Dr. Jennifer Ellis, Assistant Professor of Animal Systems Modelling at the University of Guelph, describes the goals of her research project with Mad Barn looking at the nutritional requirements of horses.
Dr. Ellis is developing an equine metabolism model to describe post-absorptive nutrient dynamics in the mature horse. This model will be incorporated into an open-access digital tool that will help to improve feed formulation and diet optimization for the entire equine sector.
Mechanistic models of nutrient digestion, absorption, metabolism, and growth are implemented in industry as ‘decision support systems’, and in academia to summarize and examine our cumulative biological knowledge, identify knowledge gaps and test/evaluate hypotheses.
However, comparatively less progress in this field has been made in the equine sector. This limits the ability of the equine sector to address complex challenges such as interactions between equine nutrition, management, health and welfare. Therefore, this proposal aims to develop a mechanistic model of post-absorptive nutrient metabolism in mature horses.
This project will capitalize on numerous mechanistic models that have been developed for other species, utilizing them as a starting point for the model developed herein, and use data extracted from extant literature and from project partners to parameterize the model for horses.
Developing this model for the equine sector will stimulate and assist in defining future research priorities, inform revisions to the nutrient requirements of horses, increase understanding of metabolic processes as well as related disorders, reduce waste via increased focus on precision feeding and support the development of new products and services to improve equine health.