Comparison of grass haylage digestibility and metabolic plasma profile in Icelandic and Standardbred horses.
ABSTRACT The aim of the present study was to compare digestibility and metabolic response in Icelandic and Standardbred horses fed two grass haylages harvested at different stages of maturity. Six horses of each breed were used in a 24-day change-over design. A total collection of faeces was made on days 15-17 and 22-24. Blood samples were collected on day 24 of each period and analysed for total plasma protein (TPP), plasma urea, non-esterified fatty acids, cortisol and insulin concentration. There were no differences in digestibility coefficients of crude protein, neutral detergent fibre or energy between breeds but organic matter digestibility was higher in the Standardbred horses. On both haylages, the Icelandic horses gained weight whereas the Standardbred horses lost weight. The Icelandic horses had higher TPP, plasma insulin and lower plasma urea concentrations. Our results indicate that the Icelandic horse may be more prone to maintain positive energy balance in relation to the Standardbred horse, but there were no indication of a better digestive capacity in the Icelandic horses.