Archive for the ‘Frontpage Article’ Category

Hay for Horses: A Question of Quality

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

Hay for Horses: A Question of QualityHay for Horses: A Question of Quality. Ask horse owners to describe a perfect flake of hay, and the diversity of responses may astonish. The owner of a plus-size pony may mention a blend of local pasture grasses, sweet-smelling and pillowy to the touch; another might specify densely packed alfalfa, bright green and laden with leaves. A third owner may extol the nutritional virtues of early-maturing timothy, with its long blades and barely-there seed heads.

Given the assortment of responses, it is safe to say that different management situations call for different hay. Italian researchers recently described three case studies in which hay caused unexpected problems in horses.*

Wounding potential of plants:

Impurities in hay are problematic on many levels, according to Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research. “Some hays are harvested when plants are too old and stalky or extremely weedy. When those weeds include toxic plants, hays transition from unworthy to wholly unacceptable, to be avoided at all costs.”

Somewhere in the middle lie those plants that are not poisonous but are nevertheless capable of injuring the horse. Particularly the soft tissues of the mouth and the esophagus.

In the first case study presented by the researchers, three horses with no pasture access began to refuse their forage, a low-quality meadow hay. The owners also noticed blood-tinged drool falling from the horses’ mouths. On physical inspection, the oral cavities of all three horses revealed painful, bloody lesions.

Examined Hay:

They examined the hay. It contained the seed heads of yellow foxtail (Setaria glauca) and barnyard grass (Echinochloa crusgalli). Samples of plant material removed from the gingiva of the horses matched these plants. With time and new forage, the horses recovered.

Yellow foxtail and barnyard grass both possess awns, stiff bristles that develop on the grain-sheaths of certain grasses. While awns may be soft and pliable when grasses are young, as plants mature, they become stiff and sharp, capable of piercing soft tissue and becoming wedged in the throat. Migrating awns may burrow and lodge deeply in tissue, leading to abscesses.

Examples of other injurious plants include cocklebur, stinging nettle, and thistles. “Many horses relish the taste of thistles. However, eradicate thistles from pastures whenever possible,” recommended Whitehouse.

“Purchasing hay from reputable growers who understand the needs of horse owners is the first step in protecting your horse from weeds and other unwanted vegetation,” Whitehouse explained. “The second step is visual inspection of the hay prior to feeding. Ultimately, it’s up to the owner to determine what he puts in front of his horse.”

Aggravation of irritated tissue:

Forage constitutes the basis for most equine diets. In the absence of pasture, hay often becomes the forage of choice. Occasionally, though, a health problem precludes the feeding of hay.

In the second case study, the researchers recount instances in which hay proved unsuitable for two horses, both of which had trouble swallowing, a condition called dysphagia: one horse was diagnosed with esophageal diverticulitis and another horse with selenium deficiency and related degeneration of the masseter muscle, the muscle responsible for closing the mouth.

Veterinarians assumed long-stem forage made swallowing more painful. They offered the horses hay pellets softened into a slurry. Appropriately, a balancer pellet to fulfill vitamin and mineral requirements was also offered to the horses. When choosing fortification, select a scientifically formulated balancer pellet or a research-proven vitamin and mineral supplement.

“Dysphagia often requires a short-term change in diet due to the irritating nature of some long-stem forages, especially mature, stemmy hays,” explained Whitehouse. “Alternative forage sources such as pellets are fitting substitutes. Make all changes in diet gradually whenever possible.”

Free fecal water syndrome:

Two horses were identified with signs suggestive of free fecal water syndrome. Veterinarians provided treatments to reduce signs, including probiotics and steroid therapy. None of the treatments worked, however. The diets of both horses included about 22 lb (10 kg) of meadow hay and 3 lb (1.4 kg) of high-starch concentrate daily.

For example, rework both diets. The amount of long-stem meadow hay was divided in half and provided by a different supplier with a notable uptick in quality. Replace the remaining half  with ground or pelleted meadow hay. The horses grazed more than they had. Up to 4 hours each day. Replace the high-starch concentrates with low-starch fibrous mixes. Increase the number of concentrate meals from three to four. With these diet changes, the horses showed improvement in free fecal water.

As a result, the researchers summarized that “feeding different kinds of forages leads to different patterns of microbial populations in the hindgut, and remodulating the diet may change these clusters of bacteria, positively affecting the predisposition of individual horses to free fecal water syndrome to digest the fiber, and improving their fecal characteristics.”

Gastrointestinal health revolves in part on the consistency of diet. Moderate the effect of dietary changes. The hindgut buffer maintains the pH of the cecum and colon. EquiShure is a  hindgut buffer. It supports gastrointestinal health.

In conclusion, do you have questions about Hay for Horses: A Question of Quality? Contact us at J & J Hay Farms by clicking here!

Resources:

Article by: Kentucky Equine Research

*Cavallini, D., L. Panazzi, E. Valle, F. Raspa, D. Bergero, A. Formigoni, and I. Fusaro. 2022. When changing the hay makes a difference: A series of case reports. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 113:103940.

Aged Horses: Digestion of Grain and Hay

Thursday, June 9th, 2022

Aged Horses: Digestion of Grain and Hay

Aged Horses: Digestion of Grain and Hay. In the mid-1980s, research on digestion in Quarter Horse and Thoroughbreds over the age of 20 revealed something. Senior horses had reduced apparent digestion of protein, phosphorus, and fiber relative to younger horses. Both groups were fed pelleted alfalfa (lucerne). In fact, the digestive profile for these aged horses was very similar to that reported for horses that had 90% of their large colons removed.

Trials:

Two subsequent digestion trials on aged horses still showed reductions in digestibility. However, the differences, especially in protein, were not as apparent. In the first trial, horses were fed hay plus a commercial sweet feed or one formulated specifically for aged horses. After an adaptation period, fecal analysis showed differences in apparent digestibility. The senior feed yielded better digestibility of protein and calcium. The difference could have been related to higher intake of these nutrients in the senior feed.

