Influence of Feeding Practices on Behavior and Activity Levels of Quarter Horse Mares
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Animal Sciences Undergraduate Research Theses; 2012
The horse is a grazing animal by nature and will forage 16-18 h per day if given the opportunity. However, today’s management practices often include restricted access to forage and feeding high amounts of concentrates in a limited number of meals throughout the day. Infrequent meals may lead to increases in stereotypic behaviors such as weaving and crib-biting. Therefore, to mimic the natural grazing patterns of the horse and decrease the incidence of stereotypic behavior, it may be beneficial to divide larger portions of the daily ration into smaller, more frequent meals. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of feeding an identical diet, with different meal frequencies and order of delivery, on behavior and activity level in horses during periods of confinement and turnout. Six Quarter Horse mares (7 ± 5 yr; 524 ± 87 kg) were used in a 6 x 6 Latin square design. Each horse received a similar quantity of feed per day (2.0% of BW of a mixed-grass hay and 0.5% of BW of a 12% CP pelleted concentrate) and was randomly assigned to one of six feeding protocols during the 7 d period: 1 meal/d (08:00) with grain fed first followed by hay 15 min later (1GH) or hay fed first followed by grain 15 min later (1HG), 2 meals/d (08:00 and 18:00) with grain fed first followed by hay 15 min later (2GH) or hay fed first followed by grain 15 min later (2HG), 3 meals/d (08:00, 13:00, and 18:00) with grain fed first followed by hay 15 min later (3GH) or hay fed first followed by grain 15 min later (3HG). Behaviors were observed each day before and after meal times (07:30-9:00, 12:30-14:00, and 17:30-19:00) using a scan sampling technique (6 scans/horse/5 min for 1.5 hr). Instantaneous scans (1 scan/horse/min for 2 h) were used to observe and record behaviors during daily turnout (9:30-11:30). Pedometers attached to the horse’s left front leg were used to determine activity by recording the number of footsteps taken. Horses fed more frequently (HG) were observed eating food more often with the exception of horses fed 1GH. Horses fed 1 meal/d were observed drinking water more often compared to horses fed smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Nibbling on stall structures was observed more often in horses fed 1 meal/d than those fed 2 or 3 meals/d. No differences were observed in crib-biting or pawing; however, horses fed 1 meal/d (GH) were observed weaving more often than horses fed 2-3 meals/d (GH and HG). The activity level of horses as indicated by the number of footsteps recorded while housed in stalls and during turnout, was higher in horses fed grain prior to hay, regardless of the number of meals/d. Overall, this study suggests that meal frequency and order of grain vs. hay delivery influence the behavior and activity of horses, and that smaller, more frequent meals may be beneficial for the horse by reducing stereotypic behaviors and health risks associated with infrequent meals.
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