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Cutting Greenfeed - Timing is Everything

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   July 31, 2011 18:34

Colby Elford - Regional Livestock Specialist

Moose Jaw Regional Office, Ministry of Agriculture

Andre Bonneau – Forage Management Specialist

Moose Jaw Regional Office, Ministry of Agriculture


Greenfeed is useful feed source for cattle producers across the province.  Most annual forage crops are very productive as forage and fit well into crop rotations.  Oats, barley, and triticale are the most commonly used greenfeed crops.  Millet, corn, winter triticale and fall rye have also increased in popularity.


When planning to cut these crops for greenfeed, it’s important to remember they are not all the same.  Oats, rye and triticale should be cut in the milk stage while barley is best cut at the dough stage for a good balance of quality and yield.  Into the dough stage, triticale, rye and oats will likely be less palatable. 


As the plant develops from the boot stage to the hard dough stage, protein levels and energy content decreases while the fibre content of the straw increases.  This will have a negative effect on digestibility.  Not all crops decline in quality at the same rate.  Barley holds its quality much longer than oats, rye, or triticale.  Watch the staging of your greenfeed crop to be sure that you are harvesting the full potential of your crop. 


Another option is to turn the greenfeed crop into Yellowfeed.  Yellowfeed is the practice of applying glyphosate to the crop and allow the crop to desiccate and cure while left standing.  The plant will continue to grow for a short period after being sprayed until the glyphosate takes effect.  Consider this lag time when timing the glyphosate treatment.  The crop should be sprayed early enough prior to the desired harvest stage of the crop.  The time it takes will depend on growing conditions: application under good growing conditions need at least 3 days while the glyphosate needs more time under poor conditions.  One litre per acre of the original formulations should be enough to make yellowfeed.


The crop can then be cut and baled as normal but keep in mind the crop may lodge after seven days as the straw hasn’t had time to fully develop.  Since the crop is allowed to dry while standing, weathering loss can be minimized and producers can harvest their forage crop at the correct stage. 

For more information on greenfeed and yellowfeed, contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1 866 457-2377.



Moisture in Hay

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   July 15, 2011 09:11

by:  Andre Bonneau, BSA, P. Ag., Forage Management Specialist,

Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture.

All hay is put up with some moisture: it’s unavoidable and necessary to prevent leaf shatter and leaf loss.  However, there can be more moisture in the hay than necessary.  Too much moisture obviously makes the bale heavier and can eventually heat and spoil the hay. 

The safe amount of moisture in hay depends on the density of the bale and the ability of the bale to dissipate heat.  When forage is first baled up, the bale begins to heat almost immediately.  This is normal.  The problem begins when the heat builds up without dissipating and the forage breaks down.  Think of it in terms of surface area and volume relative to the weight of the bale: a small loose bale can dissipate heat better than a large heavy bale. 

For example, a small square bale weighing less than 75 lbs can be normally stored at 20% moisture with good ventilation.  Meanwhile, a heavy and dense large square bale should have less than 15% moisture.  

Note that bales should not be stacked until they’ve finished heating.  Stacking the bales too soon reduces the ability of the hay to dissipate heat and excessive heating can occur.

What’s happening?

Heat is generated by decomposition and microbial activity.  At a microscopic level, hay begins to decompose as soon as its cut.  In the swath, microbial activity will slow down as moisture levels decrease.  Once the hay is baled, the small amount of microbial activity is still generating heat but the heat isn’t dissipated as easily as it was in the swath.  Heating will continue as oxygen and moisture is used up and microbial activity is minimized.

Inoculants and hay preservatives

In general, hay preservatives make moisture unavailable to the microbes that may spoil the feed.  Hay preservatives do not increase the quality of the forage.  Adding any preservative to poor forage will only preserve poor forage. 

There are two common types of hay preservatives: organic acids and inoculants.


ORGANIC ACIDS, like propionic acid and citric acid, is the most common and effective hay preservative available.  The acid drops the pH of the moisture in the forage and makes it unavailable to microbes.  The amount of acid needed depends on the concentration of the acid and the amount of moisture in the forage.  Commercially available propionic acid will have instructions on the label.  Organic acids will help preserve hay at up to 30% moisture. 

