What middlings, also known as wheat mill run, wheat shorts, or wheat midds, are a byproduct of the wheat milling process. They are a very common ingredient in many horse feeds. Yet, there is a misconception that wheat middlings are just the leftovers and “swept off the floor” of a flour mill. The truth is, they are carefully collected, used in many premium horse feeds, and provide many vital nutrients to horses.
What Are Wheat Middlings?
Wheat middlings are various components of the wheat kernel. During the milling process to make flour, the mill will remove as much starch as possible from each individual wheat kernel. The remaining components are the wheat middlings and are made up of:
- Bran. Wheat bran is the outer protective layer of the wheat kernel. It can be rich in dietary fiber, including cellulose and hemicellulose. Both are digestible by the horse. It also can be a good source of vitamins and minerals. This could include the B vitamins (including niacin and riboflavin), iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
- Germ. The germ is what is considered the “embryo” of the wheat kernel. It contains such nutrients like healthy fats, vitamins like Vitamin E, minerals such as zinc and selenium, and even antioxidants.
- Endosperm. Wheat middlings may have some endosperm, which is the starch (carbohydrate) part of the kernel. Most of this is removed during milling, but may vary in how much carbohydrates and protein it has.
The nutritional content of wheat middlings can vary depending on factors such as the milling process and specific type of wheat used. When looking at exact nutritional content, on average, per 100 grams, wheat middlings generally provide:
- Protein, 15-16 grams
- Fat, 2-4 grams
- Carbohydrates, 72-75 grams
- Fiber, 10-15 grams
- Calories, 335 – 350 calories
- Vitamins: B vitamins to include niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine. May also contain Vitamin E and other trace vitamins.
- Minerals: iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium.
It is important to remember that the specific nutrient content will depend heavily on the source and process of how the wheat was milled. Regardless of the exact content, wheat middlings are an excellent source of nutrients for horses.
Why Are Wheat Middlings Used in Horse Feeds?
Simply put, wheat middlings are an excellent source of nutrients for horses and provide many benefits to feed manufacturers. They can help balance feeds during formulation or even act as a binding agent to help form pellets. Other reasons wheat middlings are used, include:
- Nutrition. Wheat middlings are a good source of dietary fiber, protein, and other nutrients for the horse. They contain carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, too.
- Fiber content. Fiber is critical to any horse and wheat middlings can support their digestive health. They can help maintain proper gut function, prevent digestive issues, and promote a healthy microbial population in the horse’s hind gut.
- Energy Source. Wheat middlings are a source of readily digestible carbohydrates, which all horses need in providing energy for their daily activities and exercise. They can also be a good source of energy for performance horses.
- Cost-effective. In trying to keep costs down for any formulated feed, wheat middlings are often more affordable than other feed ingredients. A low-cost and excellent source of nutrients for the horse is a win-win.
- Palatability. Often, if the feed does not taste good to the horse, they will refuse to eat. Many horses find wheat middlings palatable. Thus, they will consume their feed more readily. This can be particularly important for picky eaters.
When looking at a feed tag, you usually will see “wheat middlings” listed as an ingredient. They also could be listed with collective terms, like “grain byproducts.”
Take Home Message
The most important thing to remember about wheat middlings is that they are an excellent and safe source of nutrients for horses. However, it is worth noting that feeding straight wheat middlings would never be recommended. Gone are the days of feeding straight grains or even byproducts, like wheat middlings, to horses. Rather, these types of feeds should be formulated in a horse feed that is designed by equine nutritionists. If you have any concerns or questions about what you are feeding your horse, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation.