Author Archive

When Your Horse Refuses Hay: An Owner’s Checklist

Friday, October 21st, 2022

When Your Horse Refuses HayWhen Your Horse Refuses Hay: An Owner’s Checklist. Several issues may be at play when a horse backs off its hay. The first consideration is whether the issue lies with the horse or with the hay. To help identify the root concern, think about these questions:

  • When did the horse start refusing hay?
  • Is it a new batch of hay?
  • Are other horses eating the same hay?
  • Is the horse drinking water?
  • Is the horse eating its feed?
  • Is the horse exhibiting any other unusual behavior?

Let’s address the first three questions. If hay refusal comes on fairly suddenly, especially if it coincides with a new batch of hay, then it is likely that the hay itself is the issue. Especially if other horses are showing the same behavior.

Horse Sensitivities

Horses may refuse to eat hay that is old, moldy, coarse, stemmy, or full of weeds, so check to make sure that your hay is “clean”—that is, free of mold, dust, weeds, trash, and other impurities. Horses are sensitive to odors and can easily detect off-putting scents that humans cannot and sometimes this is enough to cause refusal. More sensitive horses back off forage intake simply when a change is made to a different type of hay, as some grasses are more palatable than others.

One additional consideration involves access to pasture. Hay intake often corresponds to pasture conditions. For example, some horses may reduce their hay intake when pasture grass is readily available and high quality, but will return to hay when pastures dry out due to drought or season.

If other horses are eating the hay as usual or if no change of hay has been made, the final three questions in the list become more relevant.

The question of water is an important one. Clean, fresh water should always be available. Without sufficient water, a horse will quit eating. Check to make sure your horse’s water source has not been compromised in function or hygiene, such as a broken automatic waterer, a leak in a water tank, or contamination from manure or a decomposing bird or animal.

Health Issues

Once you’ve verified the hygiene of the hay and water source, other causes of hay refusal should be investigated. Common causes of inappetence in horses include dental issues, such as painful chewing due to uneven wear, split or broken teeth, missing teeth, and infection of the teeth, gums, or other oral tissue. Sometimes it could be as simple as the horse eating hay containing foxtail seed heads, which can lodge in the gums and cause pain and infection if not found and removed.

Moreover, dental condition often depends on age, as teeth deteriorate as horses hit their late teens and twenties. When this happens, it can result in a gradual or sudden decline in hay intake. Regular dental care for horses throughout their lives can help address dental issues in a timely manner and ensure that horses are able to comfortably consume hay for as long as possible. When horses reach the point where they no longer can chew hay, there are several alternative forages and fiber sources appropriate to help maintain weight.

Other health issues that can affect a horse’s appetite for hay include colic, ulcers, and choke. In addition, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and generalized infection or disease. In any case, a call to the veterinarian is most likely in order. Determine if there is a significant health condition. As well as the best options to help a horse regain its health and appetite.


In conclusion, do you have a specific question about what to do When Your Horse Refuses Hay? Contact J & J Hay Farms today at 770-887-0440!

Article Source: Kentucky Equine Research

Cost-Conscious Feeding of Horses

Thursday, October 13th, 2022

Cost-Conscious Feeding of HorsesCost-Conscious Feeding of Horses: A periodic review of your horse’s diet ensures that you’re providing the best nutrition in the most cost-effective way.

According to Clarissa Brown-Douglas, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research, the first step in creating a high-quality, cost-conscious diet is to clearly define the scenario and the goals. Do you manage a herd of broodmares? Ride competitively; is the horse exercised lightly or intensely? Do you care for a single retired pony?

Diet Evaluation:

Once the feeding goals are clearly understood, a nutritionist should perform a thorough diet evaluation. Carefully collecting information about forages and concentrates, and how much of each is fed to the horse. Moreover, the nutritionist should inventory the supplements that are fed, making note of why each is added to the diet. Other pertinent information may include turnout time, pasture quality, and palatability preferences.

In addition to determining nutritional adequacy of diets, ration evaluations reveal any shortages or overages of specific nutrients. “Eliminating nutritional double-ups is the simplest way to shave off some expense,” said Brown-Douglas.

Optimizing forage intake is another source of potential cost savings. “Pasture can provide a lot of nutrition, sometimes year-round. Maximizing time on pasture is one way to reduce the use of other forages, such as hay or bagged forage products such as cubes, pellets, or chaff, all of which tend to be expensive,” she explained.

Sourcing Hay:

While it may be impractical to eliminate hay from a diet, sourcing local hay often reduces forage costs. Further savings may be achieved if a local grower can be identified and hay can be picked up from the field, as this reduces handling required by the grower. Transportation outlays can add considerably to the cost of hay.

When evaluating feed expenses, the nutritionist will often verify that horses are receiving the most appropriate forage for their age and lifestyle. While premium-quality hay engages the human senses favorably—imagine how beautifully cured alfalfa looks, smells, feels—few horses require it for optimal health. Mid-quality grass hay works well for many horses. For those prone to obesity, even this may be too rich, so owners should be on the lookout for mature hay that is free of dust, mold, and weeds.

“Be conscious of not wasting hay,” Brown-Douglas warned. “Some horses are clever at using hay as bedding, and this isn’t economical. To avoid this, get out the scale, and feed 1.25% to 2% of the horse’s optimal body weight per day in a haynet or feeder.”

Once forage costs have been streamlined, the concentrate portion of the diet can be addressed. Many horses, especially growing horses, performance horses, breeding stallions, and broodmares at certain stages of production, require a concentrated form of calories. This is best accomplished through the provision of a well-formulated, fortified concentrate from a reputable manufacturer. Sometimes a savings can be had by feeding a ration balancer. For example, a feed that rounds out the protein, vitamin, and mineral requirements of a diet, at a lower intake.

Supplement Evaluation:

Finally, careful evaluation of all supplements should be performed. Oversupplying certain nutrients frequently occurs unintentionally when multiple supplements are fed to horses. For some horses that require similar needs, an all-in-one supplement might be appropriate and provide cost savings. These supplements might include high-quality ingredients that address hoof, coat, joint, and antioxidant needs.

To keep feeding costs in perspective, Brown-Douglas encourages horse owners to look at the cost of feeding a horse per day. This opposed to relying on individual product prices. Certainly, she explained, some bagged feeds can be expensive. That price is relative to how long the product will last. “Take a well-formulated ration balancer, for instance. If a 50-lb (23-kg) bag costs $25 and your horse eats 1 lb (0.45 kg) a day, then that single bag will last well over a month.”

Working with a nutritionist has many advantages. Nutritionists are certainly advocates for horses. After all, the goal is to ensure optimal nutrition. However, routine diet evaluations also protect horse owners from needless expense.


In conclusion, do you have a specific question about Cost-Conscious Feeding of Horses? Contact J & J Hay Farms today at 770-887-0440!

Article Source: Kentucky Equine Research

Lactation in Mares: Nutritional Notes

Thursday, October 6th, 2022

Lactation in Mares: Nutritional NotesLactation in Mares: Nutritional Notes. The nutritional requirements of broodmares peak as fetal growth surges in late gestation and as lactation commences after birth. Experts assert that lactating mares may require twice as much dietary energy as horses at maintenance, placing them in the same nutritional classification as intensely worked athletic horses. Owners of broodmares can assure optimal nutrition through provision of a well-fortified diet.

Broodmare Inventory:

Before exploring dietary options, take inventory of your broodmare. What breed or type is she—a fine-boned Arabian; a rugged, sporty half-Thoroughbred; or a muscly stock-type? Where would she place on the metabolism spectrum: is she an easy keeper, a hard keeper, or average in her conversion of calories to body maintenance and fat stores? What does she weigh when she’s in moderate body condition?

“Horses will generally consume 1.5-3.0% of their body weight in dry matter intake daily, with lactating mares at the upper end of this range,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research. “Forages would supply at least half of this dry matter but may provide considerably more depending on the mare’s phenotype and metabolism.” Identifying proper forage for broodmares is therefore paramount.

Hay Inventory:

As with all hays intended for horses, broodmares should be offered high-quality hay that is free of any dust, mold, or weeds. The texture of the hay should be soft, and the smell pleasant and appealing. Not only is high-quality hay more palatable, but it can provide significantly more calories than lower quality hay. Toss any hay that is refused or soiled.

The type of hay given—whether it is a grass or legume—depends largely on the mare and availability. Early and mid-bloom alfalfa, for example, provide more energy than many good-quality grass hays, even those harvested in early maturity.

“With this in mind, alfalfa hay or an alfalfa-blend hay may be appropriate for mares that require more energy to maintain body condition during lactation. Think of the hard keepers that put a lot of energy into milk production, like some Thoroughbred mares,” Crandell said. On the contrary, for mares that are known to be easy keepers, alfalfa may provide too many calories. A grass or alfalfa-grass mix might be more appropriate for them.

Depending on the mare’s foaling date, fresh forage might be available to lactating mares. The quality and quantity of pasture may vary from farm to farm. If mares are allowed access to high-quality, properly maintained pasture for much of the day, then this will go far in meeting a mare’s energy requirements but likely will not satisfy them entirely.

Because of their high energy and nutrient needs, mares cannot generally consume sufficient forage to meet their nutritional requirements. Mares in late gestation and lactation are usually provided concentrates to fulfill this caloric shortfall.

The amount of concentrate given will depend on the mare, but the general feeding recommendations supplied by the manufacturer provide a logical starting point. If the mare requires less concentrate than the manufacturer suggests, a ration balancer pellet can offer further nutrition. A ration balancer is a concentrated source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, typically fed in small amounts, such as 1-2 lb (0.45-0.9 kg) per day.

Other considerations when managing lactating mares:

  • While mares in late gestation may have a reduced appetite, lactating mares typically have normal, even ravenous, appetites. Because of this, mares should have access to appropriate forage at all times. Tall, large-framed broodmares (1,300 lb or 600 kg) may consume more than 40 lb (18 kg) of hay daily. If high-quality pasture is available as a forage source, hay may not be necessary, but many hours of grazing would be necessary for mares to consume sufficient forage. “Grass contains a great deal of water. Large quantities of pasture are needed to fulfill the forage requirement. Some researchers estimate that four acres of quality pasture is needed for every mare-foal pair,” Crandell said.
  • Choose a concentrate formulated expressly to meet the nutritional needs of mares and foals. Use the manufacturer’s recommendations as a launching point, and adjust feed as necessary, staying mindful to keep meals as near to no more than 5 lb (2.3 kg) as possible. Most mares will typically consume 6-12 lb (2.7-5.5 kg) of concentrate per day. Divide into two or three meals. Because energy requirements peak in early lactation, more feed might be necessary then as opposed to mid or late lactation.
  • Consider rebreeding efficiency. Keep lactating mares in moderate body condition. Maintaining mares throughout the reproductive cycle at higher body condition scores holds no advantage. In fact, maternal obesity has been linked to systemic inflammation, decreased insulin sensitivity, and an increased incidence of osteochondrosis in foals.* Further, long-term obesity may predispose mares to endocrine-related disorders, such as insulin dysregulation, and increased risk of dystocia, according to Crandell.
  • Mares that are unable to maintain moderate body condition should have their diets evaluated. If high-quality forage is provided in adequate quantities, attention should be turned to the concentrate portion of the diet. A concentrate that features various energy sources should be fed. Different energy sources include starch (as found in cereal grains), fermentable fiber (beet pulp, soy hulls), and fat (vegetable oil, stabilized rice bran). Add more calories to the diet by top-dressing fat. For example, oil or stabilized rice bran, onto concentrate meals. Fat is palatable so long as not too much is given at once. “As a concentrated source of calories, fat can be very helpful for increasing the energy intake without adding bulk to a diet that may already be maxed out in how much the mare can consume,” Crandell explained.


In conclusion, do you have a specific question about Lactation in Mares: Nutritional Notes? Contact J & J Hay Farms today at 770-887-0440!

Article Source: Kentucky Equine Research

*Robles, M., E. Nouveau, C. Gautier, L. Mendoza ,C. Dubois, M. Dahirel, B. Lagofun, M. Aubrière, J. Lejeune, I. Caudron, I. Guenon, C. Viguié, L. Wimel, H. Bouraima-Lelong, D. Serteyn, A. Couturier-Tarrade, and P. Chavatte-Palmer. 2018. Maternal obesity increases insulin resistance, low-grade inflammation and osteochondrosis lesions in foals and yearlings until 18 months of age. PloS One 13(1):


Hay: The Favorite Lunch Munch for Horses

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

Hay: The Favorite Lunch Munch for HorsesHay: The Favorite Lunch Munch for Horses!  As part of their nature, horses have a built-in desire to chew. Evolving as wandering herbivores, horses in their natural state graze off and on all day long. They spend up to 65% of their time in this activity. A stalled horse’s chewing instinct apparently remains strong even if the horse’s nutritional needs are fully met by various feed products other than hay.

A study at Cornell University was designed to learn a horse’s preference for loose hay or a complete pelleted feed. Horses were put on one of two treatments: free-choice loose hay or free-choice complete pelleted feed. Each horse could get a serving of the alternate product by pressing a plate. First, the horse learned to press the plate once for an alternate serving. The mechanism was then set to give the reward only if the plate was pressed an increased number of times.

Horses with free-choice loose hay did not progress beyond pressing the plate once for a serving of pellets. Meanwhile  horses with free-choice pellets learned to press the plate as many as 13 times for a serving of hay. In addition, horses with free-choice pellets spent 11% of the time nosing through their bedding, a foraging activity. Horses on free-choice hay spent only 1% of their time foraging, possibly indicating their need to chew and swallow fiber had been more completely met.

Owners of stalled horses are advised to provide some hay or turnout/grazing time if possible, and to split the ration of pelleted complete feeds into a number of small meals spaced throughout the day. This strategy may help to combat boredom and reduce the tendency of stalled horses to develop stereotypic behavior such as weaving, cribbing, and kicking.


In conclusion, do you have a specific question about Hay: The Favorite Lunch Munch for Horses? Contact J & J Hay Farms today at 770-887-0440!

Article Source: Kentucky Equine Research

Shipping Fever in Horses

Friday, September 16th, 2022

Shipping Fever in HorsesShipping Fever in Horses:  Horses that are trailered for long periods of time—more than three or four hours—are at increased risk for developing a respiratory infection commonly known as “shipping fever.” Owners who plan to transport horses can take steps before, during, and after the trip to minimize the chance of a horse developing this infection. It can easily derail training, competition, or breeding plans for several weeks.

Before the trip:

  • Be sure the horse is in good health. Don’t ship horses that are already sick. Horses that have been subjected to unusual stress such as a difficult competition may have had challenges to their immune systems that can make them more susceptible to illness.
  • Have the horse rested, hydrated, and well-nourished in the days before the trip so that he is in the best condition to resist disease.
  • Know the horse’s normal temperature, pulse, and respiratory rate.
  • While it might seem like a good idea to administer antibiotics to horses before travel, research has shown that giving bronchodilators or antibiotics does not prevent all cases of shipping fever.
  • Be sure that horses are current on vaccinations against respiratory viruses such as influenza and equine herpes virus. Vaccines should be administered two to three weeks before the horse travels to maximize antibody response because the stress of travel may suppress the immune response if administered just before shipping.

During the trip:

  • Provide ventilation in the trailer. Breathing warm, damp, dusty air for several hours can set up a perfect scenario for respiratory tract irritation.
  • If you are going to provide your horse with a hay net, soak the hay before traveling to remove dust particles. Damp hay can mold quickly. You will need to provide fresh dampened hay at least once a day on multi-day trips.
  • Every three or four hours on a long trip, stop for half an hour to let the horses rest. Many horses won’t drink or urinate while the trailer is moving, and rest stops allow them to relax a bit.
  • If the horse is tied in the trailer, unsnap lead shanks or cross ties at rest stops so the horse can lower his head and stretch his neck. This natural head-down position allows fluids, bacteria, and dust particles to drain from the upper respiratory tract.
  • On long trips, check pulse, respiration, and body temperature to detect possible illness as soon as possible. Pulse and respiration will probably be a bit faster than normal because of stress. If body temperature rises, this is a warning flag for infection.

After the trip:

  • If possible, turn the horse out in a small paddock for an hour or longer after unloading. This allows him to relax, stretch, and graze before going into his stall.
  • Monitor vital signs for several days and check the horse regularly for a fever, cough, or nasal discharge. Check with a veterinarian if any horse shows signs of illness after travel.

In conclusion, do you have a specific question about Shipping Fever in Horses? Contact J & J Hay Farms today at 770-887-0440!

Article Source: Kentucky Equine Research

Out of Work Horses: Management Strategies

Friday, September 9th, 2022

Out of Work Horses: Management StrategiesOut of Work Horses: Management Strategies. How can you safely shift a horse from near-daily exercise to a life of leisure, even if temporary? Appropriate nutrition is a key consideration during this transition.

Moving from stall to pasture:

Has your horse been kept in the barn all or most of the time while actively training and showing? Make the switch to pasture gradually. Start with half an hour of grazing two or three times a day. Make sure to provide plenty of hay when the horse is in the stall. Increase pasture time in half-hour increments for several days. Next, add an hour or two to each grazing session until the horse is able to be out all the time.

The horse’s digestive system is complex. Any horse relocated abruptly from stall to full pasture is at high risk for colic or laminitis. At any time during the shift, if the hooves feel warm to the touch, or the horse shows signs of pain or reluctance to move, put the horse in the stall and contact your veterinarian immediately.

Some horses are so sensitive to the sugars in grass that they can never have unlimited access to pasture. These equines can still benefit from a few weeks or months of full or partial turnout if they are muzzled or placed in a drylot with an adequate supply of hay.


To stay in show condition and perform the work he has been asked to do, your horse has probably been given top-quality hay and one or more feedings of concentrate (pellets or sweet feed) daily. Without the demands of training, he will require the same basic nutrients but will need much less energy. Ideally, you can take a week or two to taper his schedule, slowly decreasing both his work and his grain ration.

Gradually switching to a balancer pellet or a vitamin and mineral supplement will supply essential nutrients without the calories found in a concentrated feed. Kentucky Equine Research has developed several vitamin and mineral supplements. Continue to give your horse whatever dietary supplements he is accustomed to, such as hoof and joint products, but check ingredients to avoid over supplementation when feeding more than one product.

You should still provide hay whenever the horse spends time in the stall. Something to munch on will alleviate boredom, keep gastric ulcers at bay, and prevent gorging on grass at the next turn-out. Free-choice access to water and salt is essential at all times.

Pasture safety:

Before turning your horse out the first time, take a quick tour of the fenceline and field to check for debris, holes, loose boards or wire, and insecure gate latches, and correct any problems before using the field. Bell boots and galloping boots can help guard against injury as the horse gets used to his freedom.

Depending on the season, fly spray will give a few hours of relief from insects; consider using mesh fly sheets, face masks, and leg covers for longer-lasting comfort. Changing seasons may eliminate insect problems, but horses with white faces may need sun protection year-round. Sunscreen or fly masks with muzzle extensions can prevent painful sunburn.

Hoof care:

Many people feel it is advantageous for horses to go barefoot if they are going to be inactive for several months. Will your horse benefit from having his shoes pulled? Consider these things as you make this decision.

  • Horses that are newly barefoot will probably be somewhat tender for a week or so until the soles begin to toughen. If possible, turn out in a field with grass or dirt rather than a rocky area. Pasture the horse with amiable companions to avoid forcing him to run or kick to defend himself.
  • Hoof shape will change without the support of a shoe. Probable changes include spreading of the heel, flaring in the quarters, and chipping at the toe and sides of the hoof. These changes are normal. Unless they are excessive, they’re nothing to worry about.
  • Whether the horse is shod or barefoot, basic hoof care should not change when the horse is out of work. Hooves should be inspected and picked at least daily, and the schedule of farrier visits should be maintained. Toes tend to grow faster than quarters and heels. Going more than about six weeks between trimmings can change the angle of the pastern. This can lead to unnecessary strain on the tendons and ligaments in the lower leg.
  • Horses that have therapeutic shoeing for navicular syndrome, laminitis, or other hoof problems may need to remain shod. Discuss with your farrier whether to leave the idle horse shod. In addition to remove only the rear shoes, or to pull all the shoes until the horse returns to work.
  • Maintain horses on a high-quality hoof supplement, if necessary.

Other management:

Even though he is not working, your horse still needs daily attention. A light grooming gives you a chance to find and treat injuries or skin conditions. For example, dew poisoning or rain rot. Face masks and grazing muzzles should be removed at least once a day to check for rubbed areas. A regular schedule of deworming, vaccinations, and dental care should be followed just as though the horse were still in training.

In conclusion, do you have a specific question about Out of Work Horses: Management Strategies? Contact J & J Hay Farms today at 770-887-0440!

Article Source: Kentucky Equine Research


What Is the Effect of Restricted Hay Intake Before Exercise in Horses?

Friday, September 2nd, 2022

What Is the Effect of Restricted Hay Intake Before Exercise in Horses?What Is the Effect of Restricted Hay Intake Before Exercise in Horses? The goal of this study was to compare ad libitum and restricted (1% of body weight for a three-day period) hay intake on metabolic responses of Thoroughbreds. They were subjected to high-intensity exercise.

Free-choice hay intake averaged 9 kg (20 lb). Three days of restricted hay intake (10 lb per day) resulted in a 2% decrease in body weight. It was compared with free-choice feeding. During a sprint exercise test, oxygen consumption was higher in horses fed restricted hay. Oxygen deficit and peak plasma lactate were higher during exercise in horses fed ad libitum hay.

The reduction in body weight associated with restricted hay feeding coincided with greater oxygen consumption during exercise. In addition, a corresponding decrease in anaerobic energy expenditure and accumulation of blood lactate. As lactate accumulation can contribute to fatigue during high-intensity exercise, short-term (3 to 4 days) restriction of hay intake may be beneficial for racehorses.

This report of KER’s 2001 research was published in Proceedings of the 17th Equine Nutrition and Physiology Society Symposium.

In conclusion, do you have a specific question about your horse’s health or What Is the Effect of Restricted Hay Intake Before Exercise in Horses?? Contact J & J Hay Farms today at 770-887-0440!

Article Source: Kentucky Equine Research

Keep an Eye on Calcium Balance

Friday, August 26th, 2022

Keep an Eye on Calcium BalanceKeep an Eye on Calcium Balance: It is common knowledge that calcium is an essential mineral for strong and healthy bones and teeth in horses. Its importance in the nutrition of late-pregnant mares, weanlings, and growing horses. Especially young racehorses. Most horse people are aware of the increased requirements for calcium in these types of horses.

Most people also know that you need the correct calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of 2:1 for good health and balanced nutrition. Generally, if questioned, the average horse person couldn’t explain why this ratio is important. Furthermore, it is not enough to make sure that calcium and phosphorus levels are correct in the diet if availability of these minerals is compromised.

There are naturally occurring chemicals that may be available to the horse in everyday feeding regimes that can bind calcium and phosphorus and prevent them from being absorbed by the horse.

calcium and phosphorus:

It is not possible to discuss calcium balance in the body without mentioning the relationship between calcium and phosphorus. In the horse’s bones, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus is 2:1. Bone acts as a reservoir for calcium and phosphorus that can be tapped when dietary intake falls short of requirements. Calcium is also used in the body in a soluble form (as Ca++ ions) for nerve and muscle function. Therefore the body maintains rigid and controlled levels of calcium in the blood (2.9 to 3.9 mmol/liter) for these processes. A mechanism known as homeostasis. On the other hand, blood levels of phosphorus can fluctuate throughout the day and in response to exercise with no adverse effects.

This article will explain some of the danger spots to look for when you are considering the calcium availability of your horses’ diet. It will outline some of the dangers of calcium deficiency. In addition, how you can manipulate your management program to deal with problems associated with calcium being tied up in the diet by chemicals which make it less available to the horse.

Calcium Deficiency

In days of old when man still relied heavily on the horse for transport, for working the fields, and as a beast of burden, it was not uncommon to reward one’s trusty steed with a warm bran mash at the end of the day. The practice is still upheld by many experienced horsemen today.

Wheat-milling processes were less efficient in those days. Meaning that bran had slightly more nutritive value than the bran of today. As a feedstuff it still posed a problem with regard to calcium and phosphorus ratios. In those days, the disease colloquially known as “big head” was associated with workhorses and was something of a mystery. Big head was eventually linked to nutrition. In particular to dietary calcium balance, and hence became known as bran disease.

These names were given to the syndrome associated with calcium deficiency (nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism) because of the fibrous growths responsible for swelling the facial bones of affected horses to unnatural proportions. These days it is generally only seen occasionally and in cases of extreme calcium deficiency caused by dietary deficiencies or in the presence of calcium-binding agents in the diet.

Wheat Bran:

Wheat bran is detrimental to calcium balance in two ways. First, 90% of the phosphorus in wheat bran exists as calcium phytate. binding both calcium and phosphorus and preventing their absorption into the horse’s bloodstream. The phytic acid involved in forming this compound can also bind to other dietary nutrients. Reducing their ability to be absorbed into the blood. These nutrients include copper, zinc, and manganese.

Secondly, wheat bran has ten times as much phosphorus as calcium. The combination of excessive dietary phosphorus and little available dietary calcium causes calcium to be leached from the bones to maintain and balance blood levels of calcium ions.

Wheat bran, however, is not the only culprit, and there are other foodstuffs available to horses that limit the amount of calcium that can be absorbed from the diet. Many grains are also high in phosphorus and low in calcium, and the majority contain some level of phytic acid. In addition, many introduced species of tropical and subtropical grasses exist in some pastures used for horse grazing or haymaking. Some of these grasses contain high levels of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid binds calcium by forming crystals of calcium oxalate in the grass stem and leaf in much the same way as phosphorus (phytic acid) forms phytates and prevents calcium absorption.

