Changes in appetite, body mass (BM), body condition score (BCS), direct (ultrasonographic) and indirect (deuterium oxide dilution technique) measures of body fat were monitored in Welsh Mountain pony mares ( n = 11, 5–19 years of age) offered ad libitum access to a complete diet (gross energy 16.9 ± 0.07 MJ/kg dry matter) for 12 weeks during summer ( n = 6; 246 ± 20 kg) and winter ( n = 5; 219 ± 21 kg). At the outset, each group comprised two thin (BCS 1–3/9), moderate (BCS 4–6/9) and obese (BCS 7–9/9) animals. For ponies that were non-obese at the outset, BM was gained more rapidly ( P = 0.001) in summer (0.8 ± 0.1 kg/day) than winter (0.6 ± 0.0 kg/day). This was associated with a seasonal increase in dry matter intake (DMI) which became maximal (summer, 4.6 ± 0.3% BM as DMI/day; winter, 3.5 ± 0.1% BM as DMI/day) during the second month. The appetite of the obese ponies was half that reported for non-obese animals in the summer and BM remained constant irrespective of season. Body ‘fatness’ increased progressively for non-obese but not obese ponies. Body fat content was exponentially associated with increasing BCS but BCSs >6 were not useful indicators of actual body fat. Endogenous circannual mechanisms to suppress winter weight gain were insufficient to prevent the development of obesity in ad libitum fed ponies.
The Veterinary Journal – Elsevier
Published: Dec 1, 2011
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