Glucose and Insulin Response of Horses Grazing Alfalfa, Perennial Cool-Season Grass, and Teff Across Seasons

Michelle L. DeBoer, Marcia R. Hathaway, Kerry J. Kuhle, Patty Sue D. Weber, Amanda S. Reiter, Craig C. Sheaffer, M. Scott Wells, Krishona L. Martinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Elevated nonstructural carbohydrate (NSC) values in pasture forages can cause adverse health effects in some horses (Equus caballus L.). The objectives of this study were to determine the impact of different forage species on blood glucose and insulin concentrations of horses throughout the grazing season. Research was conducted in July (summer) and September (fall) in St. Paul, MN. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), mixed perennial cool-season grasses (CSG), and teff (Eragrostis tef [Zucc.] Trotter) pastures were grazed by six horses (24 ± 2 years) that were randomly assigned to one of three forage types in a replicated Latin-square design. Jugular catheters were inserted 1 hour before the start of grazing and horses had access to pasture each day from 08:00 to 16:00 hours. Jugular venous blood samples were collected from each horse before being turned out (0 hours) and then at 2-hour intervals following turnout. Plasma and serum samples were collected and analyzed for glucose and insulin, respectively. Corresponding forage samples were taken by hand harvest. Seasons were analyzed separately and data were analyzed using the MIXED procedure in SAS with P ≤.05. Teff generally had lower (P ≤.05) equine digestible energy, crude protein, and NSC compared to the other forages. Differences in peak insulin were observed between horses grazing CSG and teff during the fall grazing (P ≤.05). These results suggest grazing teff could lower the glucose and insulin response of some horses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-38
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Equine Veterinary Science
StatePublished - Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • Aged horse
  • Equine
  • Metabolic horse
  • Pasture


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