Haynet Design and Forage Consumption Rates Studied

Haynets with small openings reduced adult horses’ dry matter intake rates and extended foraging time, researchers found.

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It’s no secret that horses in modern management situations can benefit from slowed forage intake, which mimics feral horses' natural foraging tendencies. But do these slow feeders really work? A group of University of Minnesota researchers recently put two slow-feed haynets—one with medium-sized and one with small-sized openings—to the test to find out.

“The small and medium haynets offer two different size options in the ‘slow-feed’ haynet market,” said Krishona Martinson, PhD, associate professor and Equine Extension Specialist at the University of Minnesota. "We wanted to see if there was a difference between these haynets."

The researchers also wanted to see how the two slow-feed nets compared to a standard haynet or no haynet at all. The researchers employed eight healthy adult horses in their two-part study, using four treatments:

  • A standard net with 6-inch openings;

  • A "medium" net with 1.75-inch openings;

  • A "small" net with 1.25-inch openings; and

  • No net with hay fed on the stall floor.

The researchers offered the horses hay at 1% body weight twice daily in individual stalls and allowed the animals four hours to eat their mixed-grass hay from one of the treatment protocols. At the end of each four-hour period, the researchers removed the haynets and weighed the remaining hay from the net and the floor. Each horse received each treatment twice during the eight-week study

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Written by:

Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as a certified equine acupressure practitioner. She also hosts a blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse. Once an avid barrel racer, she now enjoys giving back to the horses who have given her so much.

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