Managing body weight (BW) in horses and ponies is difficult. This study compared the effects of three restricted grazing regimens on changes in body weight and morphometric measurements in ponies.
The study was titled “Strip‐grazing: Reduces pony dry matter intakes and changes in bodyweight and morphometrics” and was authored by Annette C. Longland, Clare Barfoot and Patricia A. Harris.
Twelve mature ponies were individually grazed in 10-meter-wide, rectangular, electric-fenced paddocks. The dry matter (DM) herbage yield of each paddock was determined, and paddock length adjusted on Day 1 to provide 1.5% of individual pony BW as herbage DM daily, for 28 days. There were four ponies per treatment.
Treatments were: total paddock area (TA) and strip grazing treatments, SG1 and SG2. TA allowed ponies access to the entire paddock. SG1 had a ‘lead’ fence spanning the paddock width being moved a set distance along the paddock length daily. SG2 also had a ‘back fence’ 7‐12 m behind the ‘lead’ fence which was moved the same distance as the lead fence daily. Dry matter intakes, and changes in BW, cresty neck score, body condition score, heart girth, belly girth, and rump width were compared between treatments.
Mean DM intakes in the TA paddock ponies were significantly higher than the two strip grazing groups. Mean percentage BW changes were higher for total paddock ponies as compared to the strip grazing groups, which did not differ significantly from each other. The TA paddock ponies showed significant increases in body condition score, cresty neck score, rump width and belly girth, while the strip grazing groups did not. The SG1 group showed a significant decrease in heart girth and the SG2 group had a significant decrease in belly girth measurements.
Bottom line: Strip grazing is a useful tool to aid management of body weight and condition of pastured ponies. The presence of a back fence did not appear to confer a significant benefit.
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