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August 2019

Top 10 Tips for Improving Your Horse’s Nutrition

By Brood Mares, Foals, Horses, Performance/Competition Horses, Senior Horses No Comments

Nutrition is the cornerstone of any healthy, thriving horse. The best feed for your horse optimizes its natural digestive system to get the most nutrients to match its current needs. As horses mature they have changing nutritional requirements throughout their lives. What impacts a horse’s dietary requirements? The amount of work, age, weight, gender, stress level and pregnancy status all affect the caloric requirements for horses.

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Understanding the Digestive System of Horses

The digestive system of a horse includes the foregut and hindgut. The foregut contains enzymes to break down starches, proteins and fats. Both the small intestine and stomach are in this portion of the digestive tract. The hindgut is where microbes break up fiber from the roughage the animal consumes. Included in the hindgut are the remaining organs used for digestion — cecum, large and small colons and the rectum.

How Long Does It Take for a Horse to Digest Food?

These animals require 45 to 72 hours for feed to pass entirely through their digestive system. The types of horse feed and the animal’s health may affect the time it takes for digestion.

What Is a Typical Diet for an Adult Horse?

A horse’s usual diet depends on five types of nutrients, including ample amounts of water, starches from grains, fiber from hay, vitamins and minerals. The bulk of the animal’s diet comes from carbohydrates, with fats and proteins also contributing energy. Fats provide fuel, but limit them to no more than 10% of the intake. Proteins help build muscle, hair, skin and hooves.

Tips for Improving Horse Nutrition

Feeding your animal well requires a balance of nutrients, energy and water. Here are some helpful tips for feeding horses that will boost nutrition and health.

1. Provide Ample Clean, Fresh Water

Water is vital to the well-being of all creatures. ON average a horse can drink 10 gallons daily, but this amount can double in hot weather or when the animal exerts itself. Always provide plenty of clean water, even in cold weather. Keep in mind that you may need a heater to prevent water from freezing in the winter.

2. Keep Grains at a Minimum

The arrangement of the digestive system illustrates how much horses need balance in their feed. Too much grain promotes gas in the hindgut because the starches in the grains break down in the foregut. Once they pass through the hindgut, the microbes there take in the remainder of the carbohydrates and produce gas as a byproduct. Excessive levels of gas can lead to discomfort and even colic. To avoid this situation, feed your horse a balance of grains and fibrous hay to promote motility and prevent gas in the hindgut.

3. Boost Forage Intake

Fiber from grass or hay should equal between 1 and 2.5% of a horse’s weight. This high amount of fiber helps the animal’s digestive system operate at its best. For a 1,000-pound horse, this translates to approximately 20 pounds of hay daily, with added grains based on the amount of exertion the animal experiences, in addition to body condition. Animals that do not work may consume up to 25 pounds of hay each day with no supplemental grains (as always, consult with your veterinarian for advice on adjusting your horse’s intake). There is a relatively straightforward formula for how to estimate a horse’s body weight without a scale, based on heart girth and body length measurements.

4. Match Types of Feed to Exercise

Exercise will dictate the additional amount of grain or concentrated feed your horse needs. If your horse does not work, it may not require the additional calories provided by grain. For light work, up to two hours a day, your horse may benefit from an extra one to one and a half pounds of grain per hour of effort. For two to four hours of work, some experts recommend allotting up to two pounds of supplemental grain or concentrate per hour of work. Heavy working horses that do more than four hours of work may require significantly higher levels of concentrated feed or grain to help achieve the animal’s caloric needs.

5. Know What the Body Condition Score Is for Your Horse

While your horse’s weight is essential for knowing how much to feed it, the body condition score is also critical. What is the body condition score, and why is it important? This measurement looks at the amount of fat under the skin at specific locations on the animal’s body. You can learn to measure your horse’s body condition score yourself through classes that walk you through the process. The average ideal body condition score is five, but the best value for your horse will depend on its breed and what it does. Talk to your vet if you need advice about your animal’s body condition.

6. Don’t Make Abrupt Changes

Horses digest food over two to three days, which means changes in the feed may not cause problems immediately. If you must change your animal’s feed, do so slowly to avoid digestive troubles and upset.

