Date of Award
Master of Science
The use of hydroponic feeding systems for horses has gained in popularity during recent years. Typically, this feeding system allows for a more efficient use of the whole plant, including the shoot, root, and seed remnants rather than traditional grazing in which only the shoot of the plant is consumed. Vertical systems have practical uses in largely developed areas where traditional forage sources are limited, in arid countries or in areas with severe droughts where forage growth is minimal. Though there is some research on fodder utilization in production animals, there are currently no published data on the effects of fodder in horses. Our study, approved by the Southern Illinois University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (#13-043) utilized eight Quarter Horse mares randomly assigned to one of two diets. Control (CON) horses were offered 2% of their body weight (BW) in hay (DM) and treatment (TRT) horses received 1% of their BW in hay (DM) and 1% of BW in fresh wheat fodder (AF) twice daily. Body weight and hoof temperature data were recorded weekly. Fecal samples were collected weekly and analyzed for pH, NH3, and VFA concentration as well as DM, ash, NDF, ADF, N, CP, and EE. Hay and fodder samples were also collected weekly to monitor nutrient profiles of the two forage types for the duration of the study. Additionally, nutrient profiles from seed to mature (8 d growth) were developed for fodder. Data were analyzed as a completely randomized design using PROC MIXED of SAS (v. 9.4) and significance was established at P < 0.05. There were no significant differences in body weight, left or right front hoof temperatures between treatments. Fecal pH was significantly lower (P ≤ 0.01) in the TRT when compared to CON, and isobutyric acid was significantly (P ≤ 0.05) higher in TRT as compared to CON. A comparison of the nutrient values of the two forages demonstrated significantly higher DM, ash, NDF, and ADF (P <0.0001) in hay while N, CP, and EE (P <0.0001) were significantly higher in fodder overall. Daily growth of the fodder decreased DM content (P <0.0001) while ash, NDF, ADF, N, CP, and EE (P <0.0001) increased as the fodder reached maturity. These results indicate that utilizing fodder affects fecal metabolites associated with digestion.
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