In the second trial, aged mares were fed hay and a commercial sweet feed. In addition, daily injections of equine somatotropin. For these horses, analysis showed that apparent digestion levels of protein, phosphorus, and calcium were within normal limits.

Comparing Results:

Comparing results of digestion trials that used different feeds, horses, and conditions is somewhat risky. Sarah Ralston, V.M.D., Ph.D., the investigator who performed all the trials, said. However, the trend toward increased digestibility from older to more recent research has several possible explanations.

One potentially significant difference between the studies was that some of the horses in earlier studies were in thin body condition and had poor dental condition. Horses in the more recent studies were in fair to good body condition with no major dental abnormalities.

Advances in deworming products might be another factor that has contributed to more efficient nutrient digestion. With fewer parasites and less scarring of the intestinal surface, more recent generations of horses could be expected to have better digestion of protein, phosphorus, and fiber.

This idea has been borne out by some current findings on digestion of nutrients by older horses. Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., equine nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research, said, “Today’s older horses do not automatically require changes to their main diet if they are in good health and body condition. This is because no statistically significant differences in the apparent digestibility of energy, neutral detergent fiber, crude protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorus have been found as long as horses are otherwise healthy.”

In conclusion, do you have questions about Aged Horses: Digestion of Grain and Hay? Contact us at J & J Hay Farms by clicking here!

Resources:

Article by: Kentucky Equine Research

Rhizoma Peanut Hay for Horses

Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

Rhizoma Peanut Hay for HorsesRhizoma Peanut Hay for Horses: When horsemen think of legume hay, alfalfa invariably springs to mind with clover or lespedeza as possible runners-up. Few people probably think of rhizoma peanut (Arachis glabrata Benth), a warm-season perennial legume. While rhizoma peanut gets high marks for productivity and persistence in varying management and environmental conditions, how does it stack up nutritionally against alfalfa, the long-revered gold standard of legumes for horses?

Researchers at the University of Florida intended to find out by comparing rhizoma peanut with alfalfa and bermudagrass in terms of nutrient intake, apparent digestibility, and nitrogen balance in mature horses at maintenance.*

Quarter Horse geldings were assigned randomly to one of the three hay treatments for three 21-day experimental periods. Each experimental period consisted of a 14-day adaptation period followed by three days of total fecal and urine collection, and then a four-day rest. During each period, horses were fed a particular hay at 2% of body weight per day in three meals. Consequently, researchers collected core samples of all hays to determine nutrient composition.

The researchers concluded that “rhizoma peanut is a high-quality legume hay providing nutrient intake and digestibility intermediate between alfalfa and bermudagrass. For example, the nutrients provided by rhizoma peanut hay meet the nutritional needs of horses at maintenance, while resulting in less nitrogen excretion than alfalfa.” However, in light of environmental concerns centering around nitrogen, horse owners may choose to feed rhizoma peanut hay when available and appropriate for the intended horses.

Key points concerning rhizoma peanut hay include:

Rhizoma peanut hay should not be confused with “peanut hay” or annual peanut hay, which is made from the plants that remain after peanut harvest. Therefore, hay made from annual peanuts is unsuitable for horses, as it is usually sandy, dusty, stemmy, and low in nutritional value.**

As a warm-season perennial, rhizoma peanut hay tends to grow well in areas in which alfalfa does not.
Similarly, horses find rhizoma peanut hay as palatable as alfalfa. In one study horses preferred rhizoma peanut hay to alfalfa hay, potentially because the horses favored the finer stems of the rhizoma peanut.+

Rhizoma peanut is often used like alfalfa, as a source of supplemental calories. Subsequently, because of its palatability, overconsumption may result in excess body condition in easy keepers.

While all-forage diets are appropriate for many horses, forages do not provide a complete complement of nutrients needed for optimal health. Above all, horses on all-forage diets should be supplemented with a high-quality vitamin and mineral product.

In conclusion, do you have questions about Rhizoma Peanut Hay? Contact us at J & J Hay Farms by clicking here!

Resources:

Article by: Kentucky Equine Research

In addition:

*Vasco, A.C.C.M., K.J. Brinkley-Bissinger, J.M. Bobel, J.C.B. Dubeaux Jr., L.K. Warren, and C.L. Wickens. 2021. Digestibility and nitrogen and water balance in horses fed rhizoma peanut hay. Journal of Animal Science 99(11):1-9.
**Hill, G.M. 2002. Peanut by-products fed to cattle. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice 18:295-315.
+Lieb, S., E.A. Ott, and E.C. French. 1993. Digestible nutrients and voluntary intake of rhizomal peanut hay, alfalfa, bermudagrass, and bahiagrass hays by equine. In: Proc. 13th Equine Nutrition and Physiology Society, Gainesville, p. 98.

 

Use of Cover Crops in Horse Pastures

Thursday, May 26th, 2022

 otherwiseCover CropsUse of Cover Crops in Horse Pastures:

Though it is still only late spring, consider cover crops ahead of time. Many farms plant them in the late summer or early fall. They provide protective ground cover during the winter. The crops are then grazed, harvested, or tilled into the soil in the spring. In addition to erosion control and protection of water quality, cover crops have favorable effects on soil structure, weed suppression, and biodiversity. The use of cover crops on horse operations has not been studied until recently. Researchers in the Midwestern United States evaluated several cover crop forages in pastures specifically intended for horses.*

Depending on the plant species, cover crops offer various, and oftentimes specific, benefits. Annual ryegrass and winter have many uses. For example, their high germination rates, ease of establishment, and efficiency in covering barren soil, all of which foster weed suppression and forage output. The nitrogen fixation properties of legumes, like berseem clover, boost soil fertility. Taproot species, such as purple top turnip and daikon radish, loosen shallow layers of compacted soil. In addition, they scavenge residual nitrogen. Leaching may have taken it. The channels created by the growing taproot, a process called “biodrilling,” allow other pasture plants to more easily access soil nutrients and moisture.

