Keep the Mold Away – Tack and Feed Room Ventilation

As we deal with heat and humidity, attention is often appropriately focused on the comfort of our animals.  We sometimes neglect to think about the impact of heat and humidity on our tack and on our feed.  Controlling humidity and temperature in areas where tack and feed are stored is also very important for the success of an equine operation.

Tack that is exposed to high humidity and warm temperatures can mold/mildew very quickly with resulting damage to leather.  The following steps might be useful to consider:

  1. Make certain there is adequate airflow thru the tack room. This may require having windows that allow ventilation or the addition of fans to move air thru the tack room.  Locate the air intake and air exhaust areas so that air flows thru the room, not just at ceiling level.  If you install exhaust fans, consider where the air will be coming in to reduce exposure to dust or contaminants.
  2. Do not store wet saddle pads/blankets in the same area as leather tack. Do not put pads/blankets over the top of saddles on saddle racks.
  3. Make certain there is space between saddle racks to allow airflow between saddles.
  4. Consider using a de-humidifier in the tack room. If possible, install so it drains automatically instead of requiring manual emptying of the water container.
  5. If design and electrical wiring are adequate, consider a window air conditioner for the tack storage area.

Feed room ventilation is also important.  Feed may absorb moisture from the air and mold even if it arrives at the farm at a suitable moisture level from the store or the feed plant.  If possible, store feed out of direct sunlight as moisture migration can take place within feed bags, causing moisture to accumulate in one area of the bag.  This is also a problem when feed is stored in bulk bins.  The feed on the sunny side can heat up and cause moisture migration in the bin.  The bin should be ventilated to allow moisture to escape but must be set up so moisture does not enter when it rains!  Depending on material, bins can be painted with reflective color to help reduce heating.

During warm, humid weather, do not buy large quantities of feed at one time and make certain the feed is rotated properly so that bags are used up and bins are emptied and cleaned/inspected regularly.  If bags are stacked, make certain that they are stacked on pallets or material that prevents moisture contact/accumulation at the bottom of the stack.  Stacking bags directly on top of concrete or dirt floor makes the bottom bags very prone to getting damp and molding.

Pest control is also important for both tack and feed storage areas.  Rodents can quickly damage tack and can contaminate feed.  Keeping the areas clean and using commercial pest control may be one option to consider.

Keeping both tack and feed protected from excess heat and humidity is an important part of barn design and barn management!

Drink Up! Keeping Your Horse Well Hydrated

Many regions of the country have been experiencing high heat and humidity this summer, so naturally, the concern of proper hydration comes to mind. Reduced water consumption in horses may impair performance and increase the risk of impaction colic. Additionally, horses may sweat more profusely, resulting in faster dehydration. So what’s a horse owner to do?

The first key element is to make certain that horses have ready access to clean, palatable, cool water at all times or at very frequent intervals. Horses will normally consume about 1 gallon of water per 100 lbs body weight, so an 1100 lb horse will require a minimum of 11 gallons of water per day. This quantity can increase substantially during periods of exercise, high heat/humidity or for lactating mares.

Some tips to keep in mind to keep water consumption up:

  • Horses do not like to consume warm water in warm temperatures. Automatic waterers or large tanks, located in the shade and cleaned regularly, may be good options. If water is supplied in buckets, they need to be cleaned regularly and re-filled regularly.
  • If you are traveling to a show or other competition, it is essential to monitor water consumption, particularly if temperature conditions change.
  • It is routine in many barns to flavor the water with something like wintergreen or peppermint at home so that you can flavor the water in new facilities to match the home water.  Read here for tips on training your horse to drink water away from home.
  • Do NOT use soft drinks or any material containing caffeine as these can trigger positive drug tests.
  • Taking horses to facilities with chlorinated water can sometimes reduce water consumption without proper precautions.

The second key element is to make certain that salt is offered free choice. Things to keep in mind for salt consumption in horses include:

  • Horses require 1-2 ounces of salt per day, and this can increase to 6 ounces per day with exercise in hot weather conditions.
  • Loose salt is consumed more readily than salt blocks in many cases.
  • When evaluating the total diet for salt consumption, commercial feeds normally contain 0.5-1.0% salt. It is not typically any higher than this, due to problems with palatability.
  • If a horse has been salt deficient or is bored, they may over-consume salt while in a stall.
  • Additional electrolytes, commercial or personal recipe, may be used per directions before, during and following completion, but care must be taken to ensure that the horses are drinking adequate water. Administering electrolytes to a horse that is not drinking properly, or allowing a horse to over consume salt without adequate water, can lead to electrolyte imbalances. If electrolytes are added to the water, plain water should be offered also.

