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Jennie Eilerts

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
  • https://thehorse.com/164430/when-to-change-a-pregnant-mares-diet/
  • https://nrc88.nas.edu/nrh/
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  • https://www.merckvetmanual.com/management-and-nutrition/nutrition-horses/nutritional-requirements-of-horses
  • https://thehorse.com/136769/feeding-young-horses-graduating-to-a-grown-up-diet/
  • https://ker.com/equinews/nutrition-stallion/
  • https://ag.tennessee.edu/AnimalScience/UTHorse/EQuineReports/2012-April.pdf

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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.

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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

Sources:

  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/cattlactive/cow-calf/
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/product/cattlactive/
  • https://www.northernag.net/what-influences-profit-for-cow-calf-operations-and-what-can-you-control/
  • https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/an278
  • https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/smallscale/downloads/Small_scale_beef.pdf
  • https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/DataFiles/47913/CowCalfCostReturn.xlsx?v=68
  • https://www.beefmagazine.com/cowcalfweekly/0624-pushing-weaning-envelope
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/how-does-the-digestive-system-work-in-a-cow-understanding-the-ruminant-digestive-system/
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/mineral-supplementation-a-summer-essential/
  • https://proearthanimalhealth.com/herd-health-vaccinations/
  • https://www.beefmagazine.com/weaning/weaning-basics-help-keep-calves-healthy

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

By Cattle No Comments

What is a ruminant? Ruminant animals are set apart from other mammals by their complex digestive systems. The way they process food, absorb nutrients and gain energy is different from other herbivores.

The main distinction in a ruminant digestive system is that the stomach has four separate compartments, each with a unique function, whereas most other animals only have a single compartment with a unified functionality.

The four compartments allow ruminant animals to digest grass or vegetation without completely chewing it first. Instead, they only partially chew the vegetation, then microorganisms in the rumen section of the stomach break down the rest. Animals with singular stomach compartments — known as a monogastric digestive system — do not have the same capability.

Many different animals have this unique digestive system, including:

  • Cattle
  • Sheep
  • Goats
  • Water buffalo
  • Deer
  • Elk
  • Giraffes
  • Camels

These animals convert plant matter and vegetation into useable energy more efficiently than other herbivores.

In cattle and dairy cows, the development, pH balance, functionality and bacteria levels of the digestive system are crucial to maintaining overall health and high yield.

While some parts of the ruminant digestive system are similar to those of non-ruminant systems, several essential components perform the necessary functions for digestion.

Table of Contents

Components of the Ruminant Digestive System

While the ruminant digestive system operates differently from the monogastric system, it is composed of the same six basic components:

1. Mouth

The mouth is where the process begins. Cattle will graze by wrapping their tongues around plants and tearing, pulling them into their mouth for mastication. They chew first with the lower jaw incisors, working against a hard dental pad on the front part upper palate, then second with the molars, grinding plant material down further. Chewing stimulates saliva production and the saliva mixes with plant matter before the animal swallows. Saliva contains enzymes capable of breaking down fats and starches and helps to buffer the pH levels in the reticulum and rumen segments of the stomach. Mature cattle will swallow from 50 to 80 quarts daily to aid in digestion, but the amount varies based on how much time they spend chewing.

2. Esophagus

When the cattle swallows the plant material and saliva mix, it will travel down the esophagus to the rumen. The esophagus performs the swallowing action through waves of muscle contractions, moving the feed down. It has a bidirectional function, meaning it can move feed from the mouth to the stomach or from the stomach to the mouth. Cattle need the latter to regurgitate “cud,” or the under-chewed plant matter and grain, back up to the mouth for further grinding. Once the cow is finished chewing, it again swallows the matter back down to the stomach.

3. Stomach

Generally, the stomach functions to further break down plant matter and grain. More specifically, there are four sections of the stomach — rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum — each with a particular job to do. These sections store chewed plant material and grain, absorb nutrients and vitamins, break down proteins, aid in beginning digestion and dissolve material into processable pieces. The next section will focus more closely on the responsibilities and functions of each stomach compartment.

4. Small Intestine

The small intestine has three main sections — the duodenum, jejunum and ileum — that work together to complete most of the actual digestive process. In the duodenum, the section connected to the stomach, secretions from the gallbladder and pancreas mix with the partially digested matter. This process balances the pH in the intestine, ensuring the digestive enzymes work correctly. The jejunum section is lined with small, finger-like projections known as villi, which increase the intestinal surface area and absorb nutrients. The ileum absorbs vitamin B12, bile salts and any nutrients that passed through the jejunum. At the end of the ileum is a valve, preventing any backward flow of materials. Throughout the small intestine, muscular contractions move the matter forward. In a fully mature cow, the entire organ may be up to 150 feet long and has a 20-gallon capacity.

5. Cecum

Sitting between the small and large intestines is a three-foot-long pouch called the cecum. It has little function besides providing storage and a transition between the two intestines, but it does aid in the continual breaking down of material. The cecum has about a two-gallon holding capacity.

