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Forage Alternatives

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   January 26, 2011 16:25

Hay is hard to find in some areas. Because of a scarcity of hay in many regions, can you just skip feeding hay this winter and make up the deficit by doubling your horse’s grain ration? The answer is an emphatic NO.

Consider availability, cost, and practicality when choosing ways to provide adequate fiber.

 

Hay, or some other source of fiber, is absolutely necessary to the health and function of the horse’s digestive tract. Overconsumption of grain is characteristically followed by colic, gastric ulcers, or laminitis, so this is not an option to consider. Aim for an average of 1.5% of the horse’s weigh in hay or equivalent forage each day (approximately 15 pounds of hay for a 1000-pound horse, or 7 kg for a 450-kg horse), adjusting up or down depending on the horse’s age, use, and metabolism.

 

Why is fiber so important in the equine diet?

Consumption of grass, hay, and other forage fulfills both physical and psychological needs. Horses have a strong desire to chew, and also to have the full-gut feeling that comes from eating a lot of fiber. Deprived of adequate forage, horses tend to chew on trees, fences, stalls, and anything else that is available. A steady supply of forage helps to maintain the optimum types and numbers of microorganisms in the hindgut. These bacteria and other organisms transform fiber into energy the horse can use for growth or performance. The proper balance of beneficial bacteria prevents an overgrowth of harmful organisms that may upset digestion. As well as aiding the passage of food through the digestive tract, adequate fiber provides bulk and weight in the intestines. This helps to keep them from twisting and looping around each other, possibly leading to tissue damage and colic.

 

Is there a particular need for forage during cold weather?

A near-constant supply of forage is an important factor in keeping horses warm in the winter. The vast fermentation vat of the horse’s hindgut steadily produces heat that can’t be supplied by an all-grain diet.

 

My local hay dealer doesn’t have hay for sale this year. Should I buy hay from outside my region?

Obviously, not all hay is the same, but with some precautions, you should be able to use hay that is shipped in from other regions. Things to look for include:

Blister beetles. Alfalfa hay may contain these small insects that are highly toxic to horses. Signs of ingestion may include colic, depression, loss of appetite, and straining to urinate.

Unfamiliar weeds or plants. Hoary alyssum, a pasture weed, has been found in alfalfa hay baled in Michigan. Horses consuming the plant showed diarrhea, swollen legs, fever, and signs of laminitis.

Selenium levels. The amount of selenium in hay is influenced by the level of the mineral in the soil where the hay was grown. Horses need a certain amount of selenium, but high levels are toxic. Hay from some western states may have this problem. Signs of selenium toxicity include laminitis and a loss of mane and tail hair.

• Vitamin content. Levels of vitamin A and E drop slowly as hay ages. Hay baled last year, or even very early in the current year, may not contain enough vitamin E to keep horses in good health through the winter; signs of deficiency include muscle weakness, tremors, and weight loss. Vitamin E level depends less on the hay’s place of origin than on how long it has been in storage.

• Quality. Ask hay brokers for a nutrient analysis before making a purchase, and examine the hay before accepting delivery. Good hay will smell fresh and clean without a moldy odor. Check the center of a few bales; hay that appears dry and yellow on the outside of the bales may still be green and fresh inside.

 

I still don’t have enough fresh hay to supply my horse all winter. What can I do?

If at all possible, some hay should continue to be fed. Owners can use alternative fiber sources to round out the diet if the amount of traditional hay must be reduced. Ideas for stretching your hay supply include:

Feeding chopped hay, available at some feed stores in 50-pound (23-kg) bags. Palatability is an asset; expense and storage may be problems.

Adding some hay cubes to the horse’s diet, soaking the cubes if necessary before feeding. Alfalfa, timothy, and mixed cubes may be available, and in some parts of the country a hay cube fortified with vitamins and minerals is available. Many horses can get along well on mixed cubes, and selection should match the horse’s needs. Because there is less waste with cubes than with loose hay, you often do not need to feed an equivalent weight. Don’t put all the cubes out at one feeding, as the horse will probably gobble them up quickly and then have nothing to eat for hours.

Adding beet pulp to the ration. This “super-fiber” can make up a maximum of 20% to 30% of the diet, is easily digested, and can be bought in bulk at feed stores. Many people advocate soaking beet pulp before feeding, so use of this fiber takes a little more time and management than some other choices. Beet pulp is low in phosphorus and some other minerals and vitamins.

Feeding a “complete” or “fiber-included” feed that incorporates both the forage and grain portions of the diet. Be sure that the feed actually includes forage; some companies use the “complete” designation to indicate a fortified grain mix, not a product that offers forage. This type of feed should be offered in several small feedings throughout the day rather than as one large meal.