Horses need to be offered water throughout the day at a competition, and should be re-hydrated following exertion. They cannot cool out and recover properly without being re-hydrated. Keeping horses properly hydrated and maintaining electrolyte balance is extremely important in order to make a safe transition from cool temperatures to summer time and competition.

Hazard in the Water – Blue-Green Algae

Current weather and water conditions in many parts of the country have created conditions favorable for the rapid growth of Blue-Green Algae.  These primitive organisms are actually algae-like bacteria instead of being true algae and are also referred to as Cyanobacteria.  They grow rapidly and may produce the pea-soup green color in some bodies of water, along with some foul odors.  These rapid growth periods, called “blooms”, most frequently occur when there is a combination of warm weather, intermittent or limited rainfall and an accumulation of nutrients, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen.  The planktonic groups produce the pea green water while the mat-forming groups produce dark mats that start on the bottom and float to the surface.  The planktonic species (Anabena, Aphanizomenon and Microcystis) are believed to be most likely to produce toxins which can be harmful or fatal to animals when ingested. (Fact Sheet on Toxic Blue-Green Algae, Purdue University, Carole A. Lembi)

The blooms of Cyanobacteria tend to accumulate on the downwind side of pond and may look like swirls of green paint.  The toxins may be ingested when animals drink the water or when they lick their coats after being in the water.  Animals are more likely to consume the water if fresh water supplies are limited from other sources.  Any animals that drink the water during a period when toxins are being produced may be affected, but toxins are not always produced when there is a bloom.

Providing a source of fresh, clean, safe drinking water is the best way to avoid causing animals to consume questionable water.  If pets go swimming, they should be cleaned off before they have a chance to lick their coats.

Toxic symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, rash and skin irritation.  There are generally two types of toxins, neurotoxins that affect the central nervous system and hepatotoxins which affect the liver function.

Preventing run-off of nutrients into ponds and lakes is also important to help reduce the risk of these algae blooms.  Prolonged drought conditions in some areas have also increased the concentration of nutrients in the remaining water in ponds and lakes.

While not all “blooms” may produce toxins, avoiding exposure to or consumption of suspect water is recommended.  More information is available from local and state pollution control sites or extension sites.

There is a useful article in Feedstuffs, June 15, 2018 by Dr. A.J. Tarpoff that describes issues and recommends testing procedure if you think that you might have an issue.   Extension Specialists may also have local information and may be able to direct you to testing options in your state.

Improving a Horse’s Topline

If you’re like most horse owners, as soon as you recognize there is a problem with your horse, your mind immediately searches for a solution. You may ask yourself, “how do I fix this?” and, more importantly, “how fast can I fix this?” The good news is that topline can be improved in a short amount of time. In fact, once a feeding program that provides the correct amino acids in the right balance is implemented (utilizing feeds that include Topline Balance), you may be able to start seeing results in your horse’s topline in as little as a few weeks! Factors to keep in mind to see the fastest results:

  • Feed the correct product. Products that include Topline Balance are: SafeChoice productsProForce products, and Empower Balance products.
  • Feed the product at the recommended rate: Do the math on the feed tag and figure out exactly how much feed your horse should receive for their bodyweight and work level. Don’t estimate!
  • Next weigh it in a scoop and then ensure it’s fed every day; consistency is key!
  • If others are in charge of feeding your horse, make sure they understand the importance of the right amount of feed every day.
  • Assess your horse’s topline and body condition monthly or more and adjust within the feed tag directions as needed, remember forage will change cutting to cutting.

Decreases in topline condition

It can happen faster than you may think possible, but topline condition can start to deteriorate as quickly as it improves – in as little as a few weeks. Once specific amino acids are absent from the diet or supplied in a less bioavailable form, the muscles begin to atrophy, which is quickly noticeable in a simple visual observation. 

Frequency of evaluation

To ensure you are making progress improving your horse’s topline, evaluation should take place on a regular basis – every 30-60 days is a good starting point for maintenance. We recommend more frequent evaluation for horse owner’s closely monitoring their feeding program in order to affect a change.

For more information, and a customized assessment of your horse’s topline, visit Topline Balance.