6. Large Intestine

Smaller in length but larger in diameter than the small intestine, the large intestine is the final step of the digestive process. It absorbs remaining water and contains bacteria microbes that finish digestion and produce vitamins the animal needs to grow and remain healthy. Its last job is to eliminate any undigested and unabsorbed food from the system in the form of waste.

When the cow is properly handled and fed, this process continually occurs, keeping the animal healthy and at the right weight. The entire digestion process should take anywhere from one to three days.

If something interrupts this process or the cattle is unhealthy, the sections will no longer be able to function as well as they should, causing diseases and complications.

A cow's large intestine is smaller in length, but larger in diameter and is the final step in the digestive processThe Four Components of a Cattle’s Stomach

Of the six components in the cattle’s digestive system, the most important part is the stomach. A ruminant animal’s stomach has four distinct compartments, each with its specific function. These compartments are:

1. Rumen

The four components of a cattle's stomachThe rumen, also known as the “paunch,” is the first area, connected to the cattle’s esophagus. This compartment acts as storage for chewed vegetation and forms balls of cud. Cud consists of large, non-digestible pieces of plant matter that must be regurgitated, chewed a second time and swallowed before continuing through the process. The rumen absorbs nutrients through papillae and facilitates fermentation, creating the bacteria microbes necessary to break down and digest the proteins in feed. Microorganisms in the rumen are responsible for digesting cellulose and complex starches, as well as synthesizing protein, B vitamins and vitamin K. As a storage area, it can hold up to 40 gallons of material. The rumen, combined with the reticulum, makes up 84% of the volume of the entire stomach. A few common health issues with the rumen include bloat, which occurs when a cow can’t eradicate a buildup of gas, acidosis and rumenitis, which occur when low pH balance allows for high acid production. These can be prevented by managing and paying attention to cattle’s food and water intake.

2. Reticulum

The reticulum is frequently referred to as the “honeycomb,” because the inner lining appears like and is structured similar to a honeycomb. While it does have its independent functionality, the reticulum is attached to the rumen with only a thin tissue divider. This component holds heavy or dense objects — such as metal pieces and rocks — and trap large feed particles that are not small enough to be digested. The reticulum facilitates regurgitation. Both the rumen and reticulum contain digestive bacteria, so no acid is included in the regurgitation of materials. The reticulum holds about 5 gallons of material. One common health issue involving the reticulum is hardware disease, which occurs when cattle ingest heavy or sharp objects — like nails, screws or wire. They are swept into the reticulum and may puncture the stomach wall. This disease is preventable by putting magnets on feeding equipment to catch any metal, or cured by the placement of an intraruminal magnet that traps already swallowed objects.

3. Omasum

The globe-shaped omasum is nicknamed “manyplies” because of its internal structure. It is lined with large leaves and folds of tissue that resemble the pages of a book. These folds absorb water and nutrients from feed that passes through after its second round of chewing. The omasum is smaller than the rumen and reticulum, making up about 12% of the stomach’s total volume. It can hold up to about 15 gallons of material.

4. Abomasum

The abomasum is the last component of the stomach and is often known as the “true stomach,” because it operates the most similar to a non-ruminant stomach. This is the only compartment lined with glands. These glands release hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes to help the abomasum further break down feed and plant material. In comparison to the other chambers, the abomasum is on the smaller side, representing about 4% of the total stomach volume and only holding about 7 gallons of material.

Each of these components is vital in maintaining a healthy digestive process. They must cooperate quickly and efficiently to turn grain and plant matter into energy for the cattle. If one section becomes incapable of performing or ceases to work correctly, it will affect all of the other functions in the digestive system.

Because the rumen is the largest area of the stomach and the section that focuses on reducing feed to be passed through the digestive process, it is crucial that it is properly developed and remains healthy.

The Development of the Rumen

The ruminant system relies very heavily on the rumen segment of the stomach. For cattle to convert food into energy, their rumen must be healthy at all times and properly developed. All cattle handlers need to know how to ensure the success of a calf’s stomach growth.

When a calf is born, it begins its life as a functionally non-ruminant animal. It has the ruminant anatomy, but only the abomasum is fully developed at the time of birth. This is the compartment that has a similar processing ability to the human stomach.

While the other three chambers are present, they remain undeveloped and out of use as long as a calf continues feeding solely on milk. As the calf begins to consume starter grain and forage, bacteria microbes start to develop in the rumen and reticulum. The further fermentation of these bacteria is what causes the rumen to begin development.

Milk and liquid substitutes bypass the rumen and reticulum, but dry feed collects in these areas, beginning the chemical changes necessary for development. Dry feed absorbs water already ingested by the cattle, providing the right conditions for bacteria growth.

That bacteria then helps to metabolize nutrients and produce volatile fatty acids, effectively lowering the pH of the rumen by way of neutralizing acids and improving bacteria growth.

The acids produced by bacteria provide energy for the rumen wall to grow. Butyric acid does not absorb through the wall, so all the energy it produces goes straight to the development of the organ. Other acids provide energy for the entire calf to grow, which contributes to the digestive system organs, as well.

Weaning is one of the most significant key factors in the development of the rumen. Timing the weaning process correctly is crucial. The calf’s rumen should be allowed time to develop before weaning the calf off of liquid feeds entirely. It takes about three weeks of significant starter grain intake daily for any calf to develop its rumen to the point where the weaning process can begin.

