Evaluating equine feeding behavior utilizing GrowSafe Systems: a pilot study.
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Equine research and management is limited to single-housing systems if individual animal intake is to be precisely recorded. Even then, dry forage intake is difficult to quantify accurately due to stomping or mixing hay with fecal matter and bedding. In cattle management, GrowSafe Systems (GrowSafe) is a commonly used tool to closely monitor individual animal feeding data using radio frequency identification (RFID) tag technology. Animals are equipped with a unique RFID tag that is read by the feed bunks each time the animal lowers its head into the bunk to consume feed. The objectives of this pilot study were 1) to test the feasibility of use of the GrowSafe system with horses by measuring intake of dry hay and 2) to characterize feeding behaviors of horses in an individually housed (without competition) or group-housed (with competition) setting. To test the hypothesis that horses would consume more hay when individually (NOCOMP) compared to group-housed (COMP), 10 mature Quarter Horses (14 ± 1.5 yr) were placed in one of four pens containing GrowSafe feed bunks in a 4-wk crossover design consisting of two 2-wk treatment periods. Pen 1 contained five horses with access to two GrowSafe bunks (Period 1: n = 4 mares, n = 1 gelding; Period 2: n = 5 geldings); pens 2, 3, and 4 contained one horse each with access to one bunk. Horses were individually fed 0.25% body weight (BW; dry matter [DM] basis) of a commercial concentrate once per day and were allowed Coastal bermudagrass hay in the GrowSafe bunks ad libitum. Although five horses were used in the group-housed (COMP) pen to more closely mimic a true group environment, only data from horses that experienced both housing systems (n = 3 mares and n = 3 geldings) were used for statistical analyses. Hourly (P = 0.008) and daily (P = 0.003) durations of hay feeding were higher for NOCOMP compared to COMP horses, and total daily intake (g DM/kg BW) of NOCOMP horses tended to be greater (P = 0.09) than COMP horses. Conversely, eating rate (g DM/kg BW/min) was greater (P = 0.04) for COMP compared to NOCOMP mares but was unaffected by housing in geldings. The GrowSafe system may provide an opportunity for efficient and effective monitoring of individual horse feed intake and feeding behavior in group-housing situations in horses.
author list (cited authors)
Dickson, E. C., Kayser, W. C., Latham, C. M., Leatherwood, J. L., Daigle, C. L., & White, S. H
complete list of authors
Dickson, Emily C||Kayser, William C||Latham, Christine M||Leatherwood, Jessica L||Daigle, Courtney L||White, Sarah H