Nutritional Articles

Influence of sward height on diet selection by horses

Published: 2005-05-12

Brief content of the article
The study reported in this paper investigated the influence of sward height on diet selection by horses grazing perennial rye-grass swards. Two experiments are reported in this paper. In the first experiment, perennial ryegrass paddocks were mown to four sward heights (3.5, 4.5, 7.5 and 15 cm) to create a patchy environment. Within each paddock one horse grazed for a period of 1 h during which residence time, number of bites and frequency of visits per patch were recorded. The same experiment was repeated in experiment 2, but without mowing the field and allowing 1 week of re-growth for each paddock. The authors concluded that their data suggest that horses behaved as energy maximisers (residing longer periods on patches and increasing number of bites taken). Further, the gathered data complement previous findings that bite mass increase with increasing sward height. It appeared that, when horses were grazing, horses rarely resided on a preferred patch for a long duration of time, but moved on after a few minutes. The horses sampled their environment continuously; but almost exclusively returned to long patches for feeding. A full abstract may be obtained from the publisher’s website.
Keywords: Grazing; behaviour; diet selection; selective grazing; exploration; pasture.

Naujeck, A, Hill, J. and Gibb, M.J. 2005. Influence of sward height on diet selection by horses. Appl. Anim. Beh. Sci. 90: 49–63.

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