Pre-weaning diet and stall weaning method influences on stress response in foals
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The response of foals to the stress of weaning was examined in terms of a behavioral protocol and the responses of plasma ascorbate, serun1 cortisol, and the serum cortisol response to an ACTH challenge. Behavior scores (1 to 10) as an index of stress were assigned to each foal daily, with high scores indicating less stress and better adjustment. The experimental plan was a 2 X 2 factorial of pre-weaning diet and stall weaning method. Foals were raised on pasture supplemented with hay and a pelleted concentrate (PHC) or pasture supplemented with hay only (PH). Foals were placed in stalls singly or in pairs for weaning. Gender influences were also examined. The foals exhibited characteristic behavioral and physiological responses to the social dislocative stress of weaning. Behavior scores were lower in paired than in single foals (p = .008) and tended to be lower in PH than PHC foals (p = .15). No differences in post-weaning plasma ascorbate concentrations were found among treatments. Responses of serum cortisol to an ACTH challenge were lower in PH than PHC foals (p = .001) and in paired than single foals (p = .058), and lower responses were taken to represent adrenal depletion arising from stress. Behavior scores were positively correlated with the response of serum cortisol to ACTH. Both behavioral data and the serum cortisol response to ACTH indicate that foals were better able to cope with weaning stress when supplemented with concentrate prior to weaning and when weaned singly.
- Masters Theses