Using clean older hay. Even if last year’s hay doesn’t have optimum levels of some vitamins, it gives the horse something to chew on. Older hay that is clean but very dry can be moistened before feeding to make it more palatable, and the nutritional shortfall can be made up by adding a vitamin-mineral supplement.

Feeding straw, either baled or chopped. Clean, non-moldy straw is palatable to many horses and contains nearly as many calories as some grass hays, although it is lower in protein and phosphorus.

Allowing horses more access to pasture. If non-grazed fields are available, horses will continue to eat grass all winter even though it is not actively growing. In fields that have been grazed all summer and fall, horses may be forced to eat brushy or toxic plants as the only choice. Before counting on this source of forage, owners should walk the fields to make sure there is something to eat.

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Planting Trees for a Healthy Horse

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   January 11, 2011 16:07

 

 

By Patricia Lowe, Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority

 

The best time to plant a tree was a decade ago; the next best time to plant a tree is – today.  The author of that statement is unknown, but was likely the owner of a horse or two and knew full well the connection between planting trees and horse health.  So go ahead, order some native trees for planting this spring and your local Conservation Authority will help you get started with a tree plan for your property.  

 

Generally, the best place to plant trees for horse health is just outside the perimeter of the pasture. Planting native trees as opposed to ornamental varieties is important, as they benefit the natural ecosystem and are generally resistant to insect pests and disease.  It is important to not over plant and totally shade your pasture, select species that are non-toxic and select trees that suit your wet or dry site conditions.  The roots of trees will further stabilize soil, reduce erosion and maintain water clarity, absorbing excess nutrients like nitrates from horse manure.  The benefits to a horse include shelter from cold winter and dry summer winds, reduced exposure to sun further decreasing stress to your horse and providing a more comfortable living environment.  The leaf litter provided by trees as they drop their leaves each fall, improves the soil fertility of your pasture, resulting in improved nutrient uptake by your horse.

 

Conservation Authorities offer native tree and shrub planting programs at cost and will provide you with advice on species selection suitable to your watershed and beneficial to your horse.  Some examples of native and non native trees NOT recommended around your pasture are red maple (Acer rubrum), Cherry (Prunus sp) and Black Locust (Robinia pseudocacia) due to their toxicity to horses and other livestock.  Other dangerous trees include oaks (Quercus sp), horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus), pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), pine (Pinus sp) and yew (taxus sp).  If you already have some of these trees on your property and they are small enough, simply transplant them out of your horses reach.  If they are too large, fencing around them or re-aligning pasture fencing is a simple solution to protect your equine friends.  

 

Spring is an excellent time to plant, as bareroot trees can be purchased in bulk quantities at wholesale costs through your local Conservation Authority.  Not sure which of the 36 Conservation Authorities you should contact, check out the provincial map and contact listing on the Conservation Ontario website at www.Conservation-Ontario.on.ca. 

 

This article has been prepared by the Healthy Lands for Healthy Horses Steering Committee, which is comprised of representatives from the Ontario Equestrian Federation’s Horse Facilities Council, Uxbridge Horseman’s Association, Ontario Trail Riders Association, Equine Guelph, University of Guelph, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and various Conservation Authorities. Funding for events organized by this committee has been provided by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association from the Nutrient Management BMP Demonstration Grant funding project.

 

For more information please visit: www.equineguelph.ca/healthylands.php

 

 

Photo:  Tree Planting or Harrell Site CPA Community Tree Planting

 

 

Notes to Editor:

Equine Guelph is the horse owners’ and care givers’ Centre at the University of Guelph.  It is a unique partnership dedicated to the health and well-being of horses, supported and overseen by equine industry groups.  Equine Guelph is the epicentre for academia, industry and government – for the good of the equine industry as a whole.  For further information, visit www.equineguelph.ca.

 

Media Contact:

Jackie Bellamy, Communications

Equine Guelph

Guelph, ON   N1G 2W1

519.824.4120 ext. 54230 ¡  jbellamy@uoguelph.ca

 

 

 

 

 

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Planting Trees for a Healthy Horse

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   January 11, 2011 15:54

By Patricia Lowe, Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority

 

The best time to plant a tree was a decade ago; the next best time to plant a tree is – today.  The author of that statement is unknown, but was likely the owner of a horse or two and knew full well the connection between planting trees and horse health.  So go ahead, order some native trees for planting this spring and your local Conservation Authority will help you get started with a tree plan for your property.  

 

Generally, the best place to plant trees for horse health is just outside the perimeter of the pasture. Planting native trees as opposed to ornamental varieties is important, as they benefit the natural ecosystem and are generally resistant to insect pests and disease.  It is important to not over plant and totally shade your pasture, select species that are non-toxic and select trees that suit your wet or dry site conditions.  The roots of trees will further stabilize soil, reduce erosion and maintain water clarity, absorbing excess nutrients like nitrates from horse manure.  The benefits to a horse include shelter from cold winter and dry summer winds, reduced exposure to sun further decreasing stress to your horse and providing a more comfortable living environment.  The leaf litter provided by trees as they drop their leaves each fall, improves the soil fertility of your pasture, resulting in improved nutrient uptake by your horse.

 

Conservation Authorities offer native tree and shrub planting programs at cost and will provide you with advice on species selection suitable to your watershed and beneficial to your horse.  Some examples of native and non native trees NOT recommended around your pasture are red maple (Acer rubrum), Cherry (Prunus sp) and Black Locust (Robinia pseudocacia) due to their toxicity to horses and other livestock.  Other dangerous trees include oaks (Quercus sp), horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus), pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), pine (Pinus sp) and yew (taxus sp).  If you already have some of these trees on your property and they are small enough, simply transplant them out of your horses reach.  If they are too large, fencing around them or re-aligning pasture fencing is a simple solution to protect your equine friends.  

 

Spring is an excellent time to plant, as bareroot trees can be purchased in bulk quantities at wholesale costs through your local Conservation Authority.  Not sure which of the 36 Conservation Authorities you should contact, check out the provincial map and contact listing on the Conservation Ontario website at www.Conservation-Ontario.on.ca. 

 

This article has been prepared by the Healthy Lands for Healthy Horses Steering Committee, which is comprised of representatives from the Ontario Equestrian Federation’s Horse Facilities Council, Uxbridge Horseman’s Association, Ontario Trail Riders Association, Equine Guelph, University of Guelph, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and various Conservation Authorities. Funding for events organized by this committee has been provided by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association from the Nutrient Management BMP Demonstration Grant funding project.

 

For more information please visit: www.equineguelph.ca/healthylands.php

 

 

Photo:  Tree Planting or Harrell Site CPA Community Tree Planting

 

 

Notes to Editor:

Equine Guelph is the horse owners’ and care givers’ Centre at the University of Guelph.  It is a unique partnership dedicated to the health and well-being of horses, supported and overseen by equine industry groups.  Equine Guelph is the epicentre for academia, industry and government – for the good of the equine industry as a whole.  For further information, visit www.equineguelph.ca.

 

Media Contact:

Jackie Bellamy, Communications

Equine Guelph

Guelph, ON   N1G 2W1

519.824.4120 ext. 54230 ¡  jbellamy@uoguelph.ca

 

 

 

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WELCOME TO HOP HILL STABLE-Tips for Dealing with the End Product

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   January 5, 2011 14:43

 

 

Article 3: WELCOME TO HOP HILL STABLE

Part 3: Tips for Dealing with the End Product

 

Written by Nadine Abrams

In our summer issue; Hop Hill Stables, owned and operated by Michael Jewett and his family was highlighted for its unique approach using recycled materials for constructing a barn, adjoining tack room and riding arena.  Using salvaged materials sourced from building demolitions around the province and repurposed on site features like the original homesteads’ masonry stove, Hop Hill Stables illustrates its commitment to reducing its environmental ‘hoof’ print.

 

With 26 horses residing at Hop Hill Stables at any given time, there are a lot of hoof prints to consider.  With the average horse consuming 2% of its body weight per day (about half a square bale) and an estimated 300,000 horses in Ontario; that is a lot of hay making and hay eating!  However, it was the end result of the hay eating that concerned the Jewett family.  With 220 feeding days when pasture is not available, the end result is a lot of accumulated manure.  This needs to be removed from stalls, stored, composted and recycled to ensure that it does not contribute to contamination of nearby ground and surface water sources integral to the health of Hop Hill Stable’s two and four legged residents!

 

With funding assistance from the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA), the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA), and Environment Canada, the Jewett’s have constructed a modern 200m2 (2,150ft2) covered manure storage facility adjacent to the barn.  The facility consists of a cover-all type roof, pre-cast concrete walls and a sloped concrete slab to facilitate drainage.  “While we understand the risk of contamination, we also recognized the benefit manure can provide to improve pasturing for our horses. By keeping the manure on site, it also saves us the cost of trucking it to another facility for composting or disposal”.  The manure storage facility was specifically sized and designed for Hop Hill as per the recommendations provided in the farms’ Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) and subsequent Nutrient Management Strategy (NMS).  For more information on how you can complete an Environmental Farm Plan, contact your local representative at OSCIA (www.ontariosoilcrop.org).

 

The cost for a manure storage facility can range significantly depending on the farms needs and size of operation.  The cost of labour and materials must also be considered.  Based on manure storage facilities completed in 2010 by landowners in the Greater Toronto Area, the cost varied significantly ranging from $6/m2 for a 15m x 23m facility to $17/m2 for a 14m x 9m facility. The size and location of the facility, which should provide a minimum of 240 days of manure storage as per the EFP guideline, is based on a number of factors which are investigated during the development of your NMS.  The number of livestock on the farm, topography of the land, the amount of pasture available to spread the manure and if there are any significant natural features nearby such as a creek or wetland are just some of the factors investigated.  With so many variables to consider, one can see that a NMS is unique to each farm and that the cost of a manure storage facility can be easily affected.  

