Voluntary intake digestibility and selection of Matua bromegrass, Coastal bermudagrass, and alfalfa hay by yearling horses

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Texas Tech University

Matua bromegrass [Bromus unioloides (Willd.) H.B. K. cv. Grasslands Matua] was introduced in 1973, but little information exists concerning its potential as a hay for horses. Thus, voluntary intake and apparent digestibility of DM, CP, and fiber components of Matua bromegrass by 18 Quarter Horse yearlings (mean initial BW 354 kg; SE 5.8) were compared with two commonly used forages in the horse industry, alfalfa {Medicago saliva L.) and Coastal bermudagrass {Cynodon dactylon L.) as hays in a randomized block design. A 15-d adjustment period was followed by a 5-d collection period during which the hays were fed ad libitum. Alfalfa was higher in CP concentration than either of the grass hays, and CP concentration was greater for Matua bromegrass than Coastal bermudagrass (20.1, 13.2, and 11.9%, respectively). Intake of DM, organic matter, and DDM were greater (P < .01) for alfalfa than for the mean of the grasses expressed as kg/d and g/kg BW^^ while intake of Matua was higher {P < .001) than bermudagrass. Numerical differences in intake between alfalfa and Matua were small (.2% BW). Apparent digestibility of OM was greater (P < .001) for alfalfa (72.5%) than for the mean of the grasses but did not differ between Matua (62.0%) and bermudagrass (58.2%). The apparent digestibility of CP was higher {P < .001) for alfalfa than for the mean of the grasses, and CP digestibility of Matua was greater {P < .001) than bermudagrass. At the end of the digestion trial, each yearling was offered each of the three forage hays during an 1 l-d selection trial. Total intake of forage during the selection trial was not influenced by previous forage fed (mean 9.2 kg/d; SE . 1). During the selection trial, yearhngs consumed less of the forage species to which they had been previously exposed relative to the other treatment groups. However, the degree of difference changed over time (day x previous forage experience interaction; P < .01). Yearlings preferred alfalfa over the grass hays and generally selected more Matua than bermudagrass. These data indicated that Matua is an acceptable hay for horses with intake potential approaching that of alfalfa.