Effect of Restricted Grazing on Hindgut pH and Fluid Balance

Restricted pasture access does not have negative effects on hindgut fermentation or fluid balance.
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Horse owners utilize many management practices to limit calorie intake for obese horses, including restricting pasture access via a grazing muzzle. However, research has shown that horses often increase pasture intake when returned to an unrestricted situation. Drastic changes in grain intake are known to cause digestive upsets, particularly in the hindgut, so researchers set out to determine if drastic changes in pasture intake yielded similar results.

The research team, led by Paul D. Siciliano, PhD, associate professor in the North Carolina State University Department of Animal Science, separated six mature light horse geldings of similar weight and body condition into two groups.

A control group had access to pasture continuously while a restricted group wore a grazing muzzle for 12 hours per day. After seven days, the groups switched protocol for an additional seven days. On day seven of each period, blood and feces were collected at intervals for plasma protein and fecal pH determination. In addition, pasture samples were obtained for chemical composition analysis.

After reviewing their results, the team found that hindgut health in horses with restricted access to pasture by grazing muzzle for 12 hours per day was not compromised compared to horses with unrestricted access to pasture

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Written by:

Kristen M. Janicki, a lifelong horsewoman, was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and later attended graduate school at the University of Kentucky, studying under Dr. Laurie Lawrence in the area of Equine Nutrition. Kristen has been a performance horse nutritionist for an industry feed manufacturer for more than a decade. Her job entails evaluating and improving the performance of the sport horse through proper nutrition.

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