 

At Hop Hill, the manure subject is still up for discussion as the Jewett’s investigate phase two of their manure management plan, a composting system.  Over the past year, Mr. Jewett and his family have investigated various uses for horse manure.  After careful consideration and analysis of anaerobic digestion (composting without oxygen) for biogas and fertilizer, gasification and basic composting, the decision was made to pursue composting in a series of windrows.  In agriculture, windrow composting is the production of compost by piling organic matter or biodegradable waste, such as animal manure and crop residues, in long rows (on level ground). In the case of Hop Hill, the farms’ tractor is used to sculpt the manure into windrows. It is then turned every two days initially and then approximately once a week. The windrow is simultaneously watered via a compost turner (attached to the back of the tractor) which has built-in nozzles that spray the windrow during turning.  The nozzles are attached to a 1,500 gal tank, acquired from a maple syrup equipment supplier, and is filled using the “recycled” water out of the existing cistern (rain water collected from the arena roof).  Of course, a good watering from a hose works as well.  The windrows are also monitored for temperature as the optimal temperature to kill pathogenic organisms and undesirable weed seeds is 1300F to 1600F.  The turning process is repeated for approximately 10 to 12 weeks or until the manure has been suitably composted for application to the pasture or lawn area. There is no definitive rule but finished compost should be dark in color and have an earthy smell (like the smell of soil).

 

Mr. Jewett commented that manure from horses is not well studied as it is mixed with wood shavings or straw/straw pellets and that he is still learning about basic composting, the material compositions as well as more technical data such as the carbon-nitrogen ratios within the compost.   The first round of composting at Hop Hill was successful with product being spread on the paddocks byearly August. “The advantage for us, “ says Jewett, “is that we no longer need to haul manure off-site, but we eliminated spreading raw, nutrient high manure on the land, which is so much better for the environment and our water resources.”

 

It is estimated that Hop Hill Stable produces 400 tons of manure each year, providing a considerable amount of invaluable nutrients for other uses around the property.  Not only can composted manure help to improve pasture yield, but extra product can be applied to lawn and garden areas prompting some equine establishments to bag and sell their leftovers as a revenue generator.

 

“Every horse farm should look at their manure as a resource,” recommends Jewett.  “Even if a properly designed manure storage facility is not in the budget, I would encourage people to look at the location of their manure storage and how they can reduce the risk of runoff contaminating local water resources.”  Suggestions from the Healthy Lands, Healthy Horses program include making sure your manure pile is not located “up-hill” from your well or local creek.  Based on the best EFP rating, manure storage of any type should be a minimum of 90 metres away from a private well and greater than 300 metres away from any municipal well (numbers vary in the Nutrient Management Act).  Installing eaves troughs to divert clean water from building roofs away from the manure pile can help. It may be as simple as putting an extension on an existing downspout. Another option is tarping your manure pile as this will speed up composting and reduce runoff which reduces the nutrient content of your manure.  For more information on how you can better manage your manure, visit the ‘nutrient management’ section on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs website (www.omafra.gov.on.ca).

 

We hope you enjoyed our three part series on Hop Hill Stables. To learn more about stewardship programs, the Environmental Farm Plan process and funding programs available to help you, contact your local Conservation Authority or OSCIA.  Not sure which of the 36 Conservation Authorities you should contact, check out the provincial map and contact listing on the Conservation Ontario website at www.Conservation-Ontario.on.ca. 

 

This article has been prepared by the Healthy Lands for Healthy Horses Steering Committee, which is comprised of representatives from the Horse Facilities Council, Uxbridge Horseman’s Association, Ontario Trail Riders Association, Equine Guelph, University of Guelph, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ontario Equestrian Federation and various Conservation Authorities.  Funding for events organized by this committee has been provided by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association from the Nutrient Management BMP Demonstration Grant funding project.

 

For more information please visit: www.equineguelph.ca/healthylands.php

 

Photo credit:   Nadine Abrams

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Notes to Editor:

Equine Guelph is the horse owners’ and care givers’ Centre at the University of Guelph.  It is a unique partnership dedicated to the health and well-being of horses, supported and overseen by equine industry groups.  Equine Guelph is the epicentre for academia, industry and government – for the good of the equine industry as a whole.  For further information, visit www.equineguelph.ca.

 

Media Contact:

Jackie Bellamy, Communications

Equine Guelph

Guelph, ON   N1G 2W1

519.824.4120 ext. 54230 ¡  jbellamy@uoguelph.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

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