Horse Owner Perks:

In addition to soil and environmental advantages, cover crops offer a particular perk to horse owners. They can prolong the grazing season and reduce the reliance on preserved forages, particularly hay, in the late fall. In years when hay is expensive or in short supply, this may prove advantageous.

The objectives of this study were to evaluate forage mass, forage nutrient composition, and preference of annual ryegrass, winter rye, berseem clover, purple top turnip, and daikon radish by horses. Forage mass is the total dry weight of forage per unit of land.

Four mature mares grazed seeded-singularly-or-as-mixtures-cover-crops for two consecutive fall seasons. Prior to grazing, forages were sampled to determine forage mass, root mass, and nutrient composition. To estimate preference after grazing, forages were visually assessed by researchers for the percentage of removal on a scale of 0 (no grazing activity) to 100% (all available forage grazed).

Berseem clover was the lowest producing forage. Minimal differences existed among the other cover crops. Horses preferred the berseem clover. The preferred turnip and radish least. Winter rye and annual ryegrass in monoculture and when seeded with berseem clover were moderately preferred (20%–68% removal). These species also met the digestible energy and crude protein needs of sedentary mature horses. However, the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio was inverted.

In Conclusion:

According to the researchers, “placing a priority on preference, berseem clover, annual ryegrass, and winter rye appear to be suitable cover crops to extend the grazing season in horse pastures.”

“While grazing pastures may seem the most natural of feeding systems for horses, health concerns can make grazing specific plants dangerous for certain horses,” noted Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research. “When planning any upgrade to a grazing area, consider the horses that will eventually graze it. Select proper forages for horses predisposed to laminitis or other metabolic challenges. Consider their needs and long-term well-being.” Limit grazing to certain times of the day.

Resources:

In conclusion, do you have questions about the Use of Cover Crops in Horse Pastures? Contact us at J & J Hay Farms by clicking here!

Article by: Kentucky Equine Research

*Prigge, J.L., C.C. Sheaffer, J.M. Jungers, A.L. Jaqueth, H.L. Lochner, and K.L. Martinson. 2021. Forage characteristics and grazing preference of cover crops in equine pasture systems. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 103:103663.

Best Practices for Managing 4 Types of Forage

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

Managing 4 Types of Forage : cows in pastureBest practices for managing 4 types of forage: Capitalize on your forage management to optimize cattle nutrition.

 Each forage type comes with its own challenges and management considerations. And, honing in forage management can help support cattle nutrition needs – and your bottom line.

Take advantage of these best practices for each of the four different forage types

 Cool Season Forages: 

Fescue is the dominant forage in the U.S. because it’s a hardy forage that can stand up to grazing pressure. However, it doesn’t come without challenges. The predominant fescue variety comes with the risk of endophyte toxicity. Endophyte toxicity occurs when livestock consume fungal endophytes present in the seed head of grass. Fungal endophytes contain ergot alkaloids that can be detrimental to livestock, causing lower feed intake, reduced weight gain and decreased fertility.

 An easy method to manage endophytes in fescue is to clip the grass using a tractor-pulled mower before the grass heads out. You can also manage endophytes by inter-seeding legumes like grazing alfalfas, white clover and red clover. These legumes provide additional forage sources and offset the risk of endophytes. Legumes also benefit overall pasture health by providing nitrogen fixation for the soil and extending the grazing season.

 With any cool season forage, whether it be fescue, brome or another grass, watch out for grass tetany during the early spring flush. Feeding a mineral high in magnesium, like Purina® Wind and Rain® Hi-Mag, can help supplement your herd.

Warm Season Forages: 

There are many options to graze cattle effectively with warm season forages, from improved forages in the southern U.S. like Bahiagrass and Bermudagrass to the native tall grass and short grass ranges to the west. Warm season grasses tend to take off when cool season grasses lose productivity. If you have access to both warm and cool season forages, you’ve got a complementary program.

The biggest challenge with warm season forage is stocking density. Warm season forages typically can’t support the same grazing pressure as cool season forages. Maintain moderate stocking densities for your area and use a rotational grazing system that moves cattle from grazed to rested pasture. If your pastures are too large to fence for rotational grazing, consider using mineral or supplement sites to maximize forage use. Cattle will seek the pasture for minerals and supplements, which you can use to your advantage.

Another challenge with warm season forages is that stem growth tends to outrun leaf growth as the growing season continues. When the stem-to-leaf ratio gets too far out of line, forage quality drops because there are more carbohydrates and less protein and energy. Keep supplemental nutrient sources available to cattle on warm season pasture to ensure their nutrient needs are met throughout the grazing season. Purina® Accuration® block or Purina® RangeLand® protein tubs, along with minerals, can help extend the grazing season and make best use of forages.

Cover Crops: 

It’s been trendy the last few years to use mixes of cover crops like turnips, forage sorghums, rye and clover to get more grazing from crop fields. But, grazing systems with mono-crops have existed for a lot longer. Wheat pasture, for instance, has been used to grow calves and maintain cow herds before the grain crop goes to head. Sudangrass has made efficient summertime grazing, too.

An important factor in grazing any forage, particularly cover crops, is to have mineral available year-round. Cover crops might be the lushest forage your herd has all year, but cattle may not fully utilize it. Offering mineral helps maintain an animal’s rumen microbes, which in turn impacts forage utilization and feed efficiency.

Much like traditional perennial cool season grasses, you should feed a high-magnesium mineral in the spring and fall due to grass tetany risk. Bloat can also be a concern in lush cover crops. Feeding a mineral with an ionophore, like Purina®Wind and Rain® minerals, or keeping bloat guard blocks at the mineral site can help.

