Horse owners' selection and preparation of their animals' feed has a greater influence on concentrations of dust and endotoxin in the stable than the type of bedding used, researchers recently reported.
"Dust and its constituents are important factors in the development of lung disease of horses that can reduce their well-being and athletic performance," said study coauthor Kris Hughes, BVSc, MRCVS, FACVSc, Dipl. ECEIM, of The University of Glasgow in Scotland.
Hughes and his colleagues studied how bedding and feed influenced the amount of dust and endotoxin in horse stables. They looked at different bedding/feeding combinations in an experimental setting, as well as in horse stables throughout central Scotland.
The researchers found that the choice and preparation of feed had a greater influence on results than bedding type.
"Overall, there was a trend for lower dust and endotoxin when hay was soaked prior to feeding," he said.
They found that the use of hay and straw as bedding resulted in horses being exposed to significantly more dust and endotoxin in the experimental setting compared with other management systems. But in the field, it looked like the opposite was true--horses bedded on straw and fed hay were exposed to lower dust and endotoxin. However, Hughes said there were fewer horses in working stables on straw/hay, and this likely influenced the results.
"The results of our study can't be used to base recommendations regarding the frequency of mucking out; however, mucking out should be done as often as necessary to avoid accumulation of manure or soiled bedding," he said, although he cautioned that horses should not be in the stable when mucking out or sweeping stable block aisles
"In general, the air quality is best out on pasture," he noted, citing other benefits of allowing healthy horses to have structured exercise and turnout to pasture, including good health, reduced boredom, and improved attitude and behavior.
The study, "Concentrations of dust and endotoxin in equine stabling," was published in September in The Veterinary Record. The article is available online.
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