INOCULANTS introduce lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB) into the hay.   LAB is the same bacteria used in silage production.  These bacteria will form colonies in the hay to produce lactic acid and reduce the pH in the bale.  Lower pH reduces microbial activity and preserves the hay.   Inoculants are generally in a powdered form and are registered to preserve forage up to 23% moisture.

OTHER options are anhydrous ammonia and salt. 

Anhydrous ammonia ties up moisture and makes it unavailable to microbes.  However, the amount of anhydrous ammonia necessary makes it cost-prohibitive.  The difficulty and danger of using anhydrous ammonia also makes it an unpopular choice.

Salt used as a preservative works by making the moisture unavailable for microbial use.  The amount of salt needed to preserve hay is often impractical and expensive.  Some research suggests that the amount of salt needed can also make the forage unpalatable for livestock. 

Pay attention to moisture levels.

Some moisture in forage is unavoidable and acceptable.  It is impractical to put up feed absolutely dry.  Get a good hay moisture tester, learn how to calibrate and use it.  Monitor your hay as you bale and periodically in the hay yard. 

For more information, go to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture website at www.agriculture.sk.ca and search “Hay Preservatives – FAQs” or contact the Moose Jaw Regional Office at 1 866 457-2377.



U of G Researcher, Dr. Jeff Thomason co-author in Internationally Acclaimed Track Surfaces Paper

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   July 12, 2011 09:34



A number of factors affect the performance of a racing or training surface according to the 34-page “Racing Surfaces White Paper” published in June this year.   This international publication is a valuable collection of scientific papers co-authored by an esteemed panel including: Dr. Mick Peterson, (University of Maine), Dr. Jeffrey Thomason (University of Guelph), Dr. Lars Roepstorrf (Swedish University of Agricultural Science),  Dr. C. Wayne McIlwraith, (Colorado State University), and Christie Mahaffey, MPhil (University of Maine).  Though there is still much research to be done since the forming of the racing surfaces committee at the inaugural Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit in 2006, this publication will benefit trainers, track superintendants and any person in charge of riding surfaces.  Details of proper maintenance of surfaces and training guidelines can be found, based on the knowledge gained from the researcher’s findings thus far.  The download is available at grayson-jockeyclub.org/resources/White_Paper_final.pdf

Photo Caption:  Track Maintenance – Keeping the Surface consistent is paramount                           

Photo Credits: David Landry

Web Link:  http://www.equineguelph.ca/news/index.php?content=298



Hendra Virus Facts

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   July 5, 2011 08:08

Queensland is experiencing the Hendra virus.  The following is basic information about the virus, history, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, vectors and more.

Key facts

  • Hendra virus can cause fatal respiratory and neurological diseases.
  • Hendra virus can be transmitted to people from horses.
  • Hendra virus can cause severe disease and death in horses.
  • There is no treatment or vaccine available for either people or horses.
  • Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are the natural hosts of Hendra virus.

Hendra virus (HeV) is a rare, emerging zoonotic virus (a virus transmitted to humans from animals), that can cause respiratory and neurological disease and death in people. It can also cause severe disease and death in horses, resulting in considerable economic losses for horse breeders.

Initially named Equine Morbilivirus, Hendra virus is a member of the genus Henipavirus, a new class of virus in the Paramyxoviridae family. It is closely related to Nipah virus.

Although Hendra virus has caused only a few outbreaks, its potential for further spread and ability to cause disease and death in people have made it a public health concern. The concern has heightened in the most recent outbreaks, as the horses’ symptoms have shifted to become largely neurological instead of respiratory. This suggests the possibility of genetic diversity in the strain, and potentially a more infective virus.


Hendra virus was first recognized in 1994 during an outbreak of acute respiratory disease among 21 horses in Australia. Two people were infected, and one died. Since then, there have been another ten outbreaks, all in Australia, and three involving human cases.


Hendra virus is transmitted to people through close contact with infected horses or their body fluids.

To date, no human-to-human transmission of Hendra virus has been documented.