This time period allows for the establishment of a sufficient microbial population and absorptive capacity for continued normal growth without the help of liquid feed. If the calf is weaned before this stage, the calf may lose weight or not grow for the three weeks it takes the rumen to develop.

To encourage proper rumen development, handlers need to maintain a certain level of care for all calves, keeping them well fed, housed and managed.Calves need to feed to gain the nutrients and energy that supplement growth. But, if it is stressed or sick, a calf may refuse to eat. For this reason, it is crucial that their environment is consistently low-stress and that they remain healthy. They should also have a free choice of clean, accessible water.

They may also refuse to eat starter grains that seem unpalatable, such as those that contain too much dust or are moldy. Handlers should be sure to store starter grains so they are well-kept, without risk of contamination or mold growth, or any other element that may discourage a calf from eating.

Handlers should be consistently paying attention to a calf’s intake and eating habits. Additionally, they should maintain the correct balance of liquid and solid feeds. If overfed with the liquid variety, a calf will be discouraged to eat solid grains.

Any incorrect practices can lead to delays in rumen development, sometimes taking twice as long or longer to reach full maturity.

Most Common Issues With a Cattle’s Digestive System and What to Do

Because the ruminant digestive system has so many stages, numerous things can go wrong and cause complications. If anything inhibits the process, the afflicted cattle may develop an illness, refuse to eat or even risk death.

The most common ruminant digestive system issues are:

1. Rumen Impaction

The contents of a cattle’s rumen should be allowed to flow and move freely with proper hydration. But, without sufficient water intake, indigestible materials — including overly dense plant matter and high acid detergent fiber feeds — can pile up and compress within the rumen. This will prevent movement throughout the rest of the digestive system and keep it from functioning normally. To prevent rumen impaction, cattle need to have access to clean water and handlers should pay attention to whether or not they are drinking an average daily amount.

2. Hemorrhagic Bowel Syndrome (HBS)

Unfortunately, there isn’t any one specific cause for this affliction, as scientists have been unable to reproduce circumstances that cause HBS in cattle successfully, so diagnosing a direct reason can be difficult. However, there are a few potential catalysts to consider, including molds and mycotoxins, Clostridium perfringens type A or other bacteria like E. coli, improper management while trying to achieve higher milk production, or excessive dirt, soil, gravel, sand or rocks mixed in with feed. Generally, HBS is the result of a blood clot obstruction or blockage within the small intestine, which becomes distended. If this syndrome goes uncorrected, the fatality rate is exceedingly high. There are no guaranteed solutions or preventative measures, but maintaining rumen health may decrease the chances of HBS from developing. If the rumen fails to reduce feed well enough, it can pass forward obstructions and starches that feed unwanted bacteria and mycotoxins. So, encouraging reduction and proper rumen functionality may be the best preemptive defense against HBS.

Encouraging reduction and proper rumen functionality may be the best preemptive defense against HBS.3. Acidosis

Acidosis is a metabolic disease occurring directly within the rumen segment of the stomach. It can be brought on by several factors, including another illness, excessive or incorrect handling that causes the animal stress and too much concentrate, not enough forage. Any of these catalysts may lead to general complications and heightened susceptibility to diseases such as bovine respiratory disease or scours. Acidosis is a cyclical disease. When a catalyst causes the ruminal pH to shift to 5.5 or lower, the rumen ceases to move, making the afflicted cattle decrease its food and water intake. The combination of the pH imbalance and decreased intake causes the amount of acid collecting in the rumen to increase, further discouraging the cattle from eating and drinking. As this causes good bacteria to die off, releasing toxins and continuing the increasing amount of collecting acid, the animal will continue to avoid any kind of intake. If let worsen, this cycle can compromise the intestine linings, leading to leaky gut syndrome, weakening the animal’s immune system or potentially resulting in death. Successfully encouraging eating and drinking is the only way to break this cycle.

4. Fatty Liver

Fatty liver is what it sounds like — excessive accumulation of fat in the cow’s liver. The potential for this disease is common in cows around calving time. It’s typically caused by a negative energy balance, which occurs due to the growth of a calf, the beginning of colostrum production and a decrease in dry matter intake. These factors cause the cow to break down too much fat for the liver to handle. This broken down fat is converted to fat in the liver, an attempt to prevent toxicity. Fatty liver can begin developing within 24 hours of a cow going off feed and will not decrease on its own until the cow can retain a positive energy balance. Symptoms of fatty liver include a decrease in appetite, lower quantity milk yields, milk fever, ketosis, mastitis, retention of fetal membranes and a reduction in fertility. To prevent fatty liver in cattle, handlers need to keep cows at an ideal body condition and encourage a low-stress environment, including no sudden changes in their overall environment or feeding regimen. Handlers should generally avoid anything that may cause a reduction in feed intake.

Each of these diseases and syndromes is more common in high producing cows, which require consistently high food and water intake. Most of these issues occur in areas of the digestive system after the rumen, but the rumen’s reactive response can be severe for the cow’s health.

