Glucose and Insulin Response of Horses Grazing Alfalfa, Perennial Cool-Season Grass, and Teff Across Seasons

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Elevated nonstructural carbohydrate (NSC) values in pasture forages can cause adverse health effects in some horses (Equus caballus L.). The objectives of this study were to determine the impact of different forage species on blood glucose and insulin concentrations of horses throughout the grazing season. Research was conducted in July (summer) and September (fall) in St. Paul, MN. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), mixed perennial cool-season grasses (CSG), and teff (Eragrostis tef [Zucc.] Trotter) pastures were grazed by six horses (24 ± 2 years) that were randomly assigned to one of three forage types in a replicated Latin-square design. Jugular catheters were inserted 1 hour before the start of grazing and horses had access to pasture each day from 08:00 to 16:00 hours. Jugular venous blood samples were collected from each horse before being turned out (0 hours) and then at 2-hour intervals following turnout. Plasma and serum samples were collected and analyzed for glucose and insulin, respectively. Corresponding forage samples were taken by hand harvest. Seasons were analyzed separately and data were analyzed using the MIXED procedure in SAS with P ≤ .05. Teff generally had lower (P ≤ .05) equine digestible energy, crude protein, and NSC compared to the other forages. Differences in peak insulin were observed between horses grazing CSG and teff during the fall grazing (P ≤ .05). These results suggest grazing teff could lower the glucose and insulin response of some horses.HighlightsTeff consistently had higher fiber and lower digestible energy values.Horses grazing teff had a tendency for a lower insulinemic response in the fall.Teff has potential to be used as alternative forage for overweight horses.

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