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Open AccessArticle

The Effect of Diet Composition on the Digestibility and Fecal Excretion of Phosphorus in Horses: A Potential Risk of P Leaching?

1
Production Systems, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), FI-31600 Jokioinen, Finland
2
Department of Animal Science, University of Helsinki, FI-00790 Helsinki, Finland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(1), 140; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010140 (registering DOI)
Received: 30 October 2019 / Revised: 10 January 2020 / Accepted: 12 January 2020 / Published: 15 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Horse Feeding and Management)
This study aimed to examine phosphorus utilization and excretion in feces when typical feeds and forage-based diets are fed. The hypothesis was that feeding regimes might influence phosphorus digestibility and excretion in feces, and therefore the environmental impact of horse husbandry. We also studied the nutrient digestibilities of the diets, as well as the proportion of the soluble fraction of P of the total phosphorus. Horse dung may pose a potential risk of P run-off into the environment if not properly managed. Supplementation with inorganic P should be controlled in the diets of mature horses in light work to decrease the excretion of P in feces.
The main horse phosphorus excretion pathway is through the dung. Phosphorus originating from animal dung and manure has harmful environmental effects on waters. The number of horses has increased in many countries, and several studies have pointed that leaching of P from horse paddocks and pastures are hotspots for high P leaching losses. The hypothesis was that feeding regimes might influence phosphorus digestibility and excretion in feces, and therefore the environmental impact of horse husbandry. A digestibility experiment was conducted with six horses fed six forage-based diets to study phosphorus utilization and excretion in feces. The study method was a total collection of feces. The experimental design was arranged as an unbalanced 6 × 4 Latin Squares. Phosphorus intake increased with an increasing concentrate intake. All studied diets resulted in a positive P balance and, the P retention differed from zero in all except the only-hay diet, in which the intake was lower compared to the other diets. The digestibility of P varied from 2.7 to 11.1%, and supplementing forage-diets with concentrates slightly improved P digestibility (p = 0.024), as it also improved the digestibilities of crude protein (p = 0.002) and organic matter (p = 0.077). The horses excreted an average of 20.9 ± 1.4 g/d P in feces. Excretion was smallest (20.0 g) in horses on a hay-only diet (p = 0.021). The average daily phosphorus excretion resulted in 7.6 kg P per year. The soluble P part of the total P in feces accounted for about 88% of the P excreted in feces, and is vulnerable to runoff losses and may leach into waters. Thus, horse dung may pose a potential risk of P leaching into the environment if not properly managed, and is not less harmful to the environment than that from other farm animals. Supplementation with inorganic P should be controlled in the diets of mature horses in light work to decrease the excretion of P in feces. View Full-Text
Keywords: environment; horse nutrition; phosphorus loss; phosphorus supplementation; phosphorus retention environment; horse nutrition; phosphorus loss; phosphorus supplementation; phosphorus retention
MDPI and ACS Style

Saastamoinen, M.; Särkijärvi, S.; Valtonen, E. The Effect of Diet Composition on the Digestibility and Fecal Excretion of Phosphorus in Horses: A Potential Risk of P Leaching? Animals 2020, 10, 140.

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