Archive for November, 2020

Benefits of Late-Season Hay for Horses

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

Benefits of Late-Season Hay for HorsesAs the warm summer months draw to a close, horse owners stock up on hay for the winter. The hay man has a variety of hays available, including the yellow or brown, less leafy fall hays. Although they might not be as physically attractive and green as the hay harvested earlier in the summer, there are many benefits to late-season hay for horses.

Did you know these facts about late-cut hays?

  • Late-cut hays have less water-soluble carbohydrates (i.e., glucose, sucrose, fructose, and fructans) and are therefore better for obese, insulin sensitive/resistant horses, and those diagnosed with equine metabolic syndrome.
  • They have more structural carbohydrates that are fermented in the large intestine to provide energy in the form of volatile fatty acids (e.g., lactate, acetate).
  • Late-cut hays can provide enough energy and nutrients (i.e., carbohydrate, protein, minerals, vitamins, etc.) for most horses to thrive, even if pregnant, lactating, or exercising.
  • They typically contain fewer weeds than early-cut hay.
  • Late-cut hays are generally less palatable, which may make colic less likely to result than when feeding tasty early-cut hays.

Regardless of what hay type is ultimately selected, follow the basic rules for selecting good-quality hay. For example, never feed moldy or dusty hay to horses, particularly those with respiratory issues and do not feed hay with blister beetles or a preponderance of other bugs. Be aware that not all hays and horses marry well—high-energy hay, such as most alfalfa, might be great for young, growing horses but not elderly, barren mares.

Additionally, all hays and even cuts of hay from the same field vary depending on the weather conditions in which they were grown and harvested. This means that every type and cut can vary markedly in nutritional content. This is where hay analysis can come in handy to provide a consistent and healthy hay-based diet to your horses year-round.

Hay analysis may also benefit obese and insulin sensitive/resistant horses. If the hay is high in water-soluble carbohydrates, hay soaking can remove those excess carbohydrates.

In short, choose your hay wisely, preferably with the assistance of an equine nutritionist or veterinarian.

Would you more information about the benefits of late-season hay for horses? Contact us at J & J Farms by clicking here!

Article brought to you by KER.

Alternative Hays for Horses

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Alternative Hays for HorsesCommon hays fed to horses include various pure grass hays, mixed grass hays, and legume hays such as alfalfa (lucerne) and clover. If these hays are not available, horse owners may have to choose alternative hays from less traditional hay types. While these other forages are usually suitable for horses, some have associated risks.

Foxtail or German millet can be used for horse forage. If foxtail millet hay is fed to horses, additional calcium supplementation will be required as it is high in oxalates, substances that make it difficult for the horse to absorb the calcium in its diet. Some reports show that horses grazing millet hay may have lameness and joint swelling. Some pearl millet reportedly has an alkaloid buildup that can induce toxicity in cattle. Horses may also react to these alkaloids because they are susceptible to alkaloid toxicity syndromes. All millets can accumulate nitrates, which in grazing or haying millets can reach toxic proportions. Nitrate can be controlled somewhat by reducing the amount of nitrogen per application and increasing the number of applications. German millet can cause oral lesions.

Sorghum grasses include sudangrass, johnsongrass, hybrid forage sorghums, and grain sorghums. Here we consider all classes of forage sudangrasses and associated hybrids the same. In reality, there may be some without toxicity problems.

Sudangrass in the green growth stages can cause a urinary tract disease in horses called cystitis syndrome or cystitis/ataxia (staggering). The disease is irreversible and is believed to be associated with low levels of cyanide (prussic acid) in sudangrass. Piper sudangrass is a variety low in prussic acid and may be a good choice to minimize this problem. Hay produced from sudangrasses will not likely cause cystitis/ataxia syndrome because prussic acid dissipates as hay cures. Sorghum pasture can also cause a problem for pregnant mares in the first three months of pregnancy, presumably because of prussic acid content; mares may abort. Foals can be born with contracted tendons.

Sweet-stemmed sudangrasses and other sorghums that are relatively high in sugar also cause a laxative reaction in horses. If it is necessary to use sudangrasses, be sure to use a nonsweet, starchy type and try to use other roughages as part of the ration.

Like sudangrass, johnsongrass can be high in prussic acid (cyanide), which can occur in any green plant and especially stressed ones. Rapid growth after a drought, plants stressed by drought or cold, and plants at and soon after frost are especially hazardous. Prussic acid does not occur in dangerous amounts in properly cured, dry hay. Prussic acid poisoning is not as severe a problem in horses as in cattle, but it can occur. Johnsongrass can also have a high nitrate content.

All types of sorghum contain cyanogenic glycosides, although there is quite a bit of variation among species and varieties. Some types of sorghum have been associated with poisoning horses in Australia. If horses are grazing sorghum-dominant pastures or if they are fed hay containing sorghum species, they may have an increased risk of chronic cyanide poisoning. A higher risk is associated with grazing young sorghum-dominant pastures affected by frost or storms and sorghum hay that has not been cured. The risk of poisoning is generally associated with accumulation of toxic levels of cyanogenic glycosides, resulting in chronic neurotoxicosis.

Pea straw has low digestibility and quality, but would be usable provided it is mixed up to 50:50 with a good-quality grass hay or legume hay.

Barley hay is suitable as an alternative forage for horses. The average analysis of barley hay shows a relatively low level of energy and protein, with similar calcium and phosphorus values as oaten hay. Try to select barley hay that has been cut at the milky dough stage, so the grain and the barley awns are not fully developed. When feeding barley hay, be aware that awns from the heads may catch in a horse’s teeth or cause ulcers in the horse’s mouth. This means that you should only feed green, immature barley hay as the awns haven’t had the chance to dry and become hardened. While oaten hay can be quite golden, barley hay should be green. Oaten hay is considered to be more palatable than barley hay and is probably the first choice for this reason, but barley hay can be a useful hay when a horse doesn’t need the extra energy and protein in alfalfa (lucerne) and a grass hay is needed.

Canola hay is not recommended as it has low digestibility and questionable quality and usually is treated with a heavy spray that the horses will ingest. Triticale and wheaten hays are usually acceptable provided they are cut early and do not have an abundance of awns or grain in the heads. Vetch hay, a legume, is also an acceptable forage.

Would you like help evaluating your horse’s diet? Contact us at J & J Farms by clicking here!

Article brought to you by KER.

‘Tis the Season: Choosing Hay for Horses

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

ChoosingChoosing Hay for Horses hay for your horse has much to do with his metabolism. Is your horse an easy keeper that requires few calories to stay in fighting weight? Or, is he a hard doer that demands calorie-laden meals to maintain reasonable body condition? Perhaps he is of moderate metabolism—if he’s fed normal fare in standard amounts, he’s good to go. What’s a horse owner to do when it comes to pairing metabolism with hay selection? Use these general tips to find a suitable hay for your horse.

Easy keepers. These horses, genetically blessed to maintain weight easily, are perhaps the simplest for horse owners to nourish, especially when it comes to hay selection. While all hay intended for horses should be free of dust, mold, and weeds, owners of easy keepers should be on the lookout for fair- to good-quality grass hay.

“Forage will represent most, if not all, of an easy keeper’s diet, especially if the horse or pony is not in work, so choosing the right kind of hay is important,” explained Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., an equine nutrition advisor with Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “The key is to select hays that are predominantly grass, as these have fewer calories than legume hays, such as alfalfa or clover. Though perfectly acceptable, most easy keepers do not require the caloric punch of high-quality grass hay. Easy keepers generally do well on grass mixtures, maybe even late-maturing blends, which often have a little of this and a little of that.”

Though it might be tempting for owners of easy keepers to buy the best hay available, a balancing act is necessary, as both quality and quantity of hay should be considered. “If hay is all that an easy keeper has available to eat, it is important to keep the quality in check so that a sufficient quantity can be fed,” advised Whitehouse. “A hay that is appropriate for an easy keeper, such as mid- to late-maturing grass, might have only 80% of the calories of an early-maturity legume.”

From a practical standpoint, this means the same amount of calories would be found in 10 lb (4.5kg) of the grass hay or 8 lb (3.6kg) of the legume. With the importance of gastric motility in mind, it is far healthier for easy keepers to have access to near-constant source of low-calorie hay than smaller meals of high-calorie hay.

Horses and ponies with a known sensitivity to sugar, especially those that are prone to laminitis, should be given hay low in nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC), preferably near 10-12% of dry matter. A laboratory such as Equi-Analytical can test hay for NSC, and an equine nutritionist can formulate an appropriate diet based results from forage testing.

Horses fed all-forage diets may not consume all of the nutrients required for optimal health, even if they maintain body weight easily. Choose a well-formulated vitamin and mineral supplement to augment the forage. Try Micro-Max, a supplement formulated by KER that is especially appropriate for horses that may have insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome. In Australia, choose Nutrequin or Gold Pellet.

Horses with moderate metabolism. Owners of horses with moderate, or average, metabolism have much more leeway in the hays they choose. Healthy portions of good-quality grass hay, about 1.5-2% of body weight, coupled with an appropriate concentrate fed at the recommended levels will usually keep these horses in optimal weight.

“In choosing hay for these horses, owners have more freedom. They could seek out good-quality grasses or maybe some grass-legume mixes. At this point, availability might come into play. Since so many types of hay could satisfy nutritional requirements, it is easiest to choose one that’s readily available,” Whitehouse said.

Hard keepers. Choosing a suitable hay can significantly help achieve weight gain or maintenance in a hard keeper, according to Whitehouse.

“Legumes and legume mixes provide an edge for horses that have difficulty maintaining weight. Alfalfa and clover are the legumes most familiar to horse owners. The uptick in calories often associated with high-quality hay made from immature, and thus nutritiously ripe, plants can go a long way in meeting calorie demands,” she added.

Legumes should be especially leafy, as most of the nutrients are found in the leaves. Older horses often do well on legumes because they can easily process the soft leaves regardless of the condition of their teeth.

The question of quantity becomes a factor, too. For most horses, especially hard keepers, it is important to keep hay in front of them at all times. Not only are the digestive benefits irrefutable—a working, dynamic gastrointestinal tract is far healthier than a static one—but many horses will often resort to eating when bored, so it is best to keep haynets or feeders well stocked.

Some hard keepers are notoriously picky eaters. While most horses object to the concentrate portion of their rations, every now and then a horse comes along that finds alfalfa distasteful. “Though flat-out refusal of alfalfa is not common, it does happen,” said Whitehouse. “In these instances, it is best to source a good-quality grass hay that was baled at early maturity.”

Forage selection is integral in formulating a diet for horses and ponies, whatever their metabolism may be. Would you like help evaluating your horse’s diet? Contact us at J & J Farms by clicking here!

Article brought to you by KER.