About Oxalic Acid:

Oxalic acid forms compounds with many elements to produce oxalates, some soluble and some insoluble. Levels of oxalates vary between plants, but in plants where calcium is present, oxalic acid forms an insoluble compound of calcium oxalate which reduces the amount of available calcium in the plant. Horses are completely unable to digest any of the calcium associated with calcium oxalate crystals. Some oxalate-containing plants also contain plenty of calcium, meaning that they are safe to feed despite their oxalate content. For a grass of this nature to be safe for feeding to horses without the risk of causing calcium deficiency, it must have a calcium to oxalate ratio of at least 0.5:1. Calcium deficiency caused by consumption of tropical grasses high in oxalates is also known as chronic oxalate poisoning.

Oxalate poisoning can be acute when grasses or weeds contain high concentrations of soluble oxalates that are absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream, binding calcium in the blood and rapidly reducing blood calcium levels. In this case, calcium oxalate crystals are formed in the kidney tubules and interfere with kidney function.

Oxalic Effects:

Affected horses may have muscle tremors and a staggering gait. They may appear lethargic and stop eating. Twitching of the muscles of the face may be seen, and death may occur if signs go unnoticed. Plants containing more than 2% soluble oxalate have the potential to cause acute oxalate poisoning, but horses usually have to be very hungry before considering these essentially unpalatable grasses and weeds as a food source.

Interestingly, many horsemen report increased incidence of calcium deficiency and cases of big head within a few weeks of rainfall. It may be that rainfall triggers new growth that the horses find more palatable. In addition, the increased moisture increases the oxalate content of tropical grasses. Whatever the reason, reports suggest that increased cases of big head after rainfall are seen within a matter of two to three weeks. Further research in this area could help horse owners to develop new pasture and grazing management prevention practices.

Clinical Signs of Calcium Deficiency

The clinical signs of chronic and extreme calcium deficiency are less frequently seen today than in the past.  Yet it can still be a significant problem for horse owners. Iit is important to be aware of the signs. The disease can develop within two months of putting horses out on high-oxalate pastures. However, it more often takes six to eight months before symptoms are noticed.

A low blood calcium level (known clinically as hypocalcaemia) stimulates the release of parathyroid hormone from the parathyroid gland. This hormone is responsible for triggering the release of calcium from bones, particularly from the large bones of the head and limbs.

This calcium is released into the blood to bring calcium levels back to within normal ranges for optimal nerve, heart, and muscle function. If the horse has a high requirement for calcium, as in pregnant and lactating mares, growing horses, and heavily sweating performance horses, these effects will occur more readily and to a greater extent that in horses at maintenance levels of requirement.

Big Head:

As the bones become demineralized, they become weak and fragile. As a result, the horse may become lame and start to drop weight even though his feeding regimen has not altered. He will probably have a dull, depressed countenance and may appear to have swollen lower jawbones and/or loose teeth. The horse will appear stiff and have a shortened gait when trotted. The stiffness increasing as the horse is exercised. As the condition progresses, both upper and lower jaws and sometimes other facial bones become swollen (hence the name). Badly affected horses may suffer fractures and break down.

On postmortem examination, the swellings are comprised mostly of fibrous tissue with small sparse fragments of bone. The surfaces of the joints appear pitted and rough. The parathyroid glands of the throat and lower neck are visibly enlarged and distended. If the condition goes unnoticed and untreated, it is likely that the horse will suffer fatal or irreparable fractures and will need to be destroyed.

Treatments for Horses with Big Head

Examination by a veterinarian is needed to determine the severity of the disease. Perhaps involving radiographs and blood and urine tests. These may need to be repeated throughout treatment to examine the efficacy of the treatment program. The swellings of the facial bones may never completely disappear in severely affected horses. However, it is possible to get a horse back to full health after an episode of big head with time and correct attention to calcium-to-phosphorus ratios.

It can take up to 12 months for remineralization of bone to occur. Horses must be maintained at rest for this period of recovery. Suggested treatments include 2 kg (4.4 lb) of rock phosphate mixed with 3 kg (6.6 lb) of molasses or 2 kg (4.4 lb) of a combination of 1/3 ground limestone and 2/3 dicalcium phosphate (DCP) mixed with 3 kg (6.6 lb) molasses.

These supplements need feeding weekly. Either over a couple of days or split into daily feeds for a period of at least 6 months. Commercially available supplements can also be used and fed daily in smaller quantities than the above mixtures to provide the same benefit.

The Prime Suspects!

A few prime suspects should be investigated if a case of calcium deficiency has been diagnosed. The risk is greatest when these grass types make up all or almost all of the pasture available to the horse. These grasses should be identified and removed from the diet as soon as possible before causing any further damage.

  • Kikuyu grass has a calcium-to-oxalate ratio of 0.23:1. Grows very rapidly in summer and becomes rank and unpalatable relatively quickly.
  • Buffel grass has a calcium-to-oxalate ration of 0.22:1. Has a tufted appearance, often forming dense tussocks. A number of varieties vary from 0.2-1.5 m tall. Leaves vary in color from yellowish to bluish-green, are thin and narrow, and taper to a long point.
  • Pangola grass has a calcium-to-oxalate ratio of 0.37:1.
  • Green panic grass has a calcium-to-oxalate ratio of 0.32:1. Very green, lush growth, highly palatable, used in pastures and in hay.
  • Para grass has a calcium-to-oxalate ratio of 0.29:1. A coarse vigorous trailing grass, grows well in wet and flooded soils. Grows up to 1 m (39 inches) tall. More often used in hay as opposed to pasture.
  • Setaria grass has a calcium-to-oxalate ratio of 0.15:1. Grows up to 3 m (10 feet) tall with erect stems and leaves 15-30 cm long and 0.3-1.7 cm wide. Seedheads are spike-shaped and cylindrical.
  • Pigweed is a fleshy, low-to-the-ground weed with yellow flowers in the summer. Rarely consumed by horses but can cause acute oxalate poisoning if horses are hungry enough to eat large quantities. Oxalate concentrations range between 4.5 and 9.4% of the dried plant.


To prevent calcium deficiency caused by grazing of subtropical grasses, look for and avoid these grasses in potential horse pastures. If pastures containing the subtropical grasses mentioned above must be used, avoid grazing them for longer than one month. If established pastures contain a large proportion of subtropical grass, calcium-to-phosphorus ratios of dietary intake should exceed 2:1. They may need to be as high as 3:1 to counterbalance the oxalate effect.

It is also useful to encourage the growth of leguminous plans such as lucerne (alfalfa). It is high in calcium. Lucerne gives the horses an oxalate-free alternative forage. If your pasture contains grasses such as kikuyu, it is wise to avoid using fertilizers with high phosphorus levels. For example, a poultry manure and superphosphate.

It may also be necessary to make available a calcium and phosphorus supplement. If so, using half the amount of the supplements mentioned in the treatment section weekly should prevent problems . Alternatively, feeding 20 kg (44 lb) of good-quality lucerne hay per horse per week ensures adequate calcium intake. It guards against oxalate poisoning.


Extreme calcium deficiencies are seen less today than in the past. However, the introduction of foreign subtropical grasses has meant that horse owners have another danger spot to look out for when investigating potential horse pastures.

It is important for horse owners to know that wheat bran is not the only culprit when it comes to big head or bran disease. It is a good idea to thoroughly check the species of grass in pastures to be used for horses. Take measures to prevent extended periods of grazing on unsafe pastures. If hazardous pastures make up the only grazing available, then supplements should be used to ensure adequate calcium intake to balance the effects of oxalic acid.

Questions about how to Keep an Eye on Calcium Balance?

Contact us at J & J Hay Farms by clicking here!

Article by KER.

Strategies for Increasing Appetite and Tempting Picky Eaters

Thursday, August 18th, 2022

Increasing Appetite and Tempting Picky EatersStrategies for Increasing Appetite and Tempting Picky Eaters: Many factors and situations may reduce a horse’s appetite. It’s important to find and correct whatever it is—illness, pain, discomfort, environment—that keeps a horse from diving eagerly into his feed. As the situation is being corrected, owners can try some of the following strategies to encourage a more healthy appetite.

Picky eaters are very sensitive to feed quality. Be sure that premixed feeds and straight grains are within their printed expiration date. In addition, store feeds correctly to avoid mold or oxidation from exposure to air and moisture. In very hot weather, buy only enough feed to last a week or so. Prevent fermentation of grains and molasses in storage. Be a discerning customer when buying hay and chaff, and accept only clean, fresh-smelling forages that are free from weeds, dust, mold, and evidence of rodent infestation.


In cases where horses are being fed a lot of grain, adding more forage to the diet can help to avoid problems such as gastric ulcers and hindgut acidity that may reduce appetite. Add forage as long-stem forage (hay or pasture) rather than chaff or other fiber sources. Offering at least 1% of body weight in forage per day is the best way to avoid digestive problems that may dull appetite.

The high glycemic index of grain feeds and the corresponding high blood sugar and insulin levels following grain meals can suppress appetite. As hard feed rations are increased, overall appetite is suppressed.

Horses find best-quality forage most palatable. The hay does not have to be prime lucerne (alfalfa) or clover hay; any clean hay that is free of dust and mold with plenty of leaf and not too much rough, woody stem that has been cured and stored correctly is preferred. Rough, stalky hay is retained in the digestive tract  longer than good-quality, leafy hay. This can affect appetite and intake of forage. Although this type of hay is unsuitable for picky eaters, it can be useful for overweight animals.

In horses that must consume concentrated energy, lucerne (alfalfa) or clover are good choices but are often better in combination with non-legume hays (grass, and cereal hays) than fed alone, where they can sometimes be too rich and cause scouring and further digestive upset.

B Vitamins:

In some cases, a deficiency of B vitamins can be the reason for suppressed appetite. Feeding plenty of forage ensures correct hindgut digestion, allowing adequate production of essential B vitamins in most cases. However, in horses that are working very hard, or those that are under stress or are scouring, B-vitamin production may fall short of requirements.

Supplementing B vitamins to horses with reduced appetite can stimulate appetite. Supplementation is best in an oral form rather than injectibles. For horses that refuse feed, mix powders with water, Give orally via a dosing syringe. Supplements should contain the full complex of B group vitamins at appropriate levels.

A course of daily supplementation for 14 to 20 days will help to stimulate appetite in horses that have gone off feed suddenly. Strategic supplementation prior to and at a show and competition can help to maintain appetite at these critical times. In some rare cases, regular supplementation seems to be required, with the horse going off feed as soon as the supplement is taken away, but correct nutritional and work balance can often alleviate inappetence enough that this is not necessary.

Oil and Fat:

In horses where no cause of poor appetite can be established, the owner or manager must come up with clever ways to get enough energy into the horse to do the job that is required in a safe way that will not affect the horse’s behavior or performance. High-fat feeds and fat/oil supplements can be a great way to get extra calories into the feed bucket in a relatively small volume of feed.

Oil and fat contains about three times the amount of energy as oats on a volume to volume basis. One cup of oil has about the same energy as 1 kg (2.2 lb) of oats. Adding oil or a high-fat supplement increases the energy density of the feed, making each mouthful more calorific.

Even if the horse only eats half of the supplemented feed, the calories taken in are significantly more than with grain feed alone. Appropriate oil choices are canola, corn (the most palatable), sunflower, or mixed vegetable oil. Choose only new oil. Avoid any oil claiming to be recycled or anything from the restaurant industry. This has been used for frying and has different properties from fresh oil.

Other high-fat supplements include rice bran, sunflower seeds, and soybean meal. These can be useful for horses with an aversion to oil. It can be used in combination with oil to reduce the overall volume of oil required. A regular amount is 1 to 2 cups of oil per day or a total of 1 to 2 kg (2.2 to 4.4 lb) of high-fat supplements with or without added oil.

Electrolytes and Salt:

Electrolytes and salt are very important in horse diets. Particularly in working horses. However, feeding too much can suppress appetite and reduce feed palatability. Generally, palatability is reduced once salt is included at more than 1% of the feed. With picky eaters, the tolerance level can be much lower than that.

In many cases, it is better to allow free-choice salt separately from the feed. Dose horses daily by syringe to get the right amount of salt and electrolytes into them. When adding or increasing salt in the feed, the best approach is to do it gradually. This will not always work with picky eaters. Yet, it can help to get the horse eating if no drastic changes are noticed in the feed.

In cases where it is imperative that the horse eats. For example, such as if the horse is sick and weak. If refusal of feed over a period of time while away at competition is affecting performance. If a horse is competing in a long-distance endurance event and is not eating well along the way. The smorgasbord approach can be very useful. Providing a range of different feedstuffs in an attempt to find something that the horse will voluntarily eat will help to satisfy the immediate requirement of getting something into the horse.

New Feedstuffs:

Do not offer new and strange feedstuffs to horses. However, in cases where the horse must eat something, this rule takes a back seat. Smorgasbord meals are usually small (around 0.5 to 1 kg or 1.1 to 2.2 lb per feed type). Once the horse has chosen a particular feed, the others are generally removed. Feedstuffs offered may include a variety of hay types. The preferred type may surprise owners who imagine that prime lucerne (alfalfa) must be the only hay they should try. Do not underestimate the palatability of fresh grass.

In terms of hard feed, the menu may include pellets. In addition, sweet feeds of different types (micronized, steam-flaked, and so on), and straight grains such as steam-flaked barley or straight oats. Leave additives and supplements out of the feed. However, additions such as carrots, apples, a little molasses, apple cider vinegar, or even fruit juice can sometimes be just the temptation the horse needs. The traditional bran mash can be a powerful tool in trying to tempt the picky eater.

A good helping of wheat bran or pollard with the addition of a handful of grain and perhaps some molasses and some carrots and/or apples soaked with warm water and fed fresh and warm can be to a horse as chicken soup is to a convalescing human patient. Bran mashes are often the first feed of choice in equine veterinary hospitals following surgery. For good reason: their proven palatability and as a great way of getting some vital fluids into a horse.

Dealing with picky eaters can be frustrating. The trick is to work out why the horse is not eating. Then, fix the root cause of the problem.


In conclusion, do you have questions about Strategies for Increasing Appetite and Tempting Picky Eaters? Contact us at J & J Hay Farms by clicking here!

Article by KER.

Analyzing Horse Hay: Low in Zinc and Copper?

Thursday, August 11th, 2022

Analyzing Horse Hay

Analyzing Horse Hay: Low in Zinc and Copper? Whether it’s fresh grass in a meadow or high-quality baled hay, forage is one of the most natural and nutritious feedstuffs available for horses. The best forage contains many of the vitamins and minerals needed for health and vigor, but not all.

“Many horsemen take the time to have hay analyzed. This speaks volumes for their commitment to the nutrition of their horses. Occasionally, test results reveal that hay is low in zinc, copper, sodium, and possibly other minerals,” said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).


“Depending on where the hay is grown, it might also be low in selenium. Because testing for selenium is expensive, some horsemen choose not to have hay analyzed for that macromineral. Similarly,  it is well known that vitamin content decreases significantly after hay is cut and stored. Therefore vitamin supplementation is warranted.”

It is tempting to buy separate mineral supplements—such as zinc and copper—to make up for the nutritional shortfalls in hay. However, employ caution. Too much of one or the other may throw off the balance between the two minerals. The solution lies in something much simpler: a balancer pellet or a high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement.

“If horses absolutely cannot withstand the calories provided by a well-fortified feed—and many easy keepers cannot—a balancer pellet or vitamin and mineral supplement works wonders to provide essential nutrients,” said Whitehouse. “Nutrients are concentrated. So these feedstuffs have low feeding rates, about 1-2 lb. (0.45-1 kg) for balancer pellets and mere ounces for vitamin and mineral supplements.”

The chief difference between the two products involves protein content, said Whitehouse. “The balancer pellet contains enough protein to fortify certain classes of horses beyond maintenance. This includes low-level performance horses and some breeding animals,” she explained, “whereas the supplement contains only vitamins and minerals, and no protein.”

Finally, forage is low in sodium. Horses should have access to loose salt or a salt block and fresh, clean water at all times.