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!

 

Solving Separation Anxiety in Horses

It’s always a great consideration to keep your horse with a companion, as it feeds that natural instinct and bond horses experience in the wild. Although ideal, sometimes it’s not realistic. There can be periods of time where your horse will need to cope with being separated from stall mates or companions, and the better prepared they are, the easier the transition.

Here are a few tips to better prepare your horse for times of separation:

  • Start Small – Moving your horse’s companion away slowly, can sometimes result in a better transition. Try switching a buddy to another stall and gradually widen that gap of space between the two.
  • Frequency – Keeping a regular routine of separation will help your horse to better adjust. Instead of attempting once a month, try a few times a week. This will set the stage for the progression of separation.
  • Distraction – If your horse seems extremely bothered by the separation, try distracting him with some feed or hay. Practice other forms of distraction that might ease that anxiety.
  • Stay Calm – Horses are very intuitive and can react based on your emotions, so avoid yelling or raising your voice if your horse displays signs of anxious behavior.
  • Keep it Safe – Make sure while separating your horse from his companion that the environment is safe. Check over a stall for safety or fencing for security. If the anxiety is beyond a level of safety for your horse, consider talking to a professional that can help with varying techniques.

Separation anxiety can be stressful for the horse owner and horse alike, but with small, frequent steps, you’re likely to start down the path of stress-free separation.

Dieticians Boast Healthful Benefits…What About Your Horse?

The nutrition industry is beginning to understand what role fermentation, gut bacteria and gut microbiome play in human and animal health. Science has just scratched the surface and is beginning to understand the activity of the microorganisms in the digestive tract and the mechanisms of action related to those microorganisms and food choices.

Fermented foods are gaining attention in the human nutrition space, but what  does that mean for our equine companions? Increasing amounts of research studies are suggesting fermented foods have powerful health benefits ranging from promoting gut health, controlling inflammation, and providing other healthful experiences. “Fermented foods” are being emphasized by registered dieticians as something to not ignore in food selections. So, how do we share these benefits with our horses without inviting them to eat Kombucha, yogurt, avocados, sauerkraut, and pickles?

A balance of good quality forage as the base of the horse’s diet and a feed concentrate that includes fermentation metabolites is key to maintaining healthy gut flora and a strong immune system. You might be asking, how do I know what is an effective and beneficial fermentation product? And how do I know my feed or balancer concentrate contains this?

I have invited a guest writer Christine W. of Diamond V to share more information and some supporting science regarding fermentation metabolites.

“Fermentation metabolites produced by Diamond V are unique, bioactive compounds that work naturally with the biology of the horse to strengthen and empower the immune system, support digestive tissue integrity, and promote a healthy microbial community.  Hundreds of these compounds are produced from a proprietary anaerobic fermentation process of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and work synergistically inside the animal to help them perform to their full genetic potential.  

These compounds help the horse’s immune and digestive system function normally in face of the many stressors and challenges, specifically hauling, training, breeding, herd dynamics, and environmental factors.

In other words, this specific species of yeast, produce several products or compounds that are beneficial to the microbiome in the horse’s hind-gut.  When the horse’s gut is working optimally, everything from digestive to immune function is set up to be resilient in the face of stressors and challenges that might otherwise compromise animal health and performance.”

Fermentation metabolites benefit your horse’s digestive tract by supporting a healthy gastrointestinal microbiome. The millions of little bacteria that live in the digestive tract all have names and each one ferments complex carbohydrates resulting in volatile fatty acid production. These acids impact digestion, absorption and the overall gut health. On a feed label you might see yeast culture listed (or S. cerevisiae extract). When fermented by the horse’s microbiome, these specific S. cerevisiae yeast culture metabolites have been shown by to support tissue strength and integrity, contribute to a stable hind-gut pH and support a healthy gut microbial community as well as a balanced immune response when challenged by stressors.

So why is improved tissue strength, integrity, and digestive health important to horses?

Horses with a strong digestive tract are better able to absorb nutrients from the foods that they eat. Research has shown that harmful substances are less likely to permeate the gastrointestinal cellular wall. Think of it as closing your screens on your windows to keep bugs out of your house, but to allow fresh air and good things to flow in. Horses need to have a strong gut to absorb amino acids, fats, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, and prevent unhealthy bacteria or harmful substances from getting into circulation and causing problems. By absorbing the good nutrients and getting rid of the potentially harmful substances horses are more likely to perform to their full potential. Their immune and digestive systems are supported to handle the challenges that come with hauling, training, and just being a horse in changing environments.

This article was written with collaborative authors Heidi A., Emily L., and Christine W.