Tick Tock, Tick Season Is upon Us

Ticks, horses, people and pets. The the last three are great, but what about those ticks? How could they be avoided or prevented from attaching. How to support prevention of the tick borne illnesses they cause for horses, humans and dogs? Most commonly, Lyme borreliosis or Lyme disease is among the most talked about tick borne illness. Lyme disease is characterized by symptoms caused from the spirochete bacteria Borrellia burdgorferi transmitted by the deer tick or Ixodes species.

In a horse, human or pet a tick bite area may appear hot, red, or inflamed. A horse may show symptoms of decreased activity, appear painful of lame, signs may also include kidney issues or no symptoms at all.

There are many sprays, tapes, ultrasonic devices, etc. on the market to try to prevent ticks from attaching. For horses and dogs, vaccine companies have created Lyme vaccinations. When administered at appropriate intervals animals are able to build an immune response to help in preventing an infection. There is no perfect vaccine and this is one step in prevention for this one major disease transmitted by ticks. Ticks are able to transmit other diseases such as piroplasmosis and ehrlichiosis to name a few additional diseases; preventing a tick bite is the first step.

What about an equine pre-purchase Lyme titer? In a study of Lyme titers performed in 2016, 33% are Lyme positive on the test with no clinical signs.  The best method of prevention is avoiding ticks and avoiding tick bites.

Horse “fly-sprays” often contain permethrin, many homemade recipes have proven scientifically ineffective and should be used with caution. For humans it is recommended to treat clothing, foot wear with products containing 0.5% permethrin, stronger concentrations do not have more power, rather they will last longer over time on clothing. It is a good idea to use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered repellents. Check your horse and yourself for ticks frequently and showering off after being outdoors. The mane, tail and flank are common places where ticks can attach on a horse. It is a myth that ticks are only found in long grasses, rather ticks can climb onboard a horse leg, lip, tail hair by resting on a short blade of grass and grasping on with its first pair of legs outstretched.  Ticks do not discriminate as to which host they hop a ride for a good lunch, they will ride on a dog, horse or human and if the opportunity presents will transfer from one to the other and enjoy “dinner”.

To remove a tick use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull straight away from the skin, avoid twisting. Make sure the mouth parts are fully removed. Do NOT use a hot match, petroleum jelly or nail polish remover to try to remove a tick. This will cause the tick to regurgitate back into the host and can cause irritation to the skin. After removal clean area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. After tick is removed, either stick them to sticky tape or place in a jar of rubbing alcohol. Tossing them onto the ground creates the opportunity for the tick to attach again or to another animal.

Ticks are able to survive in fairly cool conditions as well as fairly warm conditions. Heading into summer a myth is that once it is finally hot out the ticks are no longer out or once the weather cools ticks cannot survive. Ticks are amazing creatures at survival and can still grab on for a blood meal in some extreme temperatures.

Avoiding, preventing and checking for ticks is key in reducing the chances of a tick borne illness.

Ask the Expert: Diseases at Horse Events? Help!

Question:
I have seen posts all over social media about horses getting sick after attending competition events. How can I protect my horse?

Answer:
It is critical to practice biosecurity measures. If you breakdown the word biosecurity, bio means “life” and security means “protection”. Life protection!
Another way to define biosecurity is to prevent or reduce the introduction of disease. In other words, you want to keep the disease away from your farm, or if you do have a sickness, keep it from spreading.

Biosecurity measures to practice include:

  1. Work with your veterinarian to ensure horses are current with recommended vaccines.
  2. Keep sick horses at home. Watch for signs of fever, nasal discharge, and diarrhea.
  3. Wash your hands frequently!
  4. Clean and disinfect stalls at fairgrounds and show facilities. Spray-on commercial disinfectants are readily available. Diluted bleach (8 ounces bleach to 1 gallon of water) is an inexpensive disinfectant; it works best on a surface that has been thoroughly cleaned.
  5. Do not share feed and water buckets, hay bags, grooming tools, tack, or manure forks. Disinfect these items after arriving home from an event.
  6. Limit exposure. Do not allow horses to have nose to nose contact. Limit the general public’s contact with your horses and your contact with other horses.
    Upon returning home from a show, wash your hands, shower, and change clothing and shoes before working with horses kept at home.
  7. Isolate returning horses from resident horses for 14 days. Monitor horses daily for signs of fever, nasal discharge, and diarrhea.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Written by Abby Neu, MS, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/.

