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.
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. ■