The Equine Science Society is a group of equine scientists specializing in nutrition, exercise physiology, reproductive physiology, genetics, bioscience, production and management and teaching and extension. Their conference was held at the end of May, and over the next few weeks I will post about some interesting research that was presented. The abstracts and invited papers are all published in the May edition of the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science (volume 52).
MJ Askins and others from Western Kentucky University (Abstract 11) conducted a study to determine the effect of feeding Teff hay to horses. Teff is a warm-season grass that can be used to make hay.
This type of hay typically has high acid detergent fibre (ADF) concentrations (a measure of cellulose and lignin, which are only moderately digestible and indigestible by the horse, respectively) and high neutral detergent fibre (NDF) concentrations (a measure of hemicellulose, cellulose and lignin, used as an indicator of palatability), and moderate protein content (~ 10% crude protein).
As a warm-season grass, this type of hay also has lower non-structural carbohydrates (sugars) than cool-season grasses such as ryegrass, timothy or orchardgrass (though it should be noted it can still be higher than desirable for some horses, and should always be tested prior to feeding to at-risk horses).
The researchers set out to determine if Teff hay would be less palatable than ryegrass hay, and therefore would result in horses consuming less of the Teff hay. This could result in a decrease in voluntary hay intake by horses, which could facilitate energy restriction and weight loss. The findings showed that horses did in fact consume less Teff hay than ryegrass hay, and as a result consumed fewer calories per day. These findings suggest that Teff hay may be useful to feed to overweight horses in effort to help them lose weight. Further testing should investigate whether protein digestibility may be negatively impacted by the high amount of fibre.