Horse Manure Management and Composting

Photo credit: Oregon State University Extension

While not the most glamorous subject associated with horse ownership, manure management is a very important and inevitable part of responsible horse ownership, regardless of how many horses you own or manage.

Manure is considered a valuable resource by many farmers for its nutrient values and soil amending characteristics. This summary addresses characteristics of horse manure as well as techniques for handling, storing, composting and utilizing horse manure.

For calculation purposes, the average 1,000 pound horse eats roughly 2% of its body weight and drinks 10 to 12 gallons of water each day. This will vary with individual metabolism, activity level and the weather. On average, that same 1,000 pound horse will excrete 56 pounds of manure (feces and urine combined) each day, which adds up to more than 10 tons annually. In fresh manure, there is roughly 0.2 pounds of nitrogen (N), 0.03 pounds of phosphorus (P) and 0.06 pounds of potassium (K) in each pound of manure.

Storing manure typically consists of: short-term stockpiling, permanent stockpiling, composting or spreading the manure. Stockpiling is a pile of solid manure that is left undisturbed and may or may not be added to. Stockpiling can occur on a temporary or permanent site. There are existing state guidelines for stockpiling manure that should be researched prior to establishing or constructing a manure stockpile.

Composting is managed, accelerated decomposition of organic materials by microbes (i.e. bacteria, fungus and molds). The goal of the composting process is to provide these microbes with an optimum environment that encourages manure decomposition quickly and efficiently. If left on its own, a manure pile will eventually decompose, but nutrients will be lost, and unwanted organisms may infest the remaining compost.

The article Horse Manure Management and Composting further discusses your options for using the manure on your farm. It also outlines items that should be addressed in your farm’s manure management plan.

Your local Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) is also a valuable resource for helping you understand local ordinances and regulations. They may also have programs in place to help you establish best manure management practices.

Summarized by Abby Neu, MS, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse/nutrition/.

Trailer Checklist

It’s about that time, the temps are climbing and you’re ready to hit the road to the next show, event, rodeo or trail ride. But before that can happen, a well-operating horse trailer is a must. Here are some tips to make your next trailer trip stress-free.

Good Tires

Probably one of the most important considerations when hitting the road is the condition of your trailer tires. It may seem like a no-brainer, but proper tires are key. Make sure you are purchasing tires specific for trailer use, in order to support the heavier load-bearing requirements. A good reference when determining if it’s a tire made for trailer use is to look for a ‘ST’ or special trailer indication printed on the tire. Something else to look for on the tire is the load rating. Each tire will have a number printed on the side to indicate load rating, add the load rating of all the trailer tires to determine the weight capacity. That total should be equal to or greater than your fully loaded trailer weight.

Don’t forget that tire age should be considered as well, due to deterioration of tire structure over time. An easy way to check age of a tire is to look for a 4-digit number (i.e. 1215, built on the 12th week of 2015) which will indicate the tire build date. A physical evaluation of the condition of the tire goes a long way as well in determining age and wear.

Additionally, always check your tire pressure before a trip, as it’s an incredibly important step in safety and comfort in travel.

Checking Trailer Condition

It’s important to check all safety points before hooking up to hit the road. Look over floorboards, ramps, dividers, etc. for signs of rot, rust or deterioration. Also test hinges, springs and latches for secure closure and good working order.

Make sure the trailer hitch is kept well lubricated and checked for missing parts. Chains should also be in good condition. While evaluating the hitch, make sure your jack is working correctly.

Hooking Up the Trailer

Before you even hook up the trailer to your truck, make sure the vehicle is rated to tow the weight of the trailer. Determine if the trailer is balanced and rig is level, as well as test lights and breaks before hitting the road. Make sure to do a loop around your rig to make sure all doors are secured and hitch is attached correctly.

Emergency Items

Below is a list of items to include in case of emergency as you take to that long stretch of highway:

  • Spare tires for the towing vehicle and trailer (inflated to proper PSI)
  • A jack and tire iron or lug wrench
  • Three emergency triangles or flares (triangles are best)
  • Extra supply of coolant/engine oil/transmission and power steering fluids, plus a funnel and service rags
  • WD-40 or other lubricant
  • Chocks to safely block wheels
  • Flash light and extra batteries
  • Tape (electrical and duct)
  • Spare fuses and bulbs for exterior and interior lights
  • A charged fire extinguisher
  • Sharp knife and wire cutters
  • Tool kit
  • Jugs of clean water (can be used for radiator or horses)
  • Jumper cables
  • Spare belts and hoses
  • Tow chain or cable
  • Portable compressor
  • Quick fix tire repair kit
  • Broom/shovel/manure fork and disposal bags
  • Vehicle registrations for the towing vehicle and trailer
  • Proof of insurance

Now that you’ve checked off all the to-do’s of trailer safety, it’s time to hit the road and enjoy the next equine adventure!

