Archive for the ‘Horse’ Category

Springtime Weight Gain in Horses

Friday, March 11th, 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.

Resources:

In conclusion, do you have questions about Springtime Weight Gain in Horses? Visit us at Kissimmee Valley Feed and check out our horse feeds!

Article Sources: Kentucky Equine Research

Watch Out For Toxic Plants in Hays, Pastures

Monday, March 7th, 2022

Watch Out For Toxic Plants in Hays, PasturesWatch Out For Toxic Plants in Hays, Pastures: Aren’t horses smart enough to know what they can and cannot eat?

Generally speaking, it is true that horses will usually avoid ingesting harmful plants or other toxins when offered high-quality forage options. But as highlighted in an article* by veterinarians from the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Oklahoma State University, horses can—and often do—consume plants they shouldn’t.

As reviewed in this article, horses were offered Bermuda grass hay that was later found to contain large quantities of mature caley pea (Lathyrus hirsutus). In that case, 22 out of 25 young horses developed signs of intoxication. Signs included incoordination, lethargy, and changes in gait.

“There are a great many toxins that can sneak into bales of legumes and grasses, which highlights the importance of routinely inspecting your horse’s hay for more than just dust and mold,” relays Bryan M. Waldridge, D.V.M., head veterinarian for Kentucky Equine Research.

In addition to classic examples of endophyte-infested tall fescue and blister beetles in alfalfa, owners should familiarize themselves with other toxins in their area. Pastures and paddocks also need to be monitored for toxic plants. For example, trees (e.g., maple, black walnut) and ornamentals (e.g., oleander, foxglove, tulips, daylilies, hydrangea, morning glory, iris, daffodil, etc.).

Toxic Plants in your Area:

For information on toxic plants in your area, seek the assistance of an equine extension specialist or plant pathologist. Plant descriptions and photos are available online. We found an article outlining some of the toxic plants present in Florida here.

Do you have questions about Toxic Plants in Hays, Pastures? Swing by Kissimmee Valley Feed! We are equipped with knowledgeable staff and supplies.

Article Sources: Kentucky Equine Research

*Holbrook, T.C., L.L. Gilliam, F.P. Stein, et al. Lathyrus hirsutus (caley pea) intoxication in a herd of horses. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. In press.

 

Feeding Preserved Forage to Horses

Saturday, February 12th, 2022

Feeding Preserved Forage to HorsesFeeding Preserved Forage to Horses: If you had the chance to feed your horse better for optimal health, behavior, and performance, what would you do? A recent article addresses the fact that many horses are fed based on historical trends rather than modern conditions.

Domestication significantly altered equine diets. This according to the authors of the article*. Horses were once recruited as beasts of burden. They were far too busy to graze fresh pasture for the majority of the day. Instead, owners fed oats, barley, beans, and root vegetables to provide sufficient energy for work. Offering preserved forage such as hay was more difficult in those days due to the challenges associated with the distribution and transport of bulky forages in addition to concerns regarding the quality of forage.

Now, many horses continue to receive preserved forages—including hay, haylage, and silage—rather than having access to fresh pasture. Their workload dramatically decreased compared to past times. Even so, some horses are still fed too many energy-dense feedstuffs (concentrates) and insufficient preserved forage or fresh pasture. The availability of quality forage can often negate the need for excess concentrates.

Recommendations were made in reference to feeding preserved forage based on a comprehensive review of the literature and information garnered during conferences and nutrition workshops.

Recommendations:

  • Perform nutrient analysis to appreciate the value of the forage and estimate the energy content. This is especially true for thin, overweight, and laminitic horses, or those with metabolic conditions.
  • Routinely inspect the hay to ensure no hygiene issues exist (e.g., growth of molds that can negatively impact horse health). Dispose of poor-quality forage.
  • Any substantial changes in forage quality in terms of energy, protein, and water-soluble carbohydrate content requires a two- to three-week acclimation period.
  • Offer fresh or preserved forage with stem length greater than one inch (2.5 cm) ad libitum throughout the day.
  • Horses should be consuming feed (hay or concentrate) for a minimum of 8-10 hours/day, with a maximum of 4-5 hours without food.
  • If a horse requires more energy, use less mature forages.
  • Introduce small amounts of chaff into the diet. Introduce especially if less energy is required (maximum of 30% of the dry matter ration).

“Note that these recommendations apply to healthy horses with an ideal body weight and no underlying medical condition. Although these suggestions are useful generalizations, every horse is unique and must be fed individually. Tailor your horse’s diet to meet his needs. For example, consider consulting with one of the nutrition advisors at Kentucky Equine Research,” advised Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for KER.

Offer a well-formulated vitamin and mineral supplement. Especially for horses on diets composed entirely of forage.

Do you have question about Feeding Preserved Forage to Horses? Stop by Kissimmee Valley Feed. Check out our excellent Horse Feed, Hay and Health supplies.

