Effects of Crude Protein Content on Intake and Digestion of Coastal Bermudagrass Hay by Horses



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This study was conducted to determine the effect of forage CP level on intake and digestion of Coastal bermudagrass hay by horses. Four cecally fistulated geldings were used in a 4 x 4 Latin square design with four treatments and four periods. Horses were fed one of four Coastal bermudagrass hays consisting of 7, 10, 13, or 16% CP during each of the 4 15-d periods. Intake and apparent digestibility were determined for each horse at the end of each period by total fecal collection. In addition, cecal fluid and blood samples were collected from each horse on the last day of each period for determination of cecal ammonia, cecal pH, plasma urea nitrogen, and plasma glucose concentrations. Crude protein concentration of Coastal bermudagrass hay influenced equine intake and digestion. Increasing CP concentration linearly increased digestible OM intake (DOMI) from 3.79 to 5.98 kg/d for 7 and 16% CP hay, respectively (P = 0.04). Furthermore, as forage CP level increased, CP intake increased linearly (P < 0.01). Forage CP level had no effect on forage DM intake. Quadratic effects (P less than or equal to 0.05) were observed for forage OM, NDF, ADF, and digestible energy. Overall digestibility was lowest for the 7% CP hay and highest for the 10% CP hay. Cecal pH remained above 6.62 irrespective of treatment and time, indicating that cecal pH was suitable for microbial growth. As forage CP level increased, cecal ammonia concentration increased linearly from 0.03 mM for the 7% to 1.74 mM for the 15% CP hay (P < 0.01). Concentration of plasma glucose also linearly increased (P = 0.04) from 68.77 to 73.68 mg/dL as CP concentration increased from 7% to 16% CP. Plasma urea nitrogen exhibited a quadratic effect as concentration increased (P < 0.01) from 4.34 to 5.61 mM for the 7 and 16% CP hays, respectively.