Inside the animal’s hindgut are bacteria that help it digest the feed it usually consumes. Specific bacteria help break down certain things. Suddenly changing feed means the gut bacteria will not be able to properly digest the animal’s new diet and the microbial balance will be thrown off.

Change the feed by no more than 25% every other day to avoid digestive problems. Doing so gives your horse a week for its digestive system to acclimate to the new diet.

7. Account for Life Changes

Not all horses eat the same amount or mixture. Be ready to make changes throughout the animal’s life to mirror its changing nutritional needs. For example, there are different dietary recommendations for horses in the first years of their lives than for seniors. Pregnant and lactating mares also need specific diets to meet their needs.

Exercise also changes the amount of energy your horse needs. Make changes to allow for extra nutrition when your animal does more exercise. When it works less, it will need less feed. Adjusting feed levels to match the work levels keeps your animal at a healthy weight while giving it the energy it needs for its work.

8. Help the Horse Through Stressful Times

Every horse experiences stress at times during its life. Sudden changes in exercise, travel, too much time in the stall, pregnancy and other life events can result in stress. Horses under stress can develop ulcers or have other digestive problems. During such times, you can supplement your horse’s feed to reduce the chances of developing ulcers and help the animal use nutrition from its diet more efficiently. Such dietary amendments can help your horse wade through stressful times without severe consequences.

9. Supplement With Vitamins

When feeding hay to horses, you likely won’t know the exact nutrient makeup of the feed. Wet and older hay may have fewer vitamins than fresh hay. To keep your animal from developing vitamin deficiencies, supplement its diet by adding vitamins and minerals to its feed. Talk to your equine vet about specific vitamin supplements to use to ensure your animal gets the nutrients it needs based on its dietary requirements and the available vitamins in the area’s pastures.

10. Watch out for Mineral Ratios

Like vitamins, minerals make up a minute amount of the animal’s diet, but they provide critical roles in the functioning of the animal’s internal systems. Your horse will naturally regulate the amount of salt it takes in based on what it needs. However, you’ll need to ensure your animal gets calcium and phosphorus in the right proportions. At the very least, provide your animal with an even one-to-one ratio of calcium to phosphorus. A better balance, though, is two-to-one calcium to phosphorus to ensure your horse makes the most of these valuable minerals. Having too much calcium in the diet reduces the amount of phosphorus your horse can use.

Feed Considerations for Pregnant Mares

Pregnant mares have unique nutritional needs in addition to dietary requirements to support their growing fetus. Nutritional recommendations for mares carrying fetuses include both energy for the mother and enough to support an expected growth curve of the fetus.

1. When to Change a Pregnant Mare’s Diet

Major changes in the mare’s diet will likely not occur until the fifth month. How the diet changes depends on the time of year and the mare’s condition.

2. How Does a Pregnant Mare’s Diet Change?

The amount you feed your mare during its pregnancy will change during each trimester. While during the first two trimesters, your broodmare will need enough food to support her body weight, by the third, she will need 30% more feed than she had before carrying her fetus.

Mares will require even more feed if the third trimester falls during colder months when she does not have access to pasture and needs fuel to stay warm while the fetus rapidly reaches its peak size. A body condition score of six for broodmares before winter allows them enough body fat to stay warm through the winter and draw energy from if needed.

For specific needs based on your mare’s weight and expected weight gain at a time during its pregnancy, the National Academies offers an interactive means of calculating intake.

How Does a Horse’s Age Impact Their Nutritional Requirements?

Among the things that impact a horse’s diet is age. Young, growing weanlings and yearlings have higher and different nutrient needs than mature animals. Older animals will have dietary requirements that help support any age-related health conditions they developed.

Foals

Foals, especially, need an appropriate balance of calcium to phosphorus to ensure adequate bone and teeth development. Ratios may range from three-to-one to one-to-one. Talk to your vet about their recommendations for your young foal’s mineral needs.

Amino acids are also crucial to growing foals. These substances build protein in the body. Overall, these young animals need 14% to 16% of their diet from protein, which is more than adults. The only specific amino acid intake requirements for yearlings and weanlings is lysine. The former group needs 2.1 g/Mcal/day, while the latter group needs slightly less at 1.9 g/Mcal/day.

