Fecal Kinetics and Digestibilities of Hays and Supplements Estimated by Marker Methods in the Horse

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Virginia Tech

A marker model of fecal kinetics using chromic oxide (Cr) or ytterbium chloride (Yb) is being developed for grazing horses. The model consists of removal of feces at a constant rate from a single compartment, the prefecal mass. It was tested in experiments on stall-fed horses in the context of digestion balance trials. Following the preliminary work of Holland et al., (1998), three improvements in experimental design were tested. First, the rate constants were determined from both the administration and post-administration curve of the one-compartment model. Second, markers were administered three times a day to reduce diurnal variation in fecal marker concentration. Third, yttrium (Y) and Yb were tested were tested as internal markers, for the estimation of digestibility of hay and supplements, respectively.

Eight horses were fed Diet 1 (orchardgrass/alfalfa mixed, OG) or Diet 2 (tall fescue/alfalfa mixed, TF) in Exp.1, and Diet 3 (OG plus fat-and-fiber supplement, OGFF) or Diet 4 (OG plus sugar-and-starch supplement, OGSS) in Exp.2. Balance-marker experiments were conducted for 17 and 20 d, with 7 and 10 d of dietary accommodation in Exp.1 and 2, respectively. Chromic oxide and Yb were administered orally and fecal samples were collected every 8 h for 8 d. Dry matter, Cr, Yb and Y were measured in feeds and feces.

In balance experiments, estimates of DMD (DE) using Y, were determined precisely (SE 1 to 3 %) for hay and hay and supplement diets. Linear relationships, correlations and calibration curves were determined, validating Y as a marker.

Mean daily fecal Cr data (Ct) at time t (days) including a delay (d) were fitted to a single exponential, with one rate constant (k), rising to an asymptote (Ca):

Ct = Ca - Ca·e-k(t-d)

Diets 1 and 2 had two sets of Ctdata, total collection (a) and fecal grab data (b), and each set was used in model development. Diets 3 and 4 had two sets of Ct data (both using fecal grab data), Cr marker dilution (3Cr and 4Cr) and Yb marker dilution (3Yb and 4Yb).

For pooled data, delays of 3 to 6 h (Diets 1a, 1b, 2a and 2b) and delays of 5 to 7 h (Diets 3Cr, 4Cr, 3Yb and 4Yb) gave best fits (highest estimates of R²). The delays introduced to the Cr model for both 3Cr and 4Cr diets did not correspond to the preliminary study (Holland et al., 1998), where a 2 h delay gave the best fit in the model for horses fed hay and supplement. The present estimates may more realistically relate to mouth-to-cecum transport times, because the marker was administered three times a day instead of once, and the initial part of the tracer curve was more precisely defined.

The results showed that fecal Cr kinetics could be calibrated precisely (SE 1 to 3 %) to predict fecal DM output of horses fed Diets 1b, 2b, 3a but not 4a. Similarly, fecal Yb kinetics could be calibrated to predict fecal DM output of horses fed Diet 3b but not 4b.

The rate constants yielded turnover times (TT) that were longer with hay and supplement diets, than with hay alone, and which contrast with previous findings in the horse. However, the longer TT were similar to slower rates of marker excretion in sheep fed concentrates instead of all-roughage diets, suggesting that the lower fiber content retarded the rate of propulsion of digesta through the digestive tract. For two of the eight models of fecal kinetics, the rate constants of the post-administration curve were not well determined by the data, and rate constants from the administration curve were used. In future experiments, more frequent fecal sample collection during the post-administration period may improve rate constant determination.

Improvements in diurnal variation of fecal marker concentration were obtained by dosing three times a day. But discrepancies between Cr and Yb concentration means of diurnal samples and combined samples showed incomplete mixing, the major source of tracer error. Therefore more frequent marker administration and fecal samples should be tested in future experiments to achieve more thorough mixing in the prefecal mass for modeling fecal kinetics, and in the small intestine for estimating digestibility.

Horses, turnover, fecal output, markers, digestibility