Monitor nitrate and prussic acid poisoning when using cover crops containing forage sorghums, Sudangrass, millet and green grazed corn, or even if field edges have Johnson grass. Have fields tested, especially if forages get too far ahead of cattle before or during grazing. Drought years also increase concern for nitrates since the stalks of those stemmy plants naturally hold more nitrates when dry.

Hay & Silage: 

Stored forages help extend forage use throughout the year, and both hay and silage have their unique places in beef cattle rations.

Silage quality is particularly important, whether the forage is fed to weaned calves or mature cows. Harvest silage when it’s at its peak for protein and energy to maximize quality rather than yield. Once harvested, storage should be your next emphasis. Focus on packing silage piles tight, using an inoculant to reduce mycotoxins, and covering piles to prevent spoilage.

Also focus on hay quality. The term “cow-quality hay” is often used to describe poorer quality forages used to feed beef cows. Yes, you can feed fibrous, low-quality hay to cows, but you’re likely going to need more supplementation to keep them in an adequate body condition score 6. Putting up good-quality hay to start helps reduce the need to feed as much supplement.

 Before you start feeding hay or silage, pull samples for testing. A forage test helps determine protein and energy levels. With those levels as your baseline, you can determine the amount of supplement needed to support your herd. If everything goes perfectly, you may only need to feed mineral to balance the ration. Connect with your Purina® dealer to work on a forage management plan.

Resources:

In conclusion, do you have questions about the Best Practices for Managing 4 Types of Forage? Contact us at J & J Hay Farms by clicking here!

Source: Ted Perry, Purina Cattle Nutritionist

Pasture Adequacy: Are Your Fields Doing Their Job?

Thursday, May 12th, 2022

Pasture Adequacy: Are Your Fields Doing Their Job?Pasture Adequacy: Are Your Fields Doing Their Job? As herbivores, horses require large volumes of forages for optimal well-being. Just how much forage do horses require, though?

To calculate accurately how forage contributes to the overall feeding program of horses, know forage intake as well as composition. Determine hay intake simply by recording the total weight of hay offered minus any hay wasted or refused. This record does not take into account the differences in composition between hay that is eaten and not eaten. However it is accurate enough to do an adequate field evaluation.

Pasture intake is significantly more difficult to estimate. This measure varies depending on the season, species, and quality of pasture grazed, and the total amount of time horses are allowed to graze. Horses will generally eat about 1-1.4 lb (0.45-0.64 kg) of pasture grasses and legumes per hour on a dry matter basis if they have enough pasture available. With all-day access to good-quality pasture, a horse grazing 17 hours each day can consume up to 25 lb (11 kg) of forage. It’s more than enough to satisfy forage requirement.

Make distinctions between absolute minimum, recommended minimum, typical, and maximal forage intake.

Absolute minimum forage requirement is 1% of body weight (10 lb or 4.5 kg dry forage for a 1000-lb or 450-kg horse).

Recommended minimum forage intake requirement is 1.5% of body weight.

Typical forage intake is 1.8 to 2.2% of body weight.

Maximal forage intake for most horses is 3 to 3.5% of body weight, though lactating mares and other horses with extreme energy needs might consume as much as 5% of body weight daily.

Does My Pasture Offer My Horse Enough to Eat?

Pastures offer horses the most natural of feedstuffs, a variety of plants to derive nutrients. Well-maintained pasture provides the most economical of all feedstuffs, but it must be of sufficient quality to nourish a given horse appropriately. Take a peek into the lives of these five horses and determine if the pasture suits its occupant. When you’re through, think about your own situation, and decide if you’re using your pastures to their utmost.

Overweight pony

Description of horse: A 14-hand, 750-lb (340-kg) overweight Welsh pony gelding.

Scenario: The only exercise he indulges in is whatever it takes to grab the next bite of grass or saunter to the water trough. He is on a five-acre lot with one small pony. Year-round the pasture is maintained meticulously. How much forage is this pony likely consuming each day? Using the aforementioned estimates, he is likely eating at least 17 lb, which is approximately 2.2% of his body weight. Considering his current body condition, he is probably taking in too many calories.

Risk: Many ponies are predisposed to laminitis. A debilitating condition that could render the pony useless as a riding or driving partner. Laminitis is life-threatening in many instances. If the pony manages to sidestep laminitis, the constant state of obesity is likely setting him up for metabolic conditions later in life.

Action: Reduce the forage intake by confining the pony to a stall or drylot for part of the day or by using a grazing muzzle. He should be fed no concentrates at all. In fact, a low-calorie vitamin and mineral supplement is a wise addition to his diet. Placing the water source as far away as possible from the most desired grazing areas is one strategy for getting him to move more. Forced exercise such as riding, driving, longeing, or hand-walking will help him lose weight. It will stave off the development of metabolic issues.

Off-the-track Thoroughbred

Description of horse:

A 16.2-hand Thoroughbred gelding that was recently retired from the racetrack. His ribs are clearly visible. His withers are peaked and camel-like. The hip bones jut out prominently.

Scenario:

He has been introduced into a herd of five other horses, all of which run on about four acres of pasture. The late-summer pasture has suffered from a lack of rainfall. The pasture grass is not completely dormant, thanks to the occasional rain shower, but growth is slow, and there are obvious lawns and roughs (areas in which horses graze consistently and areas in which horse refuse to graze; this pasture profile is a sign of infrequent mowing or spotty pasture management).

Risk:

The primary risk for this horse is insufficient forage, as the stocking rate for this pasture is high, with less than one acre per horse. A more realistic stocking rate is one to two acres per horse. This recommendation varies depending on numerous factors such as pasture care and weather. There might be much for this horse to nibble on throughout the day. However the quality of the grass at his disposal is mediocre. Therefore, he is probably not satisfying his forage requirements on pasture alone.

