Digestible energy intake, dry matter digestibility and mineral status of grazing New Zealand Thoroughbred yearlings

Digestible energy intake, dry matter digestibility and mineral status of grazing New Zealand Thoroughbred yearlings
Peer reviewed


AIM: To measure the nutritive value of pasture in terms of digestible energy intake (DEI) and dry matter (DM) digestibility, and to determine the effect of Ca, P, Cu, Zn, and Se supplementation on growth rate and degree of physeal swelling in Thoroughbred yearlings grazed on pasture.
METHODS: Fourteen yearling horses were randomly allocated to 1 of 2 groups and rotationally grazed on a ryegrass/white clover pasture for 7 months. One group was supplemented daily with a mineral mix. Liveweight changes were recorded at fortnightly intervals and pasture mineral composition determined at monthly intervals. The DM intake (DMI) was determined from daily faecal DM outputs divided by the indigestible DM fraction (1 - digestible DM) determined from a digestibility study. The DEI was determined from the difference between the gross energy intake and the gross energy faecal output. The DM, gross energy content, crude protein (CP), soluble carbohydrate, acid detergent fibre (ADF), neutral detergent fibre (NDF), lipid and mineral composition of pasture offered and faeces were analysed and their digestibility or apparent absorption calculated.
RESULTS: The DM digestibility of pasture averaged 0.64 while the daily DMI and DEI of a 350 kg yearling, gaining 0.6 kg liveweight/day, averaged 6.9 kg DM/day and 78 MJ DE/day, respectively. The mineral supplement had no significant effect on the growth of yearlings grazing pasture that had a mineral composition of (g/kg DM) Na 0.17, K 32.8, Ca 3.6, P 3.4, Mg 2.1, S 3.0, and (mg/kg DM) Cu 7.9, Fe 177, Mn 83, Zn 28 and Se 0.016. Plasma Se was elevated (e.g. 40-218 μg/l) by Se supplementation while Cu supplementation had no effect on plasma and liver Cu concentrations. Physeal swelling was observed in all horses, regardless of treatment.
CONCLUSION: Good quality ryegrass/white clover pasture that had a DE content of 11.3 MJ/kg DM and adequate mineral composition (as observed in this study, with the possible exception of Se) will provide an adequate intake of nutrients to ensure good growth in yearling horses.
KEY WORDS: Pasture, horse, Thoroughbred, yearlings, digestible energy intake, dry matter digestibility and intake, copper, selenium.

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