Pay attention to the yearling’s and weanling’s feed during the first two years. The animal will grow rapidly, reaching 86% of its adult weight by age 2. During the first year, feed yearlings an even 50-50 mixture of concentrate and hay. After age 2, switch your horse to an adult diet of hay and supplemental concentrate or grain, based on activity level.

Adults

For adult horses, allow ready access to forage and up to 25 pounds of hay daily with added grain or concentrate as a supplement. Changes in adult diets depend on whether the animal works more or is in the breeding season.

Seniors

Senior horses may be hard keepers due to illnesses or difficulty chewing due to poor dental health. You will need to focus carefully on feeding them to prevent weight loss that could compromise their health.

Older horses engage in less activity, but due to changes in digestion ability, they require higher protein levels, 12% to 14%, to ensure adequate absorption. Dental health and existing health problems will affect how much your senior horse eats. Fats are also necessary to help hard keepers maintain body condition. If your horse has any conditions that require special nutritional needs, talk to your vet about a customized diet.

Offer multiple small meals throughout the day to your older horse. A rule of thumb is to limit feed to five pounds at each meal, and isolate older animals, so younger ones do not chase them off. Select easily digestible and chewed feed designed for older animals, and consider supplementing it with an aid that promotes proper pH of digestive enzymes.

Mares vs. Stallions

Mares and stallions will have different nutritional needs during the breeding season. Females will require feeding based on the needs of broodmares while carrying a fetus. Stallions will also need extra energy, but not as much as you might think.

For feeding a stallion, make sure to maintain the animal’s condition, regardless of the season. During non-breeding times, the stallion can meet his energy requirements by eating forage and hay. The animal will need more energy during the breeding season, as well as possible mineral and vitamin supplementation to ensure fertility.

In the breeding season, a stallion increases his energy requirements by 20%, but only eats 10% more feed. To ensure the animal has enough to keep up his energy requirements, supplement his feed with concentrates. Give the horse vitamins A and E, because the stallion will need 50% more of these vitamins when breeding. Consider adding selenium and manganese to the animal’s diet if he is deficient in these, which could drop fertility.

Maintaining your breeding horses during the season can ensure success and a future of foals.

Supplement Your Horse’s Feed With Zesterra®

When you want to care for your animal’s health and nutrition, supplement its diet with a product that encourages water intake, raises pH and promotes the proliferation of healthy bacteria in the hindgut. To support the nutrient requirements for your horses at all stages of life, consider supplementation with Zesterra®.

Zesterra® helps your animal through stressful times. It also promotes natural healing of conditions such as ulcers. With an all-natural blend of ingredients, this product gives your horse’s digestive system the boost it needs to extract as many nutrients from food as possible, making it an ideal supplement for older animals or those that experience stress. To get answers to any questions you have about our products, including Zesterra®, contact us online.

Related Posts

How to Choose the Right Horse for Your Riding Style

The Mare: Pregnancy Trimesters 1 – 3

The Mare: Pre-Breeding Considerations

Five Ways to Prepare Your Horse for Summer

Sources:

  • https://extension.psu.edu/feeding-horses
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/product/zesterra/
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/general-inquiries/
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/trimesters-1-3/
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/causes-and-effects-of-stress-in-horses/
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/zesterra/hard-keepers/
  • https://articles.extension.org/pages/21927/top-ten-nutrition-tips-for-your-horse
  • https://www.uaex.edu/farm-ranch/animals-forages/horses/estimating_weight.pdf
  • https://articles.extension.org/pages/11488/horsequest-learning-lesson:how-to-body-condition-score-horses
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  • https://ker.com/equinews/nutrition-stallion/
  • https://ag.tennessee.edu/AnimalScience/UTHorse/EQuineReports/2012-April.pdf

A Matter of Color – Why does Zesterra darken with age?

By Brood Mares, Foals, Horses, Performance/Competition Horses, Senior Horses No Comments

At least a few times a week we get this inquiry — why did my Zesterra® darken since I bought it? This is a perfectly valid question — after all, in most cases, when the color of food or even things like toiletries shifts, it can be a sign of spoilage.

