Digestive capacity in weanling and mature horses

J. E. Earing, L. M. Lawrence, S. H. Hayes, M. Brummer, E. Vanzant

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9 Scopus citations


The ability of young and mature horses to digest DM, OM, and NDF was compared using 6 weanling colts and 6 mature (13.2 ± 3.0 yr) geldings. Each colt was paired with a gelding, and the pair was adapted to a diet containing 67% alfalfa cubes and 33% concentrate for 21 d. During the adaptation period, horses were accustomed to housing and all handling procedures. The adaptation period was also used to adjust the amount of feed offered to minimize orts and to maintain similar rates of intake within a pair. After the adaptation period, a 5-d fecal collection period using fecal collection harnesses ensued. The average age of the weanling colts at the start of the 5-d collection period was 181.8 ± 2.9 d. On the morning of the first collection day, Co-EDTA (9 mg Co/kg BW0.75) and ytterbium-labeled hay fiber (9 mg Yb/kg BW0.75) were added to the concentrate portion of the diet, and horses were closely observed for complete consumption of the markers before additional feed was offered. The fecal collection bags were emptied every 1 to 2 h, and each collection was weighed and subsampled for later measurement of Co and Yb concentrations, which were used to determine the mean retention time (MRT) of the fluid and particulate phases of digesta, respectively. The remaining feces for each horse were composited each day and then subsampled for measurement of DM digestibility (DMD), NDF digestibility (NDFD), and OM digestibility (OMD). During the fecal collection period, DMI was similar between colts and geldings (91.4 and 91.2 g/kg BW0.75, respectively). There were no differences between colts and mature geldings for DMD, OMD, or NDFD. Across both ages, the MRT of the particulate phase was 24.9 h compared with 21.8 h for the fluid phase (P = 0.002). However, MRT for the particulate phase was not different between colts and mature geldings (24.7 and 25.2 h, respectively). There was no difference in the MRT for the fluid phase between colts and mature geldings (21.5 and 22.0 h, respectively). The results indicated that the digestibility of DM, OM, and NDF in a diet consisting of good-quality cubed forage and concentrate is similar for weanling colts and mature geldings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2151-2157
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Digestibility
  • Mean retention time
  • Weanling colt
  • Ytterbium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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