While changes and imbalances in a cattle’s health and digestive system are ordinary, there are ways to prevent common digestive issues for cattle through regulating the process and the functionalities of each internal organ.

Caring for Your Cattle’s Digestive System

Gut health is crucial to ensuring any cow’s long term health. The digestive functions of your cattle require balance, as any imbalance can severely impact the animal’s overall health.

Complications frequently arise from common catalysts, such as stress or changes in eating patterns. Little changes like these can mean big problems for the rumen and successive issues for other areas of the digestive system. If the animal’s digestion isn’t progressing correctly, they become prone to severe and potentially deadly diseases and excessive weight loss.

Because of the serious nature of these conditions, you need to pay close attention to the potential for or direct signs of digestive issues. Watch for cattle refusing to eat or drink, suffering from weight loss, diarrhea or lethargy, maintaining an elevated pulse and respiratory rate or generally behaving unusually.

If any of these symptoms show and persist in your cattle, you may need to find a way to re-regulate their digestive systems.

Pro Earth Animal Health created CattlActive® for this purpose. CattlActive® is an all-natural, completely U.S.-made product that will help keep your cattle’s digestion on track. It works by neutralizing excess acid in the rumen, easing bloat symptoms, increasing nutrient utilization, preventing ulcers and encouraging your cattle to eat and drink.

By maintaining your cattle’s regular digestion process and eating habits, you can help them stave off diseases and discomfort.

You can purchase this product on our website. You can also contact us with any personal questions or concerns.

Cattlactive is an all-natural product that will help keep your cattle's digestion on track.

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Causes and Effects of Stress in Horses

By Horses No Comments

Horses can experience stress from a variety of environmental and social factors — from their training and feeding schedules to their interactions with other horses in the pasture. Different horses may show stress in different ways, and some horses respond better to stressful situations than others. However, stress can be a serious problem for even the toughest horses as it can lead to health and behavioral issues when left unaddressed. In this piece, we will explore the common causes and effects of equine stress so you can better recognize and prevent stress in your horses.

Table of Contents

What Does It Mean When Your Horse Is Stressed?

Just as humans experience stress in situations that are physically or mentally challenging, horses also experience stress as a natural response to changes or challenges in their environment. In some situations, stress is a helpful reaction that allows horses to cope or adapt. For example, if an unfamiliar animal enters a horse’s pasture, their natural stress response tells them to stay alert and approach that animal cautiously.

What does stress mean for horses?Short term stress helps keep a horse safe, but if stress continues for a long time, it can have damaging effects to the horse’s health and well-being. When we talk about a horse being stressed, we are often referring to this type of chronic stress. Over time, horses can adapt to familiar stresses, such as traffic near their pasture or a new horse joining their pasture. However, when faced with larger changes like a new training schedule or busy show season, horses may be unable to adjust and develop long-term stress.

Chronic stress occurs when a horse’s stress hormone levels rise in response to a stressful situation and then fail to decrease again. Chronically elevated stress hormones can lead to changes in the horse’s behavior and habits as well as cause many health problems.

What Causes Stress in Horses?

Chronic stress in horses is most often the result of changes in the horse’s environment or lifestyle. Management changes, such as a more strenuous exercise routine or new feeding schedule, can also lead to long-term stress. While some horses can adapt to these changes easily, other horses may have a harder time adjusting. Just as different people handle stressful situations differently, some horses are more likely to experience chronic stress than others.

By being aware of what triggers stress in horses, you can take steps to keep your horses healthy and happy. Here are some common causes of stress in horses:

1. Exercise Levels or Changes in Exercise Regimen

Racehorses and performance horses that have a rigorous training schedule with high-intensity exercise are more likely to develop chronic stress. Exercise-induced stress is often proportional to the horse’s competition level — a horse in training may be more stressed than a horse on rest, and a horse that is racing may be more stressed than during training.

Horses can also experience stress if their training schedule becomes more difficult or changes significantly. For example, a horse may struggle to adjust to a particularly busy competition season or more intricate training routine. If a horse feels uncomfortable during exercise for any reason, such as ill-fitting equipment or a new rider, this can also result in elevated stress levels.

On the other hand, exercise has also been shown to reduce stress in horses, while extended rest periods may increase their stress. If your horse is experiencing stress from other factors, taking them out for a ride may actually help to lower their stress levels and help them relax.

2. Poor Diet or Changes in Diet

Horses need a well-balanced diet and regular feeding schedule to stay healthy and fit. A proper diet will include all of the basic nutrients a horse needs, including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Horses should also consume five to 15 gallons of water each day and eat one to two percent of their body weight in forage. In a healthy feeding schedule, horses are fed frequent small meals throughout the day.

Horses should consume 5-15 gallons of water each day and 1-2% of their body weight in forageIf a horse is fed only feed, does not receive enough forage or their diet is lacking in essential nutrients, this can cause chronic stress. Feeding a horse only twice daily rather than several times is another common cause of stress. When a horse is stalled during rest, they should still be fed regularly with both roughage and feed.