Article Sources:

Kentucky Equine Research

Harris, P.A., A.D Ellis, M.J. Fradinho, et al. Feeding conserved forage to horses: Recent advances and recommendations. Animal 11:958-967.

Lighting & Nutrition for Breeding Late Winter/Early Spring

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

Horse in Stall: Lighting & Nutrition for Breeding Late Winter/Early SpringLighting & Nutrition for Breeding Late Winter/Early Spring: Mares that are not pregnant at the end of the year should be getting careful attention in December and January to make certain that they are ready for the start of the breeding season.

Horses in North America have a universal birthday January 1st. It may be desired in some cases to be breeding as early as possible while making certain that foals do not arrive in December.

The use of artificial lighting to help prepare mares for breeding is a fairly standard management tool. A common practice is to put mares under lights in early December. As a result, help get mares cycling by mid to late February.

Breeding Reccommendations:

Breeding earlier than mid-February is not recommended. A short gestation period might result in a December foal and a very young yearling!

There are multiple lighting systems, but all deliver 16 hours of combined artificial and natural light.

While you can use a light meter to measure illumination, a common rule of thumb is that you should be able to comfortably read a newspaper in any of the stall or paddock area when the lights are on.  (Reading your backlit smartphone does not count!)

One caveat is that if you have mares that are due to foal very early, you may want to avoid putting them under lights as this has been reported to shorten gestation a few days.  Again, you do not want yearlings that are only a few days old!

Body condition is also very important at this time of the year. If you have open mares that are below Body Condition Score 5, now is a good time to increase the plane of nutrition so that they are maintaining or gaining a slight bit of weight.

If they are over BCS 6, do NOT put them on a diet. A negative energy balance (losing weight) may interfere with normal estrus cycle.

Much of the country is having some unusually cold weather in late December 2017 and early January 2018.

Mares that are experiencing cold weather need to have access to unfrozen water, loose salt and adequate quality forage, supplemented with a balancer or grain product to maintain body condition.

Proper veterinarian examination, artificial lighting and good nutrition can set the stage for a successful early breeding season.

In conclusion, for more Lighting & Nutrition for Breeding Late Winter/Early Spring tips, visit Kissimmee Valley Feed. Check out our Horse Feed selection here.

Artificial Lighting: Preparing for Early Breeding, Bradford W. Daigneault, M.S. University of Illinois/U.S. Department of Agriculture/Local Extension Councils Cooperating, November 2012 is a good article on lighting for reference.

Article Source: Nutrena’s Horse Feed Blog

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Benefit Foaling Mares Before Rebreeding

Tuesday, December 21st, 2021

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Benefit Foaling Mares Before RebreedingOmega-3 Fatty Acids Benefit Foaling Mares Before Rebreeding: When compared to cows, ewes, and sows, mares experience a short interval between birth and their next heat cycle. After foaling, the uterus undergoes involution. Involution is a process that reduces uterine size, repairs uterine tissues, and restores the uterine environment to a nonpregnant state. Supporting uterine involution is critical. The 11-month gestation of the mare often makes it difficult to maintain every-year foaling. Commercial breeders prefer every-year foaling. In a recent study, researchers set out to determine the effects of feeding docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid, on uterine involution in the weeks after foaling.

Visit Kissimmee Valley Feed for Omega-rich horse products.

The Study:

The study used eighteen pregnant mares. The mares were assigned to one of two groups, a treatment group in which a microalgae rich in DHA was fed daily at 0.6 g/kg body weight or a control group. The treatment was fed from 90 days prior to the expected foaling date until seven days after first postpartum ovulation. Otherwise, the mares were fed similarly to maintain moderate to moderately fleshy body condition, including access to Bermudagrass pasture and a commercial concentrate at a rate of 1 kg/day (2.2 lb/day) before foaling and 2 kg/day (4.4 lb/day) after foaling.

Research ascertained reproductive health parameters. For example, through rectal palpation and ultrasonographic examination, including uterine and endometrium diameters, intrauterine fluid, uterine tone, and uterine echogenicity. Echogenicity measures the ability of a tissue to reflect an ultrasound wave.

Mares fed the DHA-rich supplement had smaller uterine horn diameters after foaling compared to control mares. Interestingly, DHA-fed mares had greater uterine echogenicity scores. Low echogenicity is generally related to increased estradiol. Estradiol induces edema and estrus behavior, so researchers expected lower scores as mares readied for rebreeding.

No treatment effects were observed for the other parameters evaluated.

Researchers concluded that “supplementation with DHA during peripartum may benefit uterine involution process and odds of early conception.”

“This research adds to the emerging volume of work that indicates omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, is a useful nutritional supplement for broodmares,” explained Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research. Studies in other species show omega-3s have beneficial effects on reproduction. For example, by modifying prostaglandin synthesis and metabolism, and by regulating genes integral to uterine function.

“The source of omega-3 fatty acids is important. Choose a high-quality supplement that delivers DHA directly, such as marine-derived EO-3,” Whitehouse advised.

Article Source: Kentucky Equine Research

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