Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Animal and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Laurie Lawrence


Excessive phosphorus (P) excreted by animals can affect water quality and cause eutrophication. Better understanding of factors that influence P utilization and excretion in horses may reduce the environmental impact of P. Two animal experiments were conducted that examined P excretion by horses. The efficacy of titanium dioxide as an external marker to calculate digestibility was studied concurrently with both animal experiments. Additionally, pasture P concentrations were evaluated over the growing season using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Experiment 1 examined P excretion by post-lactational mares fed a low P diet immediately prior to weaning compared to non-lactating controls fed an adequate P diet. Post-lactational mares excreted more P compared to controls. Experiment 2 compared P excretion in horses fed to lose, maintain, or gain weight. Horses fed to lose weight tended to excrete more fecal P compared to horses fed to gain weight and had increased markers of bone turnover. The efficacy of titanium dioxide for estimating fecal output from limited fecal grab samples was variable. Titanium dioxide may be useful in situations where many fecal samples are collected over 5 d, but may not be as accurate if one fecal grab sample is expected to be representative of fecal output. Experiment 3 focused on examining the changes in pasture mineral concentration over the season using NIRS. A discussion of how these results may inform equine P supplementation programs is included. Overall, the work in this dissertation suggests that factors that influence P excretion in the horse include the dietary availability of P, physiological status, and active weight change. These variables can be incorporated into feeding programs to meet horses’ needs more closely while minimizing P excretion in the environment.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)