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Slow-feeding for horses

In a natural environment, equids spend over 16 hours a day grazing. Stabled horses are traditionally fed 2–3 times a day with limited amount of forage. This may lead to disturbances of the digestive system and/or behavioral problems. The aim of this study was to investigate whether intake decreases when using a net covering the forage. Six adult mares were housed together and fed for 60 minutes, five times a day. Forage was covered with the net tied to a metal frame. The mesh size of the applied two different nets was 4.5 x 4.5 cm and 3 x 3 cm. Horses were observed during 4 days of feeding hay and haylage (only with the 4.5 cm net) respectively, each with and without net. The forage intake was recorded three times a day. To investigate the impact of the net on the feed intake, the recorded data was statistically analyzed using a Wilcoxon-Rank Sum test as implemented in R. For haylage the difference in feed intake with or without net was not significant (mean 1.7 kg DM/h with net and 1.84 kg DM/h without net). Offering hay, we found a significant difference of the feed intake for three out of the six horses (mean 1.26 kg DM/h with 3cm net; 1.51 kg DM/h with 4.5 cm net and 1.69 kg DM/h without net). There were important individual differences between the horses, but the 3 cm net could significantly slow down the feed intake of hay.

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