Improving Your Horse’s Topline – Why Exercise Alone Isn’t the Answer

A common misperception about topline is that it can be improved through exercise alone. Lack of exercise – or the wrong type of work ‑ is often blamed for a poor topline. While exercise will certainly alter existing muscles, building new muscles is a different story. The nutritional building blocks of muscle (essential amino acids) must be present in sufficient quantities and balanced with adequate calories to rebuild or augment muscle tissue. In fact, if a horse is worked hard but his diet lacks sufficient amino acids, existing muscle mass can shrink. This can be a slippery slope in some situations, and as muscle atrophy sets in, the belief is that the horse needs to work even harder when in fact the fuel is not present (in the form of nutrition) to help support and repair tissue that is broken down with exercise. Just like human athletes, athletic equine partners need more essential amino acids than maintenance horses to maximize the effects of training and allow the horse to look and feel its best.

Certain exercises are thought to improve topline include hill work, backing exercises, and those that encourage the horse to collect and arc the body. These exercises can help condition muscles, but only if the diet is supporting the muscles through proper nutrition. Before you put your horse into a conditioning program, be sure that your diet is in balance and you’ll be much happier with the results.

To determine what nutrition best fits your horse’s needs, take the Topline Balance assessment for a customized nutrition plan.

Feeding the Broodmare During Lactation-Monitor Body Condition and Topline Score

Proper nutrition for the broodmare during lactation is essential to make certain that she produces adequate milk for the foal and also maintains her body condition so that she will re-breed successfully and safely carry the next year’s foal.

The broodmare has substantial increases in requirements for digestible energy, protein, lysine, methionine, threonine and minerals as she goes from the last month of Serena and Ella in pasturegestation to the first month of lactation.  For a 500 kg (1100 lb) mare, her DE requirement goes from 21.4 Mcal per day to 31.7 Mcal per day, her protein requirement goes from 630 grams to 1535 grams per day, her lysine requirement goes from 27.1 grams to 84.8 grams per day and her calcium requirement goes from 20 grams per day to 59.1 grams per day, with similar increases in other amino acids and minerals. (Nutrient Requirements of Horses, Sixth Edition, pages 298-299).  If her feed/nutrient intake is not increased to provide these nutrients, she will attempt to maintain milk production by depleting her body stores for energy, amino acids(primarily from muscle mass) and minerals, causing loss of weight,  loss of body condition, loss of muscle mass and some bone mineral losses.

To meet her increased DE requirement, an additional 3.43 kg or 7.5 pounds of grain containing 3.0 Mcal/kg (1364 Calories/lb) will need to be added to her diet gradually post foaling.  This need to be adjusted to maintain her body condition as mares vary widely in milk production!  Fortunately, she also can consume more dry matter during lactation, so she is actually able to eat more forage and more feed.  If she is fed a product that is labeled as suitable for lactating mares, the additional feed will provide the additional energy as well as the other important nutrients.  She will also require unlimited access to water and access to salt free choice along with good quality forage.

If she does lose weight during lactation (reflected by loss of both body condition score and topline score, she is much less likely to cycle normally during lactation and less likely to become pregnant and carry the next foal.  This may explain why some mares are “every other year” mares in producing foals.  They are frequently mares that produce large foals and milk very heavy during lactation.  As a result, they do NOT maintain body condition and do not re-breed and carry a foal the next year.  When they are not in foal and not lactating, they gain weight and come back into the next breeding season in good flesh and breed successfully.  This is even more likely if they are not in a suitable body condition (BCS 6+) prior to foaling. The nutrient requirements will start to decrease at the 3rd month of lactation and will gradually decrease until the foal is weaned, when she can then be fed at maintenance levels adjusted as needed.

Monitoring body condition and topline score of the mare and the body condition score and growth rate of the foal are the best ways to determine if the feeding program for both is producing the desired results!