In addition to a poor diet, changes in a horse’s diet or feeding routine can also lead to long-term stress. While traveling, try to keep your horse’s feeding schedule as consistent as possible. Bring your own hay and feed from home so your horses can still enjoy their regular diet while on the road.

3. A Busy Transportation Schedule

Performance horses that travel frequently during show season are more likely to develop chronic stress. Even if a horse has been transported before, traveling can still be stressful as they are going to an unfamiliar location and are likely experiencing other changes in their routine. As much as possible, a horse’s feeding and exercise schedule should be kept regular while traveling. While on the road, keep your horses well-hydrated and provide ample access to hay to encourage proper gut functioning. If your horses are used to regular turnout, take them on frequent walks to keep them out of their stalls as much as possible.

4. Housing Conditions

The amount of time a horse spends in the field and their stall can impact their stress levels. Regular turnout is important for a horse’s health and can help reduce their stress, so horses should be kept in the pasture as much as possible. If a horse that is usually very active must go on stall rest for injury recovery, keep them entertained as much as possible to prevent stress from boredom and lack of activity.

Horses should be kept in the pasture as much as possible.A horse’s housing conditions can also cause stress when new horses are introduced or if a barn that is typically quiet becomes noisy and crowded. Because horses are social animals, a horse can even develop chronic stress based on which horses are housed next to them.

5. Pregnancy or Reproduction

Horses may experience natural stress during different stages of their reproductive cycle, but this can become chronic stress if not managed properly. When a mare is in estrus, a follicle will develop on one of her ovaries, and she may experience frequent urination. These physical changes can cause discomfort and can lead to chronic stress. Treatments are available that can help reduce the symptoms of estrus and ease a mare’s stress.

A pregnant mare may experience pain or discomfort while giving birth which may be expressed through pawing, pacing, sweating or biting at her stomach. This stress is often relieved after the mare gives birth, but if stress continues after foaling, pain relief medication may be necessary.

What Are the Effects of Stress in Horses?

If a horse develops chronic stress from any of these causes, it can have long-term effects on their health and behavior. Horses suffering from stress may be more likely to get sick or develop gastric ulcers which can lead to more stress. Here are some common signs that a horse is stressed:

1. Weight Loss

A horse that is stressed may experience a decrease in their appetite and will begin to lose weight. This is a common effect if a horse is not receiving a well-balanced diet with quality feed and forage. If a horse is already experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort from a poor diet, they may exhibit a reduced appetite and lack of interest in food. Even if a horse is fed a regular and healthy diet, they may show a decreased appetite due to other stresses. Heat stress or other health problems can also cause weight loss in a horse, so it is important to explore any possible cause.

2. Gastric Ulcers

Gastric ulcers are very common in stressed horses, with about 60 percent of show horses and 90 percent of racehorses suffering from equine ulcers. High-performance horses are not the only ones susceptible to ulcers, however, as horse ulcers can be caused by a poor diet, a busy travel season, stall confinement or any other stressful environment.

Gastric ulcers form when a horse’s stomach lining erodes due to extended exposure to stomach acid. In a healthy horse, regular intake of feed and forage will neutralize this acid to protect the stomach lining. When a horse does not feed regularly, they are at risk of developing gastric ulcers.

Elevated stress hormones can also cause ulcers in horses. When the stress hormone cortisol is released, it reduces the production of another stress hormone called prostaglandin. This lowers the pH levels in the horse’s stomach which weakens the protective lining and makes the horse more susceptible to developing ulcers.

Horse ulcers can be caused by a poor diet, a busy travel season, stall confinement or any other stressful environment.Because horses show very little outward signs when they are suffering from gastric ulcers, they can be difficult to diagnose. A horse with ulcers may show subtle signs such as a decreased appetite or a rough and dull coat. In more serious cases, horses with ulcers may grind their teeth or experience colic.

To test for gastric ulcers, a veterinarian will insert an endoscope into the horse’s stomach to look at the surface. Gastric ulcers are treated by removing stresses from the horse’s environment and ensuring they receive proper nutrition. Medications can also be used to increase pH levels in the horse’s stomach and stop the progression of ulcers.

3. Diarrhea and Frequent Urination

When a horse is stressed, they may produce more manure than usual in a short period of time and may also experience diarrhea. Horse diarrhea can also be caused by a poor diet, which is a common cause of stress in horses. A stressed horse may urinate frequently to relieve their stress and become more stressed if they are in a place where they cannot relieve themselves, such as a trailer.

4. Weakened Immune System

A chronically stressed horse will have high levels of cortisol which can disrupt its normal bodily functions. Too much cortisol can weaken a horse’s immune system, making a stressed horse more likely to catch an infectious disease or become seriously ill.

5. Stereotypic Behavior

If a horse is experiencing stresses, such as too much time in their stall or a poor feeding schedule, they may begin to exhibit stereotypies. Common stereotypes include cribbing, chewing, wall kicking, stall walking, weaving and fence walking. While this stereotypic behavior is not always tied to stress, it may be an indicator that a horse is not adjusting well to a change in their environment or routine.

6. Yawning

The reason horses yawn is not entirely clear, but yawning has been connected to stereotypic behaviors and may be a sign that a horse is stressed. Yawning could provide an endorphin release that helps horses cope with a stressful situation. If your horse yawns frequently, ask yourself if there may be a reason that your horse is stressed.

