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First Posted: Oct 15, 2012
Oct 15, 2012

Voluntary Intake of Four Hay Types by Horses

Abstract

Alfalfa, teff, oat, and wheat hays were fed to eight mature horses to determine voluntary intake of each hay type. After a 2-week adaptation period during which each horse was offered all four hay types each day, a 4-week study was conducted in which two horses were offered each type of hay each week, usually at the rate of 2.2% of initial body weight. Refused feed was collected and weighed the last 5 days of each week to calculate voluntary intake. Horses consumed significantly more alfalfa hay than the other hays. Wheat and teff hays were consumed in significantly lower amounts than alfalfa, but significantly more than oat hay. Across the 5 days during which voluntary intake was measured each week, hay consumption increased each day, reaching levels significantly greater than day 1 by day 4, when measured as a percentage of body weight, and day 5 when measured as a percentage of feed offered. Only alfalfa hay, at the amount consumed, met 100% of nutrient requirements for digestible energy, crude protein, lysine, calcium, and phosphorus for horses in maintenance condition. Teff hay met all nutrient requirements except digestible energy. Neither wheat nor oat hays met 100% of any of these nutrient requirements. Alfalfa and teff hays averaged about 12% nonstructural carbohydrate content (NSC), whereas wheat and oats hays contained about 30% NSC. The lower NSC content of the alfalfa and teff hays makes these more suitable for horses with problems related to carbohydrate metabolism or for refeeding starving horses.


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