine a horse's feed ration and the amount of starch they will receive based on the individual feedstuffs in a mixed feed listed, having the overall NSC value with the sugar from the molasses added to the new label will be much more exact.

Watts explained, "As the owner of two insulin-resistant, chronically laminitic ponies, I have firsthand experience with how vital it is to know exactly how much sugar, starch, and fructan are in their feed.

"If having NSC guaranteed on horse feeds is important to horse owners, they need to contact the feed regulatory agencies in their states' departments of agriculture and let their needs be known," she added.

For more on carbs and horses, click here.

About the Author

Marcella M. Reca Zipp, MS

Marcella Reca Zipp, M.S., is a former staff writer for The Horse. She is completing her doctorate in Environmental Education and researching adolescent relationships with horses and nature. She lives with her family, senior horse, and flock of chickens on an island in the Chain O'Lakes.

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