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Do slow feeder haynets slow horses feeding down?

A horse munches on some hay. Labelled for reuse.

 

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have tested the rates of consumption for ‘slow’ feeding haynets and found that they increase the amount of time horses spend eating. The study shows that “slow feeding” nets can have a positive welfare outcome for horses because they mimic the horse’s natural feeding pattern where he might graze up to 14.5 hours per day.

As many of today's horses are stabled or kept on small pasture with inadequate grazing, they are often fed two large meals each day, and have limited opportunity to forage. To compensate many horse owners provide unlimited access to hay. This can result in obesity because the horses tend to consume hay in excess of their energy requirement.

From a welfare point of view it is of benefit to reduce intake and increase time spent consuming the forage.

Researchers used eight adult horses who were fed in individual stalls. Horses were fed hay using four different delivery methods:

* Off the stall floor (control);

* From a large net (6 inch openings);

* From a medium net (1.75 inches openings);

* And small net (1.0 inch openings).

During the data collection period horses had access to hay for two 4hour periods: 7:00 to 11:00 am and 4:00 to 8:00 pm each day.

Throughout the trial, grass hay was fed at 1% body weight twice each day.

To determine forage consumption rate, stopwatches were started once horses began eating, and stopped once horses either finished all offered hay, were no longer interested in eating, or the 4 hour time period had expired.

All refuse hay was collected and weighed. Total forage consumed was calculated by subtracting amount of refuse from hay offered.

Results showed that horses eating from the net with medium holes took just under 2 hours more time that horses eating from the control or large hole nets (5 hours v. 3.2/3.4 hours) and horses eating from the small hole nets took twice as long as those eating from hay off the ground. The horses given medium and small hay nets also consumed approximately one third less hay in the time allowed.

Researchers say the results demonstrate that small or medium nets were effective in decreasing rate and amount of forage consumed and increasing the total time of forage consumption occurs in adult horses.

If small or medium hay nets were used for twice daily feedings in a stable setting, the anticipated amount of time horses would spend foraging would be 10 to 13 hours each day; more closely mimicking a horse's natural grazing behaviour.

Source: http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/using-slow-feed-hay-nets/index.html
 

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