Signs and symptoms

Human infections with Hendra virus range from mild influenza-like illness to fatal respiratory or neurological disease. Infected people initially develop fever, headaches, myalgia (muscle pain), sore throat and a dry cough. They could also have enlarged lymph nodes, lethargy and vertigo.

The incubation period (interval from infection to onset of symptoms) ranges from five to 14 days. To date, there have been six confirmed human cases including three deaths.

One of the people who died developed pneumonitis, respiratory failure, renal failure, and arterial thrombosis. The patient died of cardiac arrest.

Another person demonstrated an unusual, progressive fatal neurological illness. He initially had a mild type of inflammation of the brain (meningoencephalitis) with a sore throat, headache, drowsiness, vomiting and neck stiffness. After treatment with antibiotics, he made a full recovery, but 13 months later he developed signs of encephalitis that progressed to coma and death.

The three infected people who made a full recovery have had no residual problems or relapse.


Hendra virus infection can be diagnosed by a number of different laboratory tests:

  • serum neutralization;
  • enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA);
  • polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay;
  • immunofluorescence assay; and
  • virus isolation by cell culture.


There are currently no drugs or vaccines available to treat Hendra virus infection. Intensive supportive care with treatment of symptoms is the main approach to managing the infection in people.

Natural host of Hendra virus

Fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae – particularly the species belonging to the Pteropus category – are the natural hosts for Hendra virus. There is no apparent disease in fruit bats.

It is assumed that the geographic distribution of Henipaviruses overlap with that of Pteropus genus. This hypothesis was reinforced with the evidence of Henipavirus infection in Pteropus bats from Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

Recently, African fruit bats of the genus Eidolon, family Pteropodidae, were found positive for antibodies against Nipah and Hendra viruses indicating that these viruses might be present within the geographic distribution of Pteropodidae bats in Africa.

Hendra virus in horses

Horses are the only species of domestic animal that can be naturally infected with Hendra virus. Infections in horses range from asymptomatic infection to fatal respiratory and neurological syndromes. For fatal cases, the course of illness takes an average of two days.

Symptoms of Hendra virus infection in horses are not dramatically different from other respiratory and neurological illnesses of horses. Hendra should be suspected if there is also the proximity of bats, or the presence of human cases of acute respiratory distress syndrome or encephalitis. Generally Hendra virus outbreaks in horses occur one to two weeks before illness in humans; detected outbreaks in horses could trigger prevention measures to deter associated outbreaks in humans.

The incubation period (interval from infection to onset of symptoms) in horses varies between five and 16 days. The case fatality rate in horses is about 75%.

Spill-over of Hendra virus from fruit bats to horses is rare. The transmission route is likely through contamination of pasture or feed by infected birthing fluids or fetal tissues from bats.


Preventing transmission in horses

There is no vaccine against Hendra virus. Routine cleaning and disinfection of horse stables is expected to be effective in preventing infection.

If an outbreak is suspected, the horse premises should be quarantined immediately. Culling of infected animals – with close supervision of the burial or incineration of carcasses – may be necessary to reduce the risk of transmission to people. Restricting or banning the movement of horses from infected stables to other areas can reduce the spread of the disease. As Hendra virus outbreaks in horses have preceded human cases, establishing an animal health surveillance system to detect new cases is essential in providing early warning for veterinary and human public health authorities.

Reducing the risk of infection in people

In the absence of a vaccine, the only way to reduce infection in people is by raising awareness of the risk factors and educating people about the measures they can take to reduce exposure to the virus.

Public health educational messages should focus on the following.

  • Reducing the risk of horse-to-human transmission. Protective equipment such as gloves, gowns, masks and protective eyewear should be worn while handling sick animals or their tissues, and during post-mortems.
  • Reducing the risk of bat-to-horse transmission. Horse feed and water troughs should be relocated to areas away from where bats feed or roost.

Controlling infection in health-care settings

Health-care workers caring for patients with suspected or confirmed Hendra virus infection, or handling specimens from them, should implement standard infection control precautions.

Samples taken from people or horses with suspected Hendra virus infection should be handled by trained staff working in suitably equipped laboratories.