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Cut or long-stemmed forage – does it make a difference to the horse?

Cut or long-stemmed forage – does it make a difference to the horse?

Wrapped forages for horses are usually conserved long-stemmed, for other animals it is more common to cut or chop the forage before baling which can facilitate the ensiling process and improve storage stability of the forage. In this study pH and acetic acid in faeces and the faecal particle size distribution were measured in ten horses which in two four-week periods were fed cut (7 cm) and long-stemmed haylage from the same ley harvested the same day. Also the horses eating time (min/kg DM (dry matter)), chewing frequency (chews/min) and number of chews/kg DM were measured when they were fed the cut and the long-stemmed haylage. The behavioural studies were performed by direct observation during feeding and three daily repeated 3 minute intervals for each horse during the sampling week (the 4th week).

When the horses ate the cut haylage the faecal pH was slightly higher and the concentration of acetic acid slightly lower than when the horses ate the long-stemmed haylage. However, these differences were so small that they were not considered to be biologically important. The faecal particle size distribution did not differ when the horses were fed the cut or long-stemmed haylage.

There was no difference in eating time, it took the horses the same amount of time to eat one kg DM cut as long-stemmed haylage. The chewing frequency was slightly higher when the horses were fed the cut haylage, but the difference was small: 84 chews/min for cut and 82 chews/min for long-stemmed. However, number of chews per kg DM were less when the horses were fed the cut haylage compared to the long-stemmed. Performing longer measurements over 24 hours might imply slightly different results. In conclusion, the individual variations between horses were larger than the differences due to cut or long-stemmed haylage for both the faecal measurements and the horses’ eating behaviour.

Sara Muhonen, AgrD

Müller C. 2009. Long-stemmed vs. cut haylage in bales – Effects on fermentation, aerobic storage stability, equine eating behaviour and characteristics of equine faeces. Animal Feed Science and Technology 152, 307-321.

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