'Cup' Feeder Slows Horses' Consumption Rate, Reduces Waste

'Cup' Feeder Slows Horses' Consumption Rate, Reduces Waste

Horses dropped less feed on the ground when eating from the cup feeder than the other two, which was indicative of less feed waste, the research team said.

Photo: Erica Larson, News Editor

Researchers at Texas A&M University recently tested a newly designed feed bucket against traditional flat and rubber feeders. The results showed that the new bucket slowed consumption and reduced waste.

The Pre-Vent feeder has eight small cups molded into the bottom, which are designed to slow horses' rate of consumption and aid in feed efficacy. According to Ted H. Friend, MS, PhD, faculty fellow and professor of animal behavior and well-being at Texas A&M University, "Proponents of the 'cups' design believe that it may reduce feed waste, choke, and sand colic by reducing the speed at which a horse can eat and the amount of feed that a horse drops and then eats off the ground."

To evaluate the 'cup' (Pre-Vent) feeder's effects on time spent eating and feed wastage, Friend's lab conducted a study led by graduate student Mark Carter, MS, comparing it with two commonly used feeders--a 16-liter flat-back bucket and a 24.8-liter flat rubber tub--under controlled conditions.

The team employed nine Quarter Horse geldings aged 8 to 22 years in the nine-day study. Each horse consumed concentrate at a rate of 0.75% body weight from each feeder twice daily for three days. "Having each horse eat from a particular feeder for three days allowed for quantification of behavior and feed loss as the horses became accustomed to the different feeders," Friend said.

When eating, the horses stood in a stall constructed from pipe panels with concrete flooring; each feeder was either hung or secured to the center of a panel to prevent the horse from tipping it over. The researchers timed each horse's rate of consumption, and they also collected feed dropped on the floor to measure feed wastage.

Upon reviewing their data, the research team found that:

  • Horses spent significantly more time eating from the cup feeder than the bucket or the tub, indicating a slower rate of consumption;
  • Horses dropped less feed on the ground when eating from the cup feeder than the other two; and
  • The cup feeder was the only feeder with residual feed left after the horse finished eating.

The team also made informal observations throughout the study and noted the following key points:

  • The first time the cup feeder was presented, horses spent 21 to 60 minutes eating, though the time spent eating gradually decreased over the course of the study;
  • Three of the nine horses pawed at the cup feeder while eating; and
  • Due to the residual feed left in the cup feeders, researchers washed them every other day, unlike the other two feeders.

Carter, Friend et al. concluded, "Molding cups into the bottom of tub-type feeders appears to be useful for horses that are considered sloppy or problem eaters or for people who would like to experiment with a new feeder ... the cup feeders did significantly slow down a horse's intake of feed and reduced the amount of feed wasted, and the horses in this study became quickly accustomed to the feeder."

He cautioned that "The cup design will require more labor because cup feeders are more difficult to unhook than most conventional feeders ... and they may require (more frequent) cleaning to remove unconsumed feed that may accumulate over repeated use," especially in the summer when warm temperatures could cause unconsumed feed to spoil.

Carter, Friend, and colleagues noted that Pre-Vent supplied the cup feeders for the current study and paid for the horses' feeding costs during the research period.

The study, "A Comparison of Three Conventional Horse Feeders with the Pre-Vent Feeder," appeared in the April 2012 issue of the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. The abstract can be viewed online.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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