PALM KER­NEL Can you please tell me if it’s okay for horses to eat palm ker­nel (PKE). The vets don’t seem to know too much about it, but the dairy farm­ers feed it to their cows by the truck­load! I am won­der­ing if it’s safe for horses, and in what amounts.

NZ Horse & Pony - - Ask the experts -

Trainer Ch­eski replies:

Hi SO, if your pony looks un­com­fort­able in his cover and he re­acts as you de­scribe then he is un­com­fort­able. It sounds to me as though the cov­ers you’ve used are press­ing on sore spot/s.

Cov­ers press on the top of the wither, the neck line around the shoul­ders and on the hips. I sug­gest you go over his body with your hands, pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to pal­pa­tion of his wither, cover neck line, point of shoul­der, shoul­der mus­cles and around his hips on both sides of his body. Keep your senses open to any ex­pres­sion of dis­com­fort or con­cern. If you think you press ‘ouch’ but­ton/s, con­tinue your ex­am­i­na­tion and then re­turn to the spot/s where he said ‘ow’ to eval­u­ate the amount of pres­sure he’ll ac­cept be­fore re­act­ing.

You say he’s fine to ride. The sad­dle pres­sure points are dif­fer­ent to the cover pres­sure points so this makes sense. How­ever you la­bel him as ‘cold backed’. This ex­pres­sion is used to de­scribe re­ac­tions to a range of things from the girthing up, first can­ter on a par­tic­u­lar rein, mount­ing and re­ac­tiv­ity in early warm up. Be­cause you haven’t ex­plained ex­actly when and how he shows cold back ten­den­cies, I won’t hazard a guess as to just what por­tion of his anatomy is mak­ing him ir­ri­ta­ble. Nonethe­less I won’t be sur­prised if you find that his cover re­ac­tiv­ity and cold back in­cli­na­tions are re­lated.

So SO, make your own as­sess­ment of his ‘ouch’ spots and call his health pro­fes­sional to re­port your find­ings and get ad­vice as to how you can help your young man be more com­fort­able.

Word of cau­tion – don’t dis­miss the cover or cold back prob­lem. Your pony could be say­ing ‘ow’ be­cause of pres­sure on mus­cles that are sec­on­dar­ily sore from the way he car­ries him­self to al­le­vi­ate a foot or skele­tal sore­ness. If you look for and sort out a skele­tal of foot prob­lem, your cover and cold back is­sues might well re­solve all by them­selves.

Nu­tri­tion­ist Lucy re­lies:

PKE is cur­rently a ma­jor is­sue in the dairy in­dus­try. It is a by-prod­uct of palm oil ex­trac­tion, so is the fi­brous ma­te­rial that’s left over and then used in an­i­mal feed.

As a feed ma­te­rial, it is high in fi­bre and pro­tein (about 18%), although it can be highly vari­able in nu­tri­ents, es­pe­cially energy con­tent, which has been re­ported to range be­tween 6-12 Mj/kg, de­pend­ing on how it has been pro­cessed for oil re­moval.

Re­cent data sug­gests it is poorly di­gested in ru­mi­nants (maybe only 50%), which would sug­gest its even less di­gestible in horses, whose abil­ity to break down fi­bre, while still ma­jor, is less than cows. The big prob­lem with PKE is how it is stored and pro­duced – as it is of­ten a by-prod­uct from de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Some is very high qual­ity and well over­load and lead­ing to prob­lems such as brit­tle bones, which have been iden­ti­fied in Aus­tralian re­search as lead­ing to bro­ken legs in cat­tle, es­pe­cially those with ac­cess to wa­ter treated with cop­per sul­phate (‘blue crys­tals’).

So, if you’re go­ing to feed it, ideally you need the nu­tri­ent specs from the sup­plier, so you can en­sure the min­er­als are cor­rectly bal­anced for your horse to pre­vent fu­ture prob­lems and also to guar­an­tee the prod­uct is free of my­co­tox­ins. ■

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