7. Behavioral Changes

When a horse is stressed, they may develop a poor attitude and become resistant to training or exercise. A horse that is usually enthusiastic about work may become unmotivated or appear depressed. Horses that are stressed may also act out by bucking, bolting, biting, rearing or pawing, even if they are generally even-tempered and well-behaved.

8. Tooth Grinding

As mentioned above, tooth grinding can be a sign that a horse has gastric ulcers. Horses may also grind their teeth if they are experiencing other physical pain or discomfort. Physiological stress can also cause horses to grind their teeth while they are in their stall or being ridden. If a horse does not have any dental issues, tooth grinding is likely a result of a stressful environment.

9. Trembling, Sweating and Elevated Pulse

During a stressful situation, a horse may exhibit many of the same physical signs that a person does when they are stressed. The horse’s heart rate and breathing increase and they may begin to sweat. Horses may also tremble when they are in a stressful environment such as during transportation or when visited by the veterinarian. These signs of stress will normally disappear whenever the stressful trigger disappears. However, if a horse shows these signs of stress in an ordinary situation, that may indicate chronic stress.

How to Make Your Horse’s Life Less Stressful

If your horse shows any of these signs of stress, there are several measures you can take to create a more comfortable and healthy environment. First, try to identify what may be causing your horse to feel stressed, and then consider ways you can adjust their lifestyle to relieve that stress. Here are a few options for how to reduce stress in horses:
How to Make Your Horse's Life Less Stressful

  • Maintain a consistent daily routine: Horses enjoy a regular schedule, so aim to keep their feeding and exercise schedule as consistent as possible, even while traveling.
  • Create a healthy diet and feeding schedule: Ensure your horses are receiving good nutrition with the proper balance of feed and forage. Horses should have access to plenty of clean water and be fed several times during the day.
  • Increase pasture time: If your horses spend a lot of time inside their stalls, try to increase their turnout as much as possible.
  • Adjust exercise schedules: Make sure your horses are receiving the right amount of exercise and appropriate level of training. Proper exercise routines help prevent injuries and can reduce stress in horses.
  • Monitor social interactions: If you believe your horse may be stressed due to social factors, watch how the horse interacts with other horses in the pasture and barn. If the horse seems uncomfortable while in the barn, consider moving it to another stall.
  • Take care when traveling: When transporting your horses, try to keep the trailer ride as smooth as possible. Provide ample hay and water to keep the horse’s stomach settled while traveling. Bring hay and feed from home so your horse’s diet stays consistent.
  • Perform preventative care: Keep your horses up-to-date on vaccines and take them for regular health exams. If your horse shows any signs of stress-induced health problems, talk to your veterinarian about possible treatments.

By recognizing the causes and effects of stress in horses, you can take steps to relieve their stress and create a happier environment. At Pro Earth Animal Health, we are dedicated to helping you keep your horses healthy and stress-free. We are proud to offer the all-natural equine supplement Zesterra, which is designed to reduce the effects of stress in horses and help prevent gastric ulcers. Contact Pro Earth Animal Health to learn more about Zesterra and how it can benefit your horses’ health.

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How to Choose the Right Horse for Your Riding Style

By Horses, Performance/Competition Horses No Comments

How to choose the right horse for your riding styleWhether you’ve been honing your skills in a particular riding style for years or you’ve recently taken up riding, it’s crucial to understand the best horse types for each riding discipline. A good match can transform your experience and advance you to new levels.

Not every horse performs the same. Some horses have exceptional longevity for endurance riding, while others can reach great heights for show jumping. The size, breeding, temperament and training can all contribute to how they function during the ins and outs of your preferred riding style.

If you are wondering, “What type of horse do I need?” the following guide will help you review the array of riding disciplines and inform you about the most fitting horses for common riding styles.

Table of Contents

The Primary Factors: English and Western Riding Styles

Popular riding styles like barrel racing or dressage fall under two main disciplines: Western and English. The general origins, saddle design, direction and positioning separate these forms, but they also split off into additional subsections.

The equipment and interaction between the rider and horse is a major distinction. In English style, riders use a slight, flat saddle that offers them tighter proximity to the horse. It also gives direct guidance from a mouth rein, so the horse responds to the redirection of its face. Western style, on the other hand, provides a substantial, deep surface that spreads over the horse, and a neck rein nudges the horse along the right route.

Both types of riding styles have rich histories that influenced these layouts. English riding started in Europe but wasn’t restricted to Britain, and it had ties to the military, creating the proper form we now know. Western riding and tack stemmed from cattle-related purposes in America, and the ranching background still shines through today.

However, English and Western riding subgroups branch out into a wide variety of applications that require unique horse breeds. For instance, intelligent breeds that rapidly pick up instruction are ideal for Western riding, which demands tremendous perception.

Let’s dive into these styles and the go-to horses for them.

Types of Western Riding Styles and Suitable Horse Breeds

While the Western-style did start out for day-to-day work on ranches, Western riding has evolved into a group of competitive exercises. They all show athleticism, diligence and a connection between horse and rider. Most of these eight riding types are easiest for cow-herding horses, and with the wider saddle and neck reins, they require bright and agile breeds.