So, does a deeper shade of amber in Zesterra® herald its imminent demise? Luckily, no.

The reason behind that color change comes down to plain chemistry. Because we don’t use preservatives, the all-natural apple flavoring starts to go through a process known as oxidation. Just like when you cut open an apple and it immediately starts to take on a brown hue, so too does the apple flavor in Zesterra®.

But how? Apples contain an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (also known as PPO), which, when released by damage to the tissue and consequent oxygen exposure, oxidize the polyphenols.

The other part to these inquiries usually involves shelf life. Zesterra has a 5-year shelf life and is incredibly stable — most of us keep a bottle in our trucks or trailers, our tack rooms and in our houses. If it freezes overnight because you forgot it out on the porch, that shouldn’t be a problem. Nor should leaving it in the hot truck for a few days.

Obviously, as with anything, we suggest you exercise common sense. If your Zesterra smells “off” or has become particularly thick or gloppy, it may be time to retire it. These problems are usually associated with contamination so it really shouldn’t be used anyway.

While this is just a quick overview, as always, please don’t ever hesitate to contact us with questions. We pride ourselves on being able to offer you solid answers based on facts and our own personal experiences with our products.

Lodoen Cow-Calf

Tips for Improving Profit for Cow-Calf Operations

By Cattle, Cow-Calf No Comments

Ranchers who want to know how to improve the profitability of cow-calf operations must understand how many factors play into the costs and earnings of this endeavor. It is possible to turn a profit from raising beef cattle, but producers need to provide everything for the animals until their sale. When an operation is small, though, every dollar spent must be an investment in the overall cattle production.

The USDA Economic Research Service collates data for various farm products across the country. The average cost of maintaining cattle from 2008 through 2018 was $562.23 per head. Adding the overhead costs of running a ranch, the total rises to $1,374.45 per head. Operating costs factored into this maintenance price per animal were graze feed, fed feed, purchased feed, harvested feed, vet bills, medicine, bedding, marketing, lube, fuel, electricity, repairs and interest on costs.

Costs of raising cattle are not stagnant. While operating expenses have slightly increased overall since 1996, in some years, the price tag was much higher. For example, in 2014, the operating costs per cow reached a high of $628.47 per head. That year, though, overhead budgets, including pasture maintenance costs, were lower, bringing the total to just a dollar below 2018’s total, $1,375.63. The real factor behind rising costs for cattle ranchers has appeared in overhead expenditures, which more than doubled from $387.24 in 1996 to $812.22 in 2018. To make up for these rising overhead costs, the rancher must do everything possible to improve the profitability per animal.

Producers typically have small herds. Just under half, 45.6%, of all beef cows came from farms with fewer than 100 cattle. Fewer cows correlate to spending less time on beef production. Those with fewer than 50 cows averaged only 28.6% of their time in caring for the operation, whereas 47.3% of those with farms up to 100 cows did. These numbers still relate to cattle producers spending a minority of time raising their animals, which means a smaller margin of error in things that improve profitability.

Profitable cattle ranching, though, is a possibility, with a mixture of skill and luck. The factors affecting profitability fall into two categories: those that are under the producer’s control, and those that are not. When ranchers make the most of changeable factors, they will help offset issues beyond their control, such as weather or increased feed costs.

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Major Factors Impacting Cow-Calf Operations

When it comes to profits, several factors are under the ranchers’ control, while others are not. Understanding the factors behind ranch operations that influence earnings and debt-to-equity ratio, a producer will be able to change the profits from the ranch.

1. Percent of Mothers Weaning a Calf

Choosing when to cull females that fail to produce calves affects the amount of feed used throughout the year, as well as income earned. Ideally, ranchers want to maximize the number of females weaning calves, which will increase operations profits from sales of young animals. Females that do not produce a calf use resources without generating income in the form of a saleable calf. Early culling of females without calves can positively affect operating costs.

2. Calves’ Weaning Weight

The weight at which a producer weans calves determines those animals’ final selling price. When to wean calves is a decision that rests solely on the shoulders of the rancher, who must balance the calves’ health and weight to the milk production, pasture conditions and age. Weaned calves and culled low-fertile females account for the majority of income in operations, both of which the rancher directly influences without external forces.

