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Keywords:

  • dietary energy sources;
  • environment;
  • growth;
  • somatotropic axis;
  • thoroughbred

Summary

The objective of this longitudinal study was to characterize growth and plasma insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) concentrations in pasture-raised thoroughbreds fed two sources of dietary energy. Mares and foals were randomly assigned to either a sugar and starch (SS) or fat and fibre (FF)-rich feed, and plasma IGF-I and growth were measured once a month from 1 to 16 months of age. These dependent variables were also compared with day length and ambient temperature. There was an association between plasma IGF-I concentration and average daily gain (ADG) (r = 0.32, p < 0.001). There were also clear seasonal patterns in both ADG and plasma IGF-I, with high values in June and May, and a low value in March. Plasma IGF-I and ADG were positively associated with day length and temperature. Plasma IGF-I was never higher (p > 0.10) in the FF group when compared with the SS group, and was higher in the SS group during a rapid growth phase in the spring of year 2 (p < 0.10). The results establish an association between ADG and IGF-I in the horse and indicate that environment and age may influence this relationship. In addition, plasma IGF-I is influenced by dietary energy source at particular times of year. This link has important implications in designing feeding management strategies that are aimed at addressing skeletal development.