1. Western Pleasure

This competition category displays horses that are agreeable to ride through measured movements. The rider executes a steady gait for the judges with a variety of precise beats and corresponding paces. The horse remains alert with an upright head, and its easygoing disposition accompanies a flowing and uninterrupted cadence.

A proper breed for Western pleasure is tall with a stable frame. With leaner shoulders and hips, it needs to hold steep angles to execute slow, deliberate motions. A level neck and an effortless stride create a successful Western pleasure horse.

Quarter Horses that are hand-picked for durable lower forelimbs are worthy Western pleasure candidates, especially if they’re trained from youth. Due to their smooth gait and calm demeanor, they’re frequently selected for Western pleasure.

Tennessee Walking Horses are also graceful participants and their comfortable gait fairs well in Western pleasure competitions.

For Western Pleasure riders, they execute a steady gait for the judges with a variety of precise beats and corresponding paces2. Reining

Comparable to English dressage, Western reining is a swift series of guided activities. The reining patterns range from circles, stops, spins, roll-backs and flying lead changes, and they demonstrate a horse’s refined agility.

The sharp transitions in reining take skillful maneuvering, so the horses have to be sensitive to cues at a moment’s notice. Horses that work with cattle typically have the dexterity to complete these exact tasks.

While reining is based primarily on athleticism rather than breed, two prominent reining horses are Paints and Appaloosas. Paints have broad chests and strong centers of gravity that keeps them firm through the shifting stages of reining. Similarly, Appaloosas are highly coordinated and powerful, which allows them to carry out precise exercises.

3. Cutting

Cutting is a herding activity where the horse and rider block off cows, abiding by certain techniques. During cutting, the handler and horse isolate a cow and continue to separate it from the herd despite its attempts to rejoin the group. The handler also has to let the horse lead the cutting for a period of time, practicing its own preventative instincts.

Steering a frightened cow is challenging, so the horse must have advanced intuition to face off with the cow. Anticipation and flexibility are two natural qualities your horse should have to effectively cut.

Working cow horses often include Morgan Horses and Quarter Horses. Morgan Horses are versatile, but their speed and compact body help them counter the motion of cows in cutting. The balance and attentiveness of Quarter Horses establish them as an assertive horse for this competition.

4. Trail Riding

With arranged trail barriers on a natural course, the handler and horse travel and strategically navigate. Trail riding can involve gates, changes in terrain and logs, and it isn’t timed like endurance racing. The way the riders complete the challenging obstacles is scored, along with the horse’s adaptability and poise.

Horses need stamina and athletic prowess to make it through the distance and stops. The best horses for trail riding can tolerate long stretches of riding and nimbly accomplish obstacles.

Arabians are proficient at traversing a course because of their muscular legs. Trail riding can wear on even the most resilient horses, so thorough hoof health is an important consideration. Fortunately, Arabians’ sure-footedness can conquer the hazards of trail riding. Their elegance is also beneficial in coming off as a capable trail contestant.

Missouri Fox Trotters also maintain their energy in trail riding. Their sloped shoulders and sturdy back help them carry the weight of a rider through the obstacles, too.

The best horses for trail riding can tolerate long stretches of riding and nimbly accomplish obstacles5. Team Penning

As a group competition, team penning requires three handlers to guide three cattle into a pen. The pen is usually on the other side of the competition area, and the riders have to coordinate with one another to draw the cows away from the herd. The three cows have to be labeled the announced number, which makes it complex.

Because this combines cutting, penning and teamwork, this style requires a resourceful horse, and the same breeds for cutting fulfill the needs for team penning, too. Quarter Horses have diverse abilities, and their stature helps them put up a barrier for the cows. Morgan Horses, once again, are smart and expressive, which develops a forceful influence over the cows.

6. Barrel Racing

To barrel race, a horse and handler swing around three barrels in a triangle layout. They loop each barrel in a cloverleaf design before exiting the arena. Scoring is dependent on the overall time, but the turns and control play substantial roles, too.

Horses have to have powerful haunches to build up speed, and their balance and footing around turns need a quick reaction. When a Quarter Horse has an even build, they can distribute their full power short-distance racing.

7. Endurance

Endurance horse riding competitions stretch more than 50 miles on average, and these long distances have vet checks at marked intervals to evaluate the shape of the horse.

Physically demanding performances over great distances can tire out horses. However, many horses are equipped to persevere through these intense races. If a horse is high-spirited, it has the vigor to overcome tough terrain and hours of riding.

The horse type with the longest-lasting vitality is the Arabian. Arabians are dominant in endurance racing because of their history of survival and fortified structure. Their pronounced hips, laidback shoulders and muscled haunches let them release spurts of energy along the route.

8. Gymkhana

This is a collection of speed games that normally apply to youth. Gymkhana is also referred to as mounted games, and riders participate in things like flag races, barrel racing, keg races, pole bending and keyhole races.

In fast-paced games on horseback, the type of horse you decide on needs to support you. They should also be able to climb to brisk speeds and be aware of the rider’s guidance.