3. Overall Cow Nutrition

Keeping up with the nutrition of cattle helps them gain weight as needed. Heavier calves that stay healthy can sell for higher prices. The cost of feed, though, impacts operations. How many acres needed per cow and the ranch size affect the total amount spent on raising the animals. Across all cow-calf operation sizes, the majority, 93.7%, owned their land for cattle grazing.

4. Cattle Stress

Cattle stress can significantly impact the health of animals in a herd, which ties to cow-calf profits. Separation and handling stress can occur at weaning for the calves and at birth for the mothers. Reducing stress does more than keep the animals happy. Less stressed cattle have healthier immune systems, and vaccines work better because excessive stress levels negatively impact the effectiveness of immunizations.

5. Price Received for Weaned Animals

While market conditions will influence the amount received for weaned animals, some aspects of the price fall within the rancher’s influence. Selecting the best cattle with marketable attributes for raising can help when working toward profitable cattle ranching. Beyond keeping the animals healthy and reaching a good weight, there is little else a rancher can do to affect the price received for weaned calves.

6. Environment

The environment plays a direct factor in the percentage of weaned calves. Longer or shorter winters can cause minor fluctuations in the rates, but other environmental factors also play a role. Air pollution and mineral depletion in the soil can affect the health of cows and their calves.

For example, in Montgomery County, Tenn., the soil already lacks adequate copper and selenium. Forage for cow-calf operations did not have enough of these minerals. The problem increased when nearby coal plants started burning sulfur-containing fuel that bound what little copper and selenium the cows had available. The weaning rate in this area is only 78%Adding cattle supplements to feed with the lacking minerals can help the problem as long as the practice remains economically feasible.

7. Breed

The breeds of cattle used can also affect the weaning rate and profitability. For instance, in Florida, weaning rates have dropped because operators prefer using single-breed animals instead of crossbreeds. The crossbred cattle could improve weaning rates by creating herds better adapted to the environmental challenges of heat, humidity and low-quality forage. Producers do not seek such opportunities, however, due to the higher costs of choosing better-bred animals.

While economically, in Florida, choosing more crossbreeds may not make economic sense, it could improve operations in other parts of the country by selecting cows that have more natural abilities to thrive in the local environment.

By selectively crossbreeding cows to be superior to their parents, weaning rates and productivity can both improve. Maternal heterosis offers the cheapest, most effective means of increasing weaning rate without breaking the budget. With better weaning rates, profits may increase, depending on the region.

Tips for Improving the Profitability of Cow-Calf Operations

When it comes to changing how much ranchers make per cow, keeping the animals healthy is key. But other factors will help producers find what is the most profitable way to raise cattle for beef production. Pricing, animal stress, nutrition and weaning are among the factors that can help raise profit margins.

1. Maintain Animal Health

Keeping up animal health reduces the costs of treating sick cows and the economic loss of lower-weight cows and deaths.

Part of ensuring the long-term health of cows requires preventing diseases. For large-scale cow-calf producers, vaccinations are standard. Farms of between 100 and 199 cows reported 95.9% of them vaccinated their herds, while 92.1% of producers with over 200 cows inoculated their animals. Compare that to only 59.4% of small-scale producers with fewer than 50 cows that vaccinated. Vaccinating animals can help boost their immune systems and protect them from diseases such as shipping fever, also called bovine respiratory disease. Against this specific condition, only 26.3% of producers with up to 49 cows vaccinated, while 82% of operations with over 200 animals did.

Vaccinating against preventable diseases may add to the costs of raising the cows, but it can prevent loss from animal death and lower-weight cows that sell for less. Because each animal contributes a higher percentage to the total profits earned, small-scale producers must do everything possible to maintain animal health.

Hiring a local veterinarian to assess and help maintain the herd’s health may be an investment, but it can provide access to vaccinations and give the producer advice on diseases that could affect the health of the cows.

2. Reduce Cattle Stress

Cows and calves experience significant levels of stress at various times during the seasons. At birth and during weaning, both calves and their mothers see high levels of stress that can affect their health. To ensure the healthiest herd, inoculating cows against disease, providing quality feed and giving freshwater are not the only things that will help cows live their healthiest lives.