Action:

Separate this horse from the herd when fed. This ensures that he receives all of the feed intended for him. In addition it allows the horse to eat peacefully without anxiety caused by horses that might be more dominant than him. A diet of concentrate and good-quality hay is in order. The concentrate should provide energy from a variety of sources such as starch, fat, and fermentable fiber. Feed him as much hay as he will eat when he is separated from the other horses. A large horse such as this will take months to gain sufficient weight to cover his bony protuberances, so patience is paramount.

Lactating mare

Description of horse:

A 15-hand, 1000-lb (450-kg) Paint mare in moderate body condition with a two-month-old colt at her side.

Scenario:

This pair shares a 10-acre field with two other mares and their month-old foals. The pasture is adequate. It has not been seeded or fertilized in several years. Adequate rainfall has ensured that there is plenty of forage. The manager keeps the pasture mowed so that it is never more than a foot and a half tall. Mares are fed the lowest recommended daily amount of a concentrate specifically formulated for broodmares once each day in shallow rubber pans spread about 50 feet apart. Mares show mild antagonism toward each other during feeding time, and this Paint mare is the meekest and most submissive in the group.

Risk:

There seems to be very little risk of this mare not consuming adequate forage under these conditions, despite consuming at least 30-35 lb (14 to 16 kg) of forage daily and perhaps more. The stocking rate is adequate for this field and its inhabitants at just over three acres for each mare/foal pair. There may be concern if the pasture was in some way stressed, such as during a drought. As it stands, these broodmares and foals are likely receiving adequate nutrition from their current diets, including sufficient forage.

Action:

Keep a close eye on the condition of the mare. Peak milk production occurs two to three months following birth, so this mare is probably nearing her maximal milk output. Lactation is extremely hard on a mare from an energy-output perspective. If her weight begins to drop off, consider increasing her concentrate intake. This will likely mean that she will have to be fed two meals a day. No single meal should be more than 5 lb (2.2 kg).

Aged, sedentary gelding

Description of horse:

A 26-year-old Morgan gelding with several missing teeth (a couple incisors and a few molars). His body condition seems to be slipping over the past several months despite carte blanche access to pasture.

Scenario:

He whiles away the hours with another pensioner on mediocre pasture. Though the three-acre field is weedy, there seems to be sufficient grass for the pair of geldings. In addition to all-day grazing, he is fed a few pounds of oats once each day.

Risks:

The pasture quality is probably adequate for these two horses. This gelding might have issues nipping sufficient grass because of the lost incisors. The severity of this situation will depend on which incisors are missing. Similarly, he might not be able to properly grind the oats. Especially if certain molars have fallen out or if there are other dental anomalies.

Action:

Examine the gelding’s teeth using a veterinarian. The state of his teeth will dictate the course of action. This warrants a change in dietary management likely. Offer him early-maturity, soft hay that is easy for him to grasp with his lips and chew with his remaining cheek teeth if the incisors are found to be incompatible with efficient grazing. An example would be leafy alfalfa (lucerne).

He may leave some of the stems in favor of the tender leaves. However the leaves contain the most nutrients. Revisit the concentrate portion of the diet as well. Without a reliably strong dental surface on which to chew textured concentrates, it might be wise to switch to a pelleted senior feed or concoct a wet mash. If alfalfa is also too difficult for the horse to chew, hay cubes or hay pellets may be fed as a mash with a concentrate designed for senior horses.

Low-level athlete

Description of horse:

A 12-year-old Andalusian gelding. He rides four or five times weekly. This is as a lower-level dressage horse. He is overweight but not grossly so.

Grazing scenario:

He spends about two-thirds of his time in a two-acre lot that he shares with a similar-sized gelding. The pasture offers little in the way of lush grass. However there is plenty to snack on when he is out. He is given just enough textured feed to mix in a pelleted vitamin and mineral supplement when stalled. In addition, a few flakes of mid-quality grass hay.

Risks:

Few risks are readily apparent. The horse is overweight. Take appropriate measures keep excessive weight off of him (very little concentrate, and middle-of-the-road hay and pasture). Still supply him with macro- and microminerals. The near-daily exercise will help ward off potential metabolic problems if he is genetically prone to them. As a member of a notoriously easy-keeping breed, he might be.

Action:

In his present management situation, no alterations are necessary. If a drastic change is made in his day-to-day life, such as cessation of exercise or assignment to a flourishing pasture with lush grass, re-evaluation of his nutritional management would most definitely be in order.

Resources:

In conclusion, do you have questions about Pasture Adequacy: Are Your Fields Doing Their Job? Contact us at J & J Hay Farms by clicking here!

Article Sources: Kentucky Equine Research

Why Can’t I Get My Horse Fat?

Thursday, May 5th, 2022

Why Can’t I Get My Horse Fat?Why Can’t I Get My Horse Fat? Do you know of a hard keeper that has gained or maintained weight consistently on a feeding program until one day he just doesn’t? The needle hovers near a body condition of 5, lulling you into a sense of accomplishment. Then it begins to shift left, ever so slowly. As time goes on, your hard work melts away. The metabolic middle ground known as moderate body condition seems more distant than ever. The ribs peek out from his barrel; the vertebral chain juts above his topline musculature; and the neck no longer carries even a single globule of fat.

You panic and rush to buy a weight-gain supplement. Before hitting up your favorite supplement retailer, consider your horse’s diet, health, and lifestyle.  According to Chelsea Kaelin, a nutrition advisor who has been with Kentucky Equine Research for over a decade, horse owners should review these five important areas before implementing a new weight-gain plan.

Realistically assess forage quality and quantity:

If you’ve been around horses long enough, you know what a high-quality stand of pasture looks like.For example, an abundance of nutritious plants with few weeds, usually the product of a sound maintenance program that includes mowing, fertilization, reseeding, and weed control. Depending on locale, pasture may be available year-round. For many horse owners, though, pasture is a seasonal benefit. They must rely on hay to provide forage at different times of the year.

Appropriate hay for horses comes in many packages: it might be grass, legume, or mixed; it could be soft and pillowy or stemmy and scratchy; perhaps bright green or dull yellow; it could be free of weeds or full of unidentifiable plants. A reliable source of nutritional information for all forages—pasture and hay—is laboratory testing, which is inexpensive and readily available through several mail-in services.

The amount of forage depends on other ration components. A general guideline for an underweight horse may include free-access to pasture during the growing season (assuming the horse has no metabolic conditions) or free-choice access to hay when pasture is unavailable. When pasture is not available and free-choice hay is not possible, start with 1.5-2% of body weight of hay or hay products (pellets, cubes, chopped). If he cleans up this, you may consider offering more.

“When feeding to achieve weight gain, be sure to offer hay your horse will eat willingly,” Kaelin recommended. “Although you may provide free-choice round-baled hay during turnout, it is important to know if your horse is actually eating it so you can make the necessary adjustments to make sure his forage requirements are met.”

Consider all aspects of the chosen concentrate:

When faced with a hard keeper, choosing a high-energy concentrate is often appropriate. How that energy is delivered depends on the product, though. In traditional formulas, starch provides the most energy because these feeds typically contain significant quantities of cereal grains, such as oats, corn, and barley. Grains usually contain about 50% more energy than good-quality hay. This makes them ideal feedstuffs for horses with elevated energy requirements.

More modern formulas may contain some starch as well as alternative energy sources, namely fat and fiber. Fat is usually included in the form of vegetable oil or stabilized rice bran, whereas fiber is typically incorporated through the use of beet pulp, soy hulls and alfalfa meal. Be sure you are feeding the appropriate concentrate for your hard keeper.

“In deciding how much of a concentrate to feed, consult the manufacturer’s recommendation. It will be included on the feed bag or on an attached tag,” Kaelin explained. In order for horses to receive the fortification guaranteed on the label, they must consume at least the minimum recommended by the manufacturer. It is usually about 6 lb (2.7 kg) for most feeds. When considering what is necessary for a hard keeper, the owner is likely going to feed at the top range of the recommendation.

In general, concentrate meal size should not exceed 5 lb (2.3 kg) at each feeding, Kaelin said, so multiple meals each day may be necessary. Horses fed over 10 lb (4.5 kg) of concentrate daily would likely benefit from three or four small meals a day.

Targeted supplementation to support the digestive tract:

  When careful attention is given to meal size, horses usually have no trouble digesting concentrates. Large concentrate meals that meet or exceed the 5 lb (2.3 kg) limit may predispose horses to gastric ulcers and hindgut acidosis. Pairing this increased risk with the stress of training or travel can create a perfect scenario for digestive disturbances. In these instances, targeted supplementation can prevent disturbances which, in turn, allows the digestive tract to work optimally.

While free-choice access to forage can significantly reduce the likelihood of ulceration in many horses, it is not the case for all horses. When faced with a hard keeper, consider an endoscopic examination to determine definitively if the horse has gastric ulcers.

“Identifying where the ulcers are located (glandular or squamous portion) will help your vet determine the most effective treatment plan,” Kaelin explained. “A course of omeprazole can clear the ulcers, but digestive support does not end when omeprazole treatment ends. Continue preventive care with a research-proven digestive supplement designed to deter the recurrence of gastric ulcers.”

Once the foregut has been addressed, consider the hindgut. When the small intestine becomes overwhelmed, it funnels incompletely digested feed into the hindgut. This can upset the pH of the hindgut and interfere with the work of the resident microbes. To keep pH steady, a hindgut buffer, such as EquiShure, should be fed.

Evaluate other management and environmental factors:

Outside influences may hinder weight gain. One common problem involves group feeding. In a herd situation, horses usually construct a well-defined social hierarchy that dictates which horses consume the choicest meals. When a hard keeper is placed in a group of horses and does not tease out as dominant in the pecking order, he may be chased away from feeders by multiple horses, adding to any stress he is already enduring. Giving a hard keeper a safe place to eat will allow him to relax.

Adverse weather can also be problematic for hard keepers. In the summer, flying insects may annoy to the point of running; in the winter, cold temperatures and precipitation can divert calories from weight gain to body heat. A watchful eye on behavior during weather extremes can help hard keepers. Relieve horses from the torment of flies by stalling and using other effective pest-control strategies. Keep them warm by blanketing and providing plenty of good-quality forage.

Gather a team of healthcare professionals:

Modern horses benefit from an unprecedented font of knowledge available to their owners. Advances in feeds and nutritional supplements, preventive dentistry, lameness detection and resolution, alternative therapies, and core vaccinations provide multilayered healthcare options to owners.

When it comes to a hard keeper, three core professionals include a veterinarian, dental specialist, and nutritionist. As mentioned previously, a vet will likely investigate digestive issues but may also look for pain elsewhere. Even low-level chronic pain can keep some horses from gaining weight. A dentist will correct any dental problems and then maintain teeth on a semiannual or annual schedule. A nutritionist will carefully review the ration and devise a weight-gain strategy as well as lay out a realistic timeline for increases in body condition. (Bummer alert: it doesn’t happen as quickly as most people wish!)

“In most instances, hard keepers will come around if owners pay careful attention to their nutrition and health needs,” Kaelin concluded.

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Article Sources: Kentucky Equine Research

Refeeding the Starved Horse

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

Refeeding the Starved HorseRefeeding the Starved Horse: Horses, like other animals, use the food they eat to meet the requirements of growth and maintenance. Horses eat enough grass, hay, and grain to provide plenty of energy for body functions as well as whatever exercise they are required to perform under normal circumstances. They can sustain most functions for some time when low levels of feed are available. However, weight loss may result as stored fat is burned. As the period of low or no feed is extended, they utilize protein (tissue from muscles, heart, and gastrointestinal tract) for energy. It is this burning of protein and resultant loss of body mass that differentiates a starved horse from one that is merely low on calories for a short period.