To accommodate younger riders, you should choose a horse that’s experienced but good-natured. Ponies can serve as adequate mounts for children, but appaloosas are also an acceptable choice for Gymkhana. Their independence and trustworthiness set them up for the hubbub of the events.

Types of English Riding Styles and Suitable Horse Breeds

Unlike Western style, English riding styles are more structured and add further pomp to events. Jumping techniques and high stepping styles are two instrumental parts of English riding, but the numerous types switch up the arenas, obstacles and expectations. Here are seven types of English riding styles.

The types of English riding styles and suitable horse breeds1. Dressage

Dressage is a classical discipline where riders usher their horse through a rhythmic routine. The tests in the sequence can cover multiple gaits, piaffe, passage and pirouettes. Riders and horses are graded on their harmony, impulsion and composure.

As an almost choreographed dance, dressage cultivates restraint and willingness. Horses have to closely obey their rider and demonstrate finesse, and this artistic practice prioritizes visual excellence.

Hanoverians and Andalusians are beautiful breeds that conduct themselves well during dressage. Hanoverians are noble and trainable — plus, their gaits are light and far-reaching when necessary. Andalusians are also sophisticated animals that create a spectacle, and their cadence has the perfect amount of lift for dressage moves.

2. Show Jumping

For show jumping, the horse and rider must leap over a succession of fences in a ring formation. As a timed task, the jumps should be consecutive, and the recovery of horse and rider in between should be immediate.

Appaloosas achieve impressive jumps for show jumping. Their legs are narrow but mighty, which lets them push off for a leap. Those with long but considerable backs can create an appealing arch as they jump, too. Thoroughbreds are also magnificent jumpers, and their extensive leg length is one advantage that propels them over fences.

3. Eventing

As a three-tiered event, eventing hosts dressage, cross-country and show jumping segments. Cross country, the only part not yet addressed, involves a course of lower and higher fences, as well as obstacles.

Multi-talented horses are useful for eventing, and it’s even more profitable if they have high stamina. The jumping exercises take high degrees of strength combined with continual smoothness, and Hanoverians boast an assortment of skills that are optimal in eventing. They’re masters of dressage steps and hurdling fences.

4. Polo

This mounted team sport is played on horseback, and the teams hit a ball with a wooden mallet into goals while staying in the saddle. Horses in the game, or “polo ponies,” carry their riders close to the ball and finagle their way around other horses.

Polo ponies tend to be Thoroughbreds because they can learn competitiveness. They intrinsically have the ease and endurance to complete the games, too.

5. Saddle Seat

Saddle seat competitions highlight the high-stepping abilities of horses. It’s a dramatic exhibition aimed to catch the judges’ eyes, reflecting some shared principles with dressage.

Morgan Horses and American Saddlebreds are both viable options for saddle seat riding. Morgan Horses characteristically have a proud neck and distinguished gait, which gives them the flair they need in saddle seat.

Alternatively, American Saddlebreds offer a regal stature, as their back gently dips. Their steps are exaggerated, which clearly conveys their gait in saddle seat competitions.

6. English Pleasure

While Western pleasure has horses lope and jog, English pleasure requires more showmanship in the gait, which is why it consists of trotting and cantering. Judges look for more animated motions in English pleasure.

Arabian can bring style to English pleasure, and they are capable of a high-scoring strut. Their manners are amiable, so they can easily pick up a winning attitude.

7. Hunting

Hunting or hunt seating riding features a forward saddle and riding position, and there’s separate scoring for the horse and rider during flat and jumping tests. Also, the obstacles take on a neutral tone that simulates the outdoors.

Horses that notice the subtle fences and function smoothly in careful gait tests are preferable. Thoroughbreds are sharp, and they can produce high jumps and precise steps. Considerate preparation for natural events can lead a Thoroughbred to proficient hunting riding.

Support Your Horse’s Health With Zesterra® From Pro Earth Animal Health

After you choose a horse that matches your riding needs, it’s vital to keep them healthy and content. Between serious training and traveling to competitions, several stressors can plague your horse.

Zesterra® is an all-natural supplement that can improve your horse’s well being through highs and lows. It balances the pH of the stomach to get your horse back in top shape. From heavy exercise to changes in weather, every horse owner can find a use for Zesterra®.

At Pro Earth Animal Health, we are concerned about your animal’s health. That’s why we provide affordable, all-natural supplements and practical resources to keep them feeling their best. Shop our selection of Zesterra® online today or contact our team to learn more.

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What is E. coli?

By Cattle, Cow-Calf No Comments

It’s a well-known fact that cattle producers face many problems that can cause productivity and economic losses. The leading cause of these losses, however, is usually a result of calf scouring (diarrhea).

It has been reported by the National Animal Health Monitoring System for U.S. dairy, that half of the deaths in unweaned calves (calves who are usually younger than 8 or 9 months of age) were due to scours.

There are multiple agents that can cause a calf to develop scours, such as malnutrition, stress, and infectious pathogens, with the leading and most common cause being a pathogen that is best known as E. coli (Escherichia coli).

E. coli is a species of bacterium that inhabit