Written by: Lacie Dotterweich | July 21, 2023
By: Lacie Dotterweich and Marisa Crowhurst
Science is always evolving, and the science of equine nutrition is no exception. Thanks to research and developments in equine nutrition, we know that many byproducts contain nutrient levels or attributes that make them better feed ingredients for horses than the initial grain or primary end-product of the processing. The list of byproducts that provide advantages in horse diets is long – and some you may even be surprised to see on the list – but an important one is wheat middlings (or midds).
The wheat milling industry is known for producing popular byproducts of flour production that are used in horse rations. For example, wheat bran, which is the coarse outer covering of the wheat kernel that is separated from cleaned and scoured wheat that remains when the flour is removed from the grain, has been used by horse owners for many years to add bulk and fiber to a grain mix. The star of this blog, wheat midds, refers to the fine particles of wheat bran, wheat shorts, wheat germ and wheat flour produced in the milling process.
You might be wondering, what are the benefits of adding wheat midds to a horse’s diet?
Horse health problems can arise when the large intestine is overloaded with undigested starch. Several studies have reported the negative effects of excess starch in the large intestine, such as decreased colon and/or cecal pH level. This can lead to dangerous health problems, such as colic or laminitis. Since the starchy flour has been removed, wheat midds are lower in calories and starch, but higher in fiber and protein than the original wheat grain. This nutrient profile makes them a more valuable feed ingredient than the whole wheat grain.
While wheat midds are wholesome and nutritious addition to equine diets, they are also high in phosphorus and low in calcium, so they must be blended with other ingredients and balanced with adequate calcium to provide a proper calcium-to-phosphorus ratio in the finished ration.
I spoke to our resident animal nutritionist, Paul Davis, Ph.D., to hear his thoughts on wheat midds and he said, “Wheat midds are the Swiss army knife of ingredients, they are incredibly versatile. They are safe and beneficial for many applications and various species. Their inclusion in a formula helps pellet quality as they take steam well and what little starch is present gelatinizes well. I’ve probably used a million tons of midds in my career!”
In addition to their nutritional benefit, midds contribute to grain processing. Most consumers don’t appreciate opening a bag of pelleted feed to find piles of fines and powder at the bottom of the bag. Incorporating wheat midds into the pellets makes use of all parts of the grain without using other types of binders, as wheat midds help improve hardness and durability of the pellet.
With the move toward lower-starch feeds that still deliver the calories that horses need, wheat midds have found a valuable place in equine diets.