Reducing stress in cows requires them to eat and drink enough to keep up their nutrition requirements. When cows experience ruminal acidosis, supplementing their diet with CattlActive® can help the pH balance of rumen in their digestive systems, which can help them eat enough to recover from stressful times. When cows have low stress, their immune systems will work more efficiently and swiftly.

3. Make Birthing and Weaning Changes

In some regions with lower weaning rates, such as Florida, shortening the weaning season could help. For instance, removing cows that do not produce as well and reducing Florida’s standard weaning season of 120 to 180 days could lead to an improvement in weaning rate from 82% to 85% in three years.

In other parts of the country, such as the Midwest, breeding cows earlier to produce heavier weaned calves influences profits. California, however, already has a high weaning rate and particular problems with its herds to warrant maintaining its current status quo.

Even for small-scale operators who do not have specific weaning seasons, controlling the herd and making decisions based on maximizing its economic value are essential. Culling non-pregnant or low-fertile females early will prevent the extra cost of feeding and maintaining them throughout the year. The earlier producers can cull open cows, the more money they can save and the higher the profits from the operation.

4. Offer Adequate Nutrition

Offering adequate nutrition to cattle ensures they stay at a healthy weight to re-breed. When cows do not have an optimum body condition score (BCS) after giving birth, they will be less likely to have a successful breed back. To maintain nutrient levels, farmers must recognize the higher nutritional needs of cattle just before giving birth and while lactating. Meeting these needs through adjusting the feed for the animals will keep the cows from losing weight.

Changing food availability and nutrient needs can stress an animal’s digestive system, which relies on balance. Signs of digestive problems such as acidosis include weight loss, refusal to eat or drink, unusual behavior, high pulse rate and lethargy. These symptoms necessitate immediate action to prevent permanent damage to the health of the animal. Re-regulating the system with supplementation can help the cow’s digestive system to restore itself.

When the animals have enough nutrition, they will produce healthier calves and be more likely to continue breeding in the future.

5. Choose Forward Pricing

Forward pricing allows farmers to set a price above the break-even point. Regardless of what happens in the market later in the season when the sales occur, the amount agreed upon at the beginning of the season stands. A minority of operators, 2.3%, with up to 49 cattle use this strategy. Among operators with 50 to 99 cows, 3.1% chose forward pricing. Large-scale operations, though, select this option more often, accounting for 15.4% of operators.

Selling larger lots of cows can also increase pricing and make buyers more likely to purchase from a single group. Having a large lot with several uniform calves can improve the selling price, increasing profits.

The downside to choosing forward pricing is the legally binding nature of this pricing system. Farmers must promise a set number of cows for delivery at the agreed-upon price. As long as producers keep up with the health and reproduction of the cows, the guaranteed number of cows should be ready at sale time.

6. Sell Higher-Value Calves

Choosing animals that will fetch a higher price will affect profits. The breeds sold depend on the region of the country, but crossbreeds often sell at a premium price compared to single-breed animals. For example, in Florida, compared to the usual Brahman/Angus mix, an Angus crossed with Hereford gets $5.76 more.

Calves with horns negatively affect the price because the horns can damage the animals and require the additional cost of removal. Polling or dehorning calves can improve their selling price.

When cows give birth to male calves, producers must choose whether to castrate the animals. Steer calves sell for more at auction, at an average of $8 to $10 more, compared to heifers. Bulls do not sell for as high a price as steer calves. Castrating males will improve the amount received at auction.

Discover How CattlActive® Can Help

Cattle stress can affect the health and well-being of each animal maintained. CattlActive® has a palatable formula that encourages cows to eat and drink by neutralizing the acid. Once a cow begins regularly consuming healing feed, both its stress levels and overall health can improve. Through this all-natural formula, producers can see better gains in the cattle as the animals increase their nutrient intake. Make a purchase or get answers to questions from us. For more information, ask one of our consultants.

Related Posts

What is E.coli?

How Does the Digestive System Work in a Cow: Understanding the Ruminant Digestive System

Prebiotics: What They Are and What They Do

What is a Microbiome?

Understanding Adaptive Immunity

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