A survey of 72 thoroughbred trainers in several regions of NSW was conducted to better define current grain feeding practices, and the risks involved with grain feeding in the Australian thoroughbred racing industry. Results from the survey indicate that horses in the industry are currently being fed an average of 7.3 ± 0.23 kg of grain concentrate per day, with oats, commercial pre-mixed diets and corn most commonly used. The feeding of extruded, micronised and steam flaked grains was uncommon.
The results of grain and faecal sample analyses conducted during the survey indicate that incomplete starch digestion in the equine small intestine and subsequent hindgut starch fermentation and low hindgut pH are common. These observations quantify the adverse impact of current grain feeding practices on faecal measures of gut health and demonstrate that when selecting grains for use in the thoroughbred racehorse, greater emphasis should be placed on the starch digestibility characteristics of grains.