Interpretive Summary: The effect of harvest time of forage on carbohydrate digestion in horses quantified by in vitro and mobile bag techniques
By: Frida Lindskov Stang, Rikke Bjerregaard, Cecilia Elisabeth Müller, Åshild Ergon, Magnus Halling, Nana Wentzel Thorringer, Alemayehu Kidane, Rasmus Bovbjerg Jensen
Feedstuffs contain different carbohydrate fractions that are digested in different parts of the gastrointestinal tract of horses. Grass for grazing or harvesting contains variable amounts of structural carbohydrates such as cellulose and hemi-cellulose (named fibres) and nonstructural carbohydrates which in temperate grass species include sugars and fructans (named water soluble carbohydrates (WSC)). This study quantified carbohydrate composition and digestion of six grass species (perennial ryegrass, timothy, smooth bromegrass, tall fescue, cocksfoot, and meadow fescue) harvested at three different times (early, medium, and late) and preserved as hay. In general, fiber content increased as the grasses matured, whereas WSC content varied to a large extent. In vitro fermentation using horse caecal fluid was used to quantify digestion of early and late cut grass samples of all species. Harvest time (early vs. late) had a larger effect on in vitro fermentation compared to the effect of grass species. Early and late harvested perennial ryegrass and cocksfoot were further selected for detailed studies of precaecal digestion in vivo as these species had highest and lowest WSC content. In general, cocksfoot was identified as grass species with low digestibility and low WSC concentration compared to the other species investigated.
Read the full article in the Journal of Animal Science.