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Selective grazing behaviour in horses: development of methodology and preliminary use of tests to measure individual grazing ability

By S. L. Marinier, A. J. Alexander

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Abstract

The selective grazing behaviour of 5 plant species measured by the "two-hand" method by 12 horses of various breeds 1.5 to 18 years old was investigated. Results were analysed in relation to 5 measures of choosing behaviour: the strength of the choice; correspondence between first bite and the final choice; constancy of the choice over a number of trials; the comparison of the horses' ranking of the species over a number of trials; the constancy of the linear arrangement of the plants over a number of trials. Sorting ability was tested using 2 methods. A mixture of two plant species was presented in a clamp or loose in a trough. Results were based on number and weight of plant residues. The adaptive value of the behaviour related to the bitterness of toxic plants. This bitterness was represented in testing by quinine sulphate and a poisonous Senecio species. An extremely bitter substance "Bitrex" was also used in this context but was totally accepted by the horses. The horses' reactions to these substances were monitored using a behavioural score chart. Results showed that the horses differed individually in their grazing ability. On this basis, the horses were classified as efficient, semi-efficient, or inefficient grazers. These findings have practical implications in deciding which horses may safely graze on pastures infested with toxic plants.

Date 1991
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 30
Issue 3-4
Pages 203-221
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Zoology Department, University of Durban-Westville, Durban, South Africa.
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal nutrition
  3. Animal Toxicology Poisoning and Pharmacology
  4. Feeding behavior
  5. Flowers
  6. Grazing
  7. Horses
  8. Mammals
  9. Pasturing
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. Plants
  12. Poisoning
  13. toxicity
  14. Toxins and toxicants
  15. Weeds and noxious plants
Badges
  1. peer-reviewed