Equine Foraging Behaviour & Pasture Management @ Michigan State University (USA)

MB Equine Services Goes USA! I will be visisting Michigan State University and meeting up with Prof. Robert Bowker and the Integrative Veterinary Medicine Club. It will be a great opportunity to learn more about this University’s research and facilities, and I hope to spark more interest in the application of Equine Permacultrue and integrative pasture management.
I will be hosting a seminar on foraging behaviour and behavioural mechanisms of diet selection in horses, which will feature some of my PhD research work. This talk will be followed by a seminar on integrative pasture management for horse properties.

Again I hope to return with new experiences and ideas that I can share on the Equine Permaculture blog site!

IM logo2For more information about the MSU CVM Integrative Medicine Club: https://sites.google.com/site/msuimc/home
Prof Bowkers work on the hoof of the horse: http://cvm.msu.edu/research/faculty-research/equine-foot-laboratory

1) Understanding foraging behaviour to improve feeding management and well-being

There is a considerable economic impact of horses globally due to the use of sporting and leisure activities, which warrants increased scientific research on performance, feeding and welfare. Nutrition is an important aspect of welfare, not only to provide adequate nutrition to meet requirements, but also for the ability to search and select foods. There is little known about foraging motivations and diet-selection mechanisms of horses. Therefore current research conducted by Mariette is aimed to explore patch foraging behaviour and the selection of different types of food.  This knowledge could particular contribute to current feeding management of horses in confinement and grazing systems.

In this seminar Mariette will present a summary of her latest research work and it will also touch on a research program from the US named BEHAVE. BEHAVE (behavioural education for human, animal, vegetation and ecosystem management) is a research and outreach program that explores the principles of animal behaviour. The primary focus is on diet and habitat selection of grazing animals. Understanding how animals learn will enable us to train animals to fit our landscapes rather than having to modify our landscapes to fit our animals. Using grazing as a tool will reduce our use of expensive machinery, fossil fuels and toxic herbicides. By understanding how animals learn we can use their natural behaviours to manage weeds, enhance biodiversity, improve feeding systems, minimize use of riparian areas and much more.

2) Integrated Pasture Management for Horse Properties; why biodiversity is important!

As horse owners, and even on the smallest of properties, we sometimes forget that we are grass and forage farmers for our horses. Whether you manage grazing pastures or agist your horses, it helps to know more about grasses and legumes. The different types, how they develop and grow, the effect of grazing pressure, what leaf area should remain after grazing and their recovery, all affect past management and the health of your horses.
Learning about grasses may seem a bit daunting and possibly boring unless you already have an interest in botanical matters. Nevertheless, when you manage horses on pastures you technically become a grass farmer, so getting to know the plants that grow in your paddocks can empower you to manage your grazing system better. After all, the better your pastures, the healthier your horses will be. Even if you agist and don’t directly have much to do with grazing and pasture management, get involved and get to know what’s best for your horses! This seminar will discuss different types of grasses, growth and development and will particular focus on the importance of biodiversity.

  • Lectures – 5.00 pm – 8.00 pm Monday
  • Prof R. Bowker
    MSU Integrative Medicine Club