What’s the best way to begin rehabilitation of starved horses?

Bringing a starved horse back to good health and body weight is a difficult task. It may take three to five months of careful management. Even with the best of care, some horses will not survive. Especially those that have lost as much as 50% of their normal body weight.

Note: before any treatment is started, it is critical to determine whether weight loss is due to underfeeding, or results from a medical condition that has caused the horse to stop eating. Treatment is quite different in each case. Caregivers should not assume that an extremely thin horse has simply not had access to feed. Suggestions in this article refer to horses that have been deprived of adequate food for an extended period, but are otherwise in good health.

Physical examination is the first step in rehabilitation, but caretakers need to proceed slowly and cautiously. Horses in poor bodily condition may have received little or no handling or training. They are almost certainly under stress because of being transported and adjusting to new surroundings and handlers. To minimize excitement and avoid injury, quiet, gentle handling is advised.

Frequently, a starved horse has had minimal attention to teeth, hooves, coat, vaccinations, and parasite control. Postpone vaccinations until the horse is in better condition. Reshape overgrown hooves a little at a time in frequent trims. Avoid reactions to large number of dead parasites with several half-dose dewormings. A veterinarian can advise on specific ways to correct any problems associated with neglect, but the general rule is to proceed in small steps. Start hay and feed very gradually.

Why is it dangerous to simply give the horse all the food it will eat?

The natural tendency of caregivers may be to offer a starved horse free-choice hay or pasture. However, this approach can cause a serious or even fatal reaction known as refeeding syndrome. A sudden overload of calories shocks all body systems, and frequently leads to death three to five days after unlimited feeding commences. Although the horse may be ravenous, a strict schedule of frequent mini-meals is the safest course of action.

What type of diet is best for starved horses?

A study at the UC-Davis Center for Equine Health experimented. They fed three diets to starved horses seized by animal control and humane organizations. Diet one was oat hay, which is high in fiber but low in protein. The second was alfalfa hay, which is high in protein but lower in starch.

Diet three was a complete feed that combined grain, fat, molasses, and alfalfa and contained 19% starch. The horses were offered the diets. They varied in volume but contained the same caloric content, for ten days. Horses responded best to the alfalfa hay diet. In addition to protein, alfalfa provides necessary electrolytes that have become depleted in starved horses.

Alfalfa’s relatively low starch content did not cause a steep rise in insulin, a reaction that can contribute to kidney, heart, and respiratory failure in horses without sufficient electrolyte stores. The oat hay, with its high fiber content, caused diarrhea in some horses, and the high-carbohydrate feed triggered a dangerous insulin spike.

In another trial, two equal-calorie diets—alfalfa hay, and alfalfa hay with corn oil—were evaluated. Again, alfalfa hay was judged superior for initial feedings. It provided a better range of nutrients in addition to calories.

How should hay be offered?

The most cautious recommendation is to give a handful (no more than a pound) of alfalfa hay. Do this every three to four hours, to total about six to eight pounds in 24 hours for a horse weighing 1000 pounds. Continue for the first three days. Gradually increase the amount of hay and decrease the number of feedings ff the horse tolerates this program with no diarrhea or other problems. By the sixth day, the horse should be receiving three or four pounds of hay every six to eight hours (12 to 13 pounds per day). Increase amounts of hay gradually. 10 to 14 days into the program, the horse is eating free-choice hay. Use clean grass or mixed hay if alfalfa causes severe diarrhea.

When can concentrated feed be given?

Carefully introduce grain to avoid metabolic problems even after the horse is eating a large quantity of hay. The ten-day trial in the UC-Davis experiment did not offer concentrate. In some recommended treatments, grain is not fed until the third or fourth week,. Subsequently, give very small amounts (four ounces twice a day.) Very gradually, increase grain until the horse is eating the desired amount. The daily amount of grain should not exceed one percent of the horse’s body weight (10 pounds a day for a horse weighting 1000 pounds.) No single feeding should exceed five pounds of grain. A fortified concentrate with 12% protein is adequate for the rehabilitation of mature horses. Introduce salt slowly, beginning at a rate of 2 ounces a day. Water should always be available.

What if the horse refuses food?

Pain, illness, fever, and stress may depress the horse’s appetite. In addition, he may simply not have the energy to chew and swallow. Tempt horses that refuse to eat with a little fresh grass, oats, bran mash, or treats such as carrots or apples. Offer only a small amount. Remove uneaten food from the feed tub.

What is the prognosis for starved horses?

A sound nutritional plan, along with careful attention from a handler, veterinarian, and farrier, can save many starved horses. Recovery may take several months. During this time evaluate and treat each horse on an individual basis.

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Article Sources: Kentucky Equine Research

 

Mudbound: Feeding Horses in Muddy Pastures

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

Feeding Horses in Muddy PasturesMudbound: Feeding Horses in Muddy Pastures.  When it comes to horse care, mud makes everything harder. How can horse owners deal with sloppy mud and still provide wholesome meals to their horses?

Here are some tips:

Keep hay off the ground

That’s not as easy as it sounds, is it? In a perfect world, every horse will consume every stem and every leaf of every flake of hay ever offered. In reality, horses are prone to wasting hay. When it’s muddy, it seems the waste is even more abundant. What to do? Hay feeders that stand off the ground are one option. Horses will yank hay from these feeders, sometimes vigorously, so some hay still hits the ground, but less is wasted. Some of these feeders can hold more than one bale of hay, which can make feeding multiple horses more efficient.

For owners that feed round bales, specially designed feeders can keep hay tidy. Be sure to use feeders intended for horses. Feeders engineered for cattle are sometimes not appropriate for horses. Because of height differences between species, small horses and ponies can become trapped in them.

One resourceful owner placed old stall mats over a stone base to create a sizeable area in a paddock. She fed hay out of an old, cracked water trough that was anchored to fence posts. Any hay that landed on the mats stayed dry and clean, and fallen hay remained palatable and was easily retrieved by horses. A hose and a stiff-bristled broom was all that was needed to scrub the mats when they became dirty.

If the horse is in a pasture or paddock with lots of grass and only areas around feeders are muddy, toss hay into different grassy areas each day. This will keep areas from becoming too churned up from excessive traffic.

Provide concentrates in feeders

Many horse owners cringe when horses fling or drop grain onto the stall floor. The same owners wince when horses try to gather dropped grain from muddy ground. How can this be avoided?

Deep, weighted feeders are the best bet. Some horsemen have fashioned feeders from old tires by securing a bucket or pan inside the tire. Horses have difficulty overturning a tire even with aggressive pawing. Soft rubber pans are popular, but they are easily flipped or stomped. The deeper the feeder, the harder it is for the horse to sling grain from it.

Consider feed form

Certain feed companies provide some formulations as large, easy-to-feed pellets or cubes, measuring about 0.5 inch (1.25 cm). These cubes are convenient for outdoor feeding situations because they can be easily picked up from the ground by horses if dropped. Some managers feed these large cubes directly off grassy ground.

Consider pecking order

When feeding a group of horses, be aware of who’s boss and who’s not, and tailor feeding programs to keep mealtimes as peaceful as possible. This is doubly important in mud, as horses will be unable to retreat from aggressive horses as quickly and injuries may occur.

One suggestion: place feeders or hay piles far from one another to keep a dominant horse from attempting to control more than a single feeding station. Thirty to forty feet of space between feeders will generally deter even the most determined alpha horse from seizing more than his fair share.

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Article Sources: Kentucky Equine Research

Springtime Weight Gain in Horses

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Horses in SpringtimeSpringtime Weight Gain in Horses: Winter can be hard on horses. When spring arrives, it is not unusual to find that a horse has dropped weight during the coldest months. When the mercury drops, a horse requires more energy to maintain body temperature. Winter is especially challenging for senior horses and young horses, who have a harder time maintaining body temperature. A sound nutrition program and suitable exercise can help remedy loss of condition as winter turns to spring.

Cold increases energy needs:

Horses have an estimated lower critical temperature (LCT) between 30-50○ F (-17-10○ C), depending on general body condition and thickness of haircoat. If the temperature falls below the LCT, a horse needs to burn energy to keep warm. For every 10○ F (5.5○ C) the temperature drops below LCT, a horse needs an estimated additional 2,000 kilocalories (kcal) to maintain body temperature. Often, this can be achieved with an extra 3 lb (1.4 kg) of hay.

“Hay is the best option for helping a horse create its own warmth,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research. “Hay is fermented in a part of the hindgut called the cecum. Because internal heat is a byproduct of fermentation, consuming and processing hay keeps a horse warm.”

However, when rain and wind become factors, increases in energy needs can quickly escalate beyond what can be satisfied by hay alone, Crandell explained. In this case, concentrates and fat supplements are valuable in supplying calories. In regard to fat supplements, for example, one-half cup (4 oz or 120 ml) of vegetable oil provides approximately 2,000 kcal.

Body condition as a tool for weight management:

Assessing body condition year-round is the best management tool to identify changes in weight. The most familiar body condition scoring system features a scale from 1 to 9 that gauges fat cover and distribution. A score of 1 or 2 denotes an emaciated horse (veterinary intervention may be necessary), 3 or 4 is thin, 5 or 6 is ideal, and 7, 8, or 9 is overweight or obese.

Keeping track of weight, as well as body condition, is also important. A weight tape, placed around the horse’s barrel, directly behind the shoulders as the horse stands square, is an excellent tool for estimating weight and monitoring change. Measuring is important, as horse owners often notice changes in a measurement before noticing weight fluctuations visually. Weigh at a regular time every four to six weeks. For example, the first day of every month or each time the horse is visited by the farrier. Keep a log to track weight, pinpoint fluctuations, and adjust the diet accordingly.

If a horse is thin after winter, it is important to ask why. Is it related to a health problem (teeth, soundness, pain)? Is the horse stressed in some way (evolving herd dynamics, limited feeding stations)? Have your veterinarian conduct a wellness exam at least once per year. Take stock of the horse’s environment and behavior. What changed, if anything?

Concocting diets for weight gain:

Simply put, to gain weight a horse needs to consume more calories than it burns. Weight gain should be slow and controlled. Avoid rapid weight gain. Forage alone may not have enough calories for significant weight gain. Concentrates and fat supplements can help in these situations. To achieve an increase of one body condition score (e.g., from a 3 to 4), the average 1,100-lb (500-kg) adult horse needs to gain 44-50 lb (20-23 kg). That gain can take 30-60 days. Be patient. The amount of increased feed in the diet will depend on the individual horse, overall health, and activity level. Slowly make changes and increases in feed intake. Offering several small meals of grain is preferable to one or two larger meals.

Do not underestimate the caloric value of pasture. “Horses on pasture may benefit from the increase in calories with the improved quality of the spring grasses,” noted Crandell. “Fresh spring grass is high in digestible fiber, from which the horse can derive lots of energy.”

Forage should make up no less than 50% of the horse’s diet and ideally more (70-100%, depending on the horse’s needs). For horses with dental concerns that may not be able to chew hay properly, forage substitutes like soaked hay cubes, chopped forage, and soaked beet pulp often work well.

A high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet is recommended for horses with metabolic concerns. For example, horses with Cushing’s syndrome or metabolic syndrome, that also need to gain weight. Limit pasture grazing with a grazing muzzle or drylot turnout. Hay can be soaked to reduce dietary carbohydrates as well. “A combination of soaked hay, a high-fat, low-carbohydrate concentrate, and a fat supplement, if added calories are needed, often suits these horses well,” Crandell recommended.

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Article Sources: Kentucky Equine Research