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J Anim Sci. 2019 Oct 3;97(10):4199-4207. doi: 10.1093/jas/skz252.

Nutrient content changes from steaming or soaking timothy-alfalfa hay: effects on feed preferences and acute glycemic response in Standardbred racehorses1.

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Department of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
Centre for Nutrition Modelling, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.


Soaking hay and steaming hay are strategies that are used to reduce respirable dust particles for horses but may result in variable nutrient losses, including nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) and minerals. Since these losses have not been quantified in Canadian hay yet, the first aim of this study was to identify nutrient losses from first-cut timothy-alfalfa hay grown in southern Ontario, Canada, after soaking for 30 min or steaming for 60 min. It is uncertain whether horses prefer hay when it is dry, soaked, or steamed. To address this, 13 Standardbred racehorses were offered 2 of these hays side by side for 30 min on 6 consecutive occasions until all possible combinations had been offered. Quantity of hay eaten was determined and horses were video recorded during feedings to assess time spent eating and investigating hay. Additionally, consumption of feeds with differing NSC levels has been observed to influence glycemic response in horses; however, this has not been measured in horses consuming steamed hay before and the results from soaked hay studies have been inconclusive. As such, the final aim of this study was to examine acute glycemic response in horses after being fed dry, soaked, and steamed hays. Blood glucose was measured every 30 min from 9 Standardbred racehorses for 6 h following a meal of 0.5% of their body weight of treatment hay on a dry matter basis (DMB). Soaked, but not steamed, hay had lower concentrations of soluble protein, NSC, and potassium in contrast to the same dry hay (P < 0.05). Peak glucose, average blood glucose, total area under the curve, and time to peak did not differ among treatments (P > 0.05). We conclude that acute glycemic response of racehorses was not influenced by soaking or steaming hay. Horses also consumed less soaked hay (DMB) than dry or steamed hay (P < 0.05) and spent less time eating soaked hay than dry or steamed hay (P < 0.05).


glycemic response; performance horse; preference testing; soaked hay; steamed hay

[Available on 2020-10-03]

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