Feeding Strategies and Diet Formulation of Horses

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Equids".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 January 2025 | Viewed by 3618

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Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Production Systems, Tietotie 2, 31600 Jokioinen, Finland
Interests: animal production; animal physiology; animal breeding; feed formulation; feeding; animal husbandry; animal genetics; forage; feed evaluation; pasture management; equine; canine
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Dear Colleagues,

Horse management systems vary based on their use, age, climatic conditions and breed. Due to growing concerns for their behavioural needs, for adult horses used for various purposes as well as growing horses and broodmares, free barns with automatic feeders or more frequent access to feeds becoming increasingly popular. However, it is more difficult to consider individual animals’ needs when feeding in groups. Feeding horses outdoors in winter and cold climates is challenging for horse owners and stable managers in the northern latitudes: low temperatures, winds and rain and other harsh conditions may contribute to the increasing nutrient requirements.

During summer seasons, grazing is of significant importance in horse nutrition, decreasing the costs of horse keeping and offering good and balanced nutrition. At first glance, it appears suitable for many categories of horse.

However, variation in horses’ breeds and uses makes feeding them challenging. Proper nutrition and feeding management are crucial to fulfill the ethological and physiological needs of the horse. The links between health and good dietary treatment and management practices are evident. Gaps in nutrition and management may lead to health problems and impaired growth and performance.

The planning and formulation of feed ration of the horse during the indoor feeding season is always based on good-quality forages. However, the feeding and management must be carefully organised to achieve this and to optimise the forage intake from a health and welfare perspective. It is also important to determine how the diet can be properly balanced with supplemental feeding.

Feeds also exhibit geographical and seasonal differences. Many side products from industry can be utilised to increase the sustainability of feeding and management. 

This Special Issue will cover the following topics:

- Practical feeding strategies for various horse categories (young horses, brood mares, horses in training, etc.) in various management /stabling systems/grazing systems.

- Their impacts on welfare and health, considering feed hygiene.

- Their impacts on sustainability of nutrition and management.

- Feed technology, for example, utilising various side-products from food and other industries as ingredients of the horse feeds (to increase the sustainability of nutrition).

Dr. Markku Saastamoinen
Guest Editor

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Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

9 pages, 918 KiB  
Article
Initial Impact of Different Feeding Methods on Feed Intake Time in Stabled Icelandic Horses
by Sveinn Ragnarsson, Sigríður Vaka Víkingsdóttir and Guðrún Jóhanna Stefánsdóttir
Animals 2024, 14(8), 1211; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani14081211 - 18 Apr 2024
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Abstract
The natural behaviour of horses is to spend the majority of their time on feed intake The feeding of stabled horses is, however, often far from that, as their feed intake is limited to their nutritional requirements. In order to approach their natural [...] Read more.
The natural behaviour of horses is to spend the majority of their time on feed intake The feeding of stabled horses is, however, often far from that, as their feed intake is limited to their nutritional requirements. In order to approach their natural foraging time, it is important to extend the feed intake time of stabled horses. The aim of this study was to estimate if the feed intake time differs when feeding haylage in a haynet, hayball, metal corner manger, or from the box floor. The experimental design consisted of a Latin square, occurred across four days with four adult Icelandic horses and four treatments. Horses were stabled in individual boxes and fed 7 kg of high-energy haylage in two even meals while the intake time was recorded. The feed intake time per kg DM was shorter from the manger or the box floor than from a haynet or hayball (81 or 85 min versus 94 or 96 min; p < 0.05). It can be concluded that feeding haylage in a hayball or in a haynet can increase the feed intake time by 13% per day (12 min/kg DM/day) when compared to the more traditional methods. Thus, with simple alternatives, it is possible to extend the feed intake time of stabled horses. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feeding Strategies and Diet Formulation of Horses)
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19 pages, 545 KiB  
Article
Nutrient Composition and Feed Hygiene of Alfalfa, Comparison of Feed Intake and Selected Metabolic Parameters in Horses Fed Alfalfa Haylage, Alfalfa Hay or Meadow Hay
by Marlene Köninger, Astrid von Velsen-Zerweck, Carolin Eiberger, Christof Löffler, Anja Töpper, Christian Visscher, Bernd Reckels and Ingrid Vervuert
Animals 2024, 14(6), 889; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani14060889 - 13 Mar 2024
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Abstract
The aim of this study was to examine the nutrient composition and feed hygiene of alfalfa as well as investigate the feed intake, blood, urine and faecal parameters of horses fed alfalfa haylage (AS) compared with alfalfa hay (AH) and meadow hay (MH). [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to examine the nutrient composition and feed hygiene of alfalfa as well as investigate the feed intake, blood, urine and faecal parameters of horses fed alfalfa haylage (AS) compared with alfalfa hay (AH) and meadow hay (MH). A total of 11 geldings were fed ad libitum (2.1% dry matter (DM) of body weight (BW)) with alfalfa haylage, alfalfa hay and meadow hay (MH) in a Latin square design. On days 0 and 21 of the feeding period, blood samples were analysed for kidney and liver parameters. Faecal samples were analysed for pH, DM and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Spontaneous urine was collected during the feeding period to analyse selected parameters. Forage was analysed in terms of feed hygiene and crude nutrients. In several feed samples of AS, AH and MH, the microbial reference ranges were exceeded for product-typical and spoilage-indicating bacteria and fungi. Crude nutrient analyses revealed a median crude protein content of 139 (138/142) g/kg DM for AS, which was similar to that in AH (127–135 g/kg DM) and substantially higher than in MH (79.1–87.7 g/kg DM). The calcium level in AS (11.3 g/kg DM) was significantly higher than that in MH (4.00–4.95 g/kg DM) but not compared with that in AH (9.80–10.4 g/kg DM). All blood parameters were within the reference ranges. Fractional excretion (FE)Ca for AS-fed horses ranged from 8.13 to 22.0%; the FECa for AH-fed horses ranged from 6.48 to 24.8%; the FECa for MH-fed horses ranged from 6.69 to 53.2%. No significant differences were found in faecal pH or SCFA content in AS-fed horses compared with AH-fed and MH-fed horses. We concluded that alfalfa haylage provides an alternative forage for equine nutrition. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feeding Strategies and Diet Formulation of Horses)
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11 pages, 573 KiB  
Article
Forage:Concentrate Ratio Effects on In Vivo Digestibility and In Vitro Degradability of Horse’s Diet
by Fabio Zicarelli, Raffaella Tudisco, Daria Lotito, Nadia Musco, Piera Iommelli, Maria Ferrara, Serena Calabrò, Federico Infascelli and Pietro Lombardi
Animals 2023, 13(16), 2589; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13162589 - 11 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1246
Abstract
Determination of digestibility represents the first step for the evaluation of the net energy content of feed for livestock animals. The aim of this study was to evaluate the in vivo digestibility and in vitro degradability of five diets characterized by different forage/concentrate [...] Read more.
Determination of digestibility represents the first step for the evaluation of the net energy content of feed for livestock animals. The aim of this study was to evaluate the in vivo digestibility and in vitro degradability of five diets characterized by different forage/concentrate ratios (F:C) in horses. The in vitro degradability was determined by the Gas Production Technique (GPT), using as an inoculum source the feces of the same subjects used for the in vivo test. Five diets consisting of poliphyte hay, straw and grains of barley and oats with a different F:C ratio [90/10 (Diet 1); 78/22 (Diet 2); 68/32 (Diet 3); 60/40 (Diet 4); 50/50 (Diet 5) were formulated and administered in succession, starting with Diet 1. In the in vivo results, no significant differences emerged, despite the different F:C content. In in vitro fermentation, four diets out of the five (2, 3, 4, 5) presented a similar trend of the curve of gas production, showing good activity of the fecal micro population during the first hours of incubation. An important correlation between gas and Volatile Fatty Acid (VFA) were found, suggesting that the processes linked to the micro population deriving from the horse’s caecum follow metabolic pathways whose products can be modeled in the same way as for the rumen. The GPT could represent the correct method for studying the nutritional characteristics of feed for horses, using feces as the source of inoculum, even if further investigations must be performed to improve the technique. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feeding Strategies and Diet Formulation of Horses)
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