Archive for December, 2020

Feeding Old Hay to Horses

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

Feeding Old Hay to HorsesAn age-old question: when is feeding old hay to horses O.K.?

Hay doesn’t come stamped with an expiration date. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to use it and when to toss it. Consider these points:

  • If the hay was of good-quality when harvested and stored in a dry place with sufficient airflow, hay is likely suitable for consumption for two to three years.
  • Keep in mind that hay, even premium forage, loses much of its vitamin content in the first few months of storage. “Hay stored in hot environments, such as haylofts, can lose half to three-quarters of its vitamin E content over a three-month period,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER).
  • Do not expect two- or three-year-old hay to contribute significantly to vitamin A nutrition. “About 75% of vitamin A disappears within the first 24 hours of cutting and then loses another 10% monthly. Because forage is rich in vitamin A, this is not a concern for hay fed in the first year or so following harvesting,” said Crandell.
  • Because vitamin D is more stable than vitamins A and E, hay loses very little of vitamin D in storage, according to Crandell.

What’s the best way to handle nutrient deficiencies if old hay is fed?

If horses are consuming green pasture and a well-fortified concentrate, there is no need to worry about the vitamin and mineral content of whatever old, well-preserved hay horses may be nibbling on. If, however, the hay is fed as the sole feedstuff, changes to the diet should be considered, as the horse will not be consuming sufficient vitamins and minerals for top-notch health.

One of three feeding scenarios usually unfolds:

  • A fortified concentrate should be fed if horses require additional calories on top of the hay to maintain body weight. Feeds are available for every life stage, and an appropriate one should be purchased and fed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This might be the case with horses that are in moderate to heavy work and horses known to be hard keepers.
  • If horses hold optimal body condition on hay alone and do not have elevated protein requirements (such as mature horses at maintenance or those light work), a vitamin and mineral supplement such as Micro-Max from KER would be appropriate. In Australia, look for Gold Pellet or Nutrequin SE.
  • If horses require protein as well as minerals and vitamins for optimal health and performance, which is usually the case with easy keepers who serve as broodmares (barren or early gestation) or riding horses in near-daily work, consider feeding a balancer pellet.

Under no circumstances should old hay be fed if it has been compromised by dust, moisture, mold, or foreign objects. Undisturbed hay may also have been infiltrated by nesting rodents or wildlife. If raccoons, opossums, or rodents have run amuck in the loft, consider chucking the hay, as it could harbor disease-causing organisms, including those that cause equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM).

Would you like more information about hay diets? Contact us at J & J Farms by clicking here!

Article brought to you by KER.

Moldy Hay for Horses: Causes and Avoidance

Thursday, December 24th, 2020

Avoid moldy hay for horsesCultivating good-quality hay is no easy task and is dependent on cooperative weather for optimal success. Hay farmers must keep a keen eye on plant growth, the moisture content at harvest, and other baling considerations in order to avoid moldy hay for horses. Mold forms on hay because of excessive moisture, which is why it is so critical to harvest hay under the most conducive conditions and then store it properly once baled.

Moisture content is a crucial measure when it comes to hay production. Once hay is cut in the field, it needs to dry. Length of drying time varies based on geographical region and weather. Humidity or rain will slow this process, leaving the crop vulnerable to mold and fungus. If hay is baled at 12-14% moisture or less, the likelihood of mold is reduced.

If a preservative is not used on cut hay, mold will grow if moisture concentration above about 14%-15%. In addition to nutrient loss, mold growth produces heat. If moldy hay is stored in tight stacks or in areas of poor ventilation, there is a risk for spontaneous combustion. For this reason, all hay should be stacked in well-ventilated areas, with an alternating pattern that allows airflow between bales.

Common molds that grow on hay include Aspergillus, Fusarium, Penicillium, and Rhizopus, among others. Molds generate spores that can irritate respiratory tissues, contributing to recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), also known as heaves. RAO can lead to impaired performance due to difficulty breathing. Special attention should be given to the hay being fed to a horse who already suffers from RAO to avoid additional complications. Moldy hay can also cause colic.

Botulism is a concern for horses consuming hay, particularly large round bales. If animals or carcasses of small animals, such as mice, are caught up in the bale during harvesting, they can infect the hay with Clostridium botulinum bacteria as they decay. Contaminated hay can cause illness to the horse that consumes it. Symptoms of botulism in horses include weakness, muscle tremors, inability to swallow, loss of muscle tone in the tail, paralysis, and incoordination. Horses left untreated for or severely affected by botulism may die if the bacteria paralyze the respiratory system. Ask your vet about the botulism vaccine if your horse consumes round bales.

Proper storage is a critical component of hay-feeding. “Hay should be stored in a dry, well-ventilated area off of the ground,” advised Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research. “Avoid placing tarps tightly around hay, which will prevent moisture from escaping. Don’t stack hay too high, and be sure to leave some space between each bale to allow for airflow.” These techniques will help minimize the risk of mold growth in hay.

Further, no matter which variety or cutting of hay you have in the barn, take the time to inspect it prior to feeding. Hay may look perfectly fine on the outside, but it is possible for mold to be growing on the inside, according to Crandell.

While mold may be difficult to detect visually, an unusual odor usually accompanies mold growth. If hay is dusty or smells musty, do not feed it. Any black or gray mold is a sure sign of spoiled hay and potential health risk to the horse. Work with your hay supplier to replace unsuitable hay bales, and talk to your veterinarian about preventative measures for maintaining the horse’s health.

Hay is a staple in the diets of many horses. For those horses that do not receive a commercial fortified concentrate with their hay, owners should consider a vitamin and mineral supplement, such as Micro-Max (Gold Pellet, Nutrequin, or Perform in Australia). A well-formulated vitamin and mineral supplement will round out the nutritional needs of horses on all-forage diets. “The use of a vitamin and mineral supplement or a ration balancer to fill in the nutritional gaps formed by feeding only pasture or hay is an easy, though oft overlooked, management strategy that ensures optimal health,” said Crandell.

Would you like more information about switching to hay diets? Contact us at J & J Farms by clicking here!

Article brought to you by KER.

Switching to Hay? Remember Vitamin E

Thursday, December 17th, 2020
As autumn shifts to winter, or summer droughts begin to set in, horse owners in many climates must provide horses with an appropriate alternative forage to fulfill fiber requirements. In most cases, this involves switching to hay, haylage, or hay cubes.

Avoiding Colic as Horses Transition from Pasture to Hay

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Avoiding Colic as Horses Transition from Pasture to HayIt happens every year: Horses that have been turned out in pastures all summer must transition to a diet that contains far less fresh grass and far more hay. This means that the important fiber portion of the diet will have a lower moisture content along with a significant increase in the percentage of dry matter. Read further to learn how to avoid colic as horses transition from pasture to hay.

Throughout the fall and winter months, owners should continue to allow as much turnout as possible. Any change to a horse’s diet should be made as gradually as possible in order to avoid colic and other digestive tract upsets. Fortunately for horse owners, the move from grass to hay naturally follows this pattern as pasture growth declines and plants enter a dormant stage. Horses that have access to pasture will continue to graze, but the forage they ingest will slowly drop in moisture and lose its fresh characteristics.

Providing plenty of fresh, clean water is essential in every season, but it is particularly important when hay is being fed and horses are not getting much moisture from their forage intake. Extremely cold water is less appealing than water that has been warmed to around 50° F. Water at this temperature still feels very cold on human skin, but it is readily consumed by horses.

Access to salt, either loose or in a block, is also important. Sprinkling a bit of salt on grain or dampened hay will stimulate the horse to drink more water.

Throughout the fall and winter months, owners should continue to allow as much turnout as possible. According to Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., senior equine nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research, “Exercise helps to keep ingested material moving through the horse’s digestive tract, and pastured horses cover a lot more ground than stalled horses, especially if they are turned out with a buddy or two.” If outdoor exercise isn’t available, be sure that all horses get at least a few hours of riding, driving, longeing, or free exercise in a covered arena each day.

Monitor hay consumption while horses are in their stalls. If one horse is not consuming much hay, or if you find wads of partially chewed hay lying on the floor in this horse’s stall, he may need to have his teeth checked. Dental exams should be scheduled for all horses once or twice a year, but some horses, especially older equine, can develop problems between checkups.

When a new batch of hay is delivered, introduce it by feeding a small amount of the new hay mixed into the old, increasing the percentage of new hay gradually over five to seven days. This allows the microbes in the horse’s gut to adjust to the change and prevents upsets.

Inspect each bale of hay as it is opened and discard any hay that smells musty or shows signs of mold. Most horses will refuse to eat hay that is moldy, even if the mold is so slight that humans can’t detect it. However, extremely hungry horses may eat tainted hay, so it should never be fed and should be disposed of in an area where horses can’t reach it.

Research-proven digestive supplements can help horses that are prone to colic during feed transitions. EquiShure, a supplement developed by Kentucky Equine Research, stabilizes the pH of the hindgut. Changes in feed sometimes cause the pH to fluctuate wildly, which can set the stage for colic or laminitis.

Would you like more information about hay diets and how to avoid colic as horses transition from pasture to hay? Contact us at J & J Farms by clicking here!

Article brought to you by KER.

Winter Hay Supplies for Horses

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

Winter Hay Supplies for HorsesWith winter approaching, horse owners will be looking for a source of hay to feed during the season when pasture forage is dormant. Keep these things in mind as you shop for winter hay:

  • If you have enough storage space, try to buy most or all of your hay from the same source and cutting. Switching to a new type of hay, or even a different cutting of the same type of hay, may trigger colic in some horses.
  • Examine representative bales from each delivery. Reject the order if you find many unusually heavy bales that may contain too much moisture; bales that show mold; and those that smell musty or damp.
  • Look for hay that matches the nutritional requirements of the horses you are feeding. Performance horses will need a better grade of hay than horses that are idle. Obese horses may get along best on a medium-grade hay that is low in nonstructural carbohydrates. Horses with dental problems can get more nourishment from clean, fine-textured hay than from rougher forage that requires more chewing.
  • Be generous in your estimate of how much hay you will need. Winter weather is somewhat unpredictable, so planning for a few extra weeks of hay use is a good idea.
  • Part-way through the winter, evaluate how much hay has been used and shop for more, if needed, before you run out. Mix new hay with older hay for a week or so instead of suddenly introducing a new batch.
  • Store hay in a dry place that has good ventilation. Avoid stacking bales too tightly; air movement will help to prevent mold.

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.