The development and evaluation of a mathematical nutrition model to predict digestible energy intake of broodmares based on body condition changes.
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Mathematical nutrition models have been developed for beef and dairy cattle to estimate dietary energy intake needed to change BCS. Similar technology has not been used to improve nutrition and feeding strategies for horses. An accurate equine nutrition model may enhance feeding management and reduce the costs of unnecessary overfeeding and promote an optimal level of fatness to achieve reproductive efficiency. The objectives of this study were to develop and evaluate a mathematical nutrition model capable of accurately predicting dietary energy changes to alter BW, rump fat (RF) thickness, and overall body fat (BF), which is needed to maximize profitability and productivity of mares. Model structure was similar to a previously developed model for cattle, and literature data for Quarter Horse mares were used to parameterize the horse model in predicting DE requirement associated with BCS changes. Evaluation of the horse model was performed using an independent dataset comprising 20 nonlactating Quarter Horse mares. Pretrial BCS was used to assign mares to 1 of 4 treatment groups and fed to alter BCS by 1 unit as follows: from 4 to 5 (Group 1), 5 to 4 (Group 2), 6 to 7 (Group 3), and 7 to 6 (Group 4). The BCS, RF thickness, and BW were measured for each mare before the commencement of the feeding trial and once per week thereafter for the duration of a 30-d feeding trial. Initial and target BCS, percent BF, and BW data were collected from each mare and inputted into the model. Mares were individually fed according to the DE suggestions proposed by the model to achieve the targeted BCS change within 30 d. The coefficient of determination of observed and model-predicted values (model precision) was 0.907 (P < 0.001) for BCS, 0.607 (P < 0.001) for percent BF, and 0.94 (P < 0.001) for BW. The BCS was highly correlated to percent BF (r = 0.808; P = 0.01). We concluded the reparameterized model was reliable to predict changes in BW and BCS, but more work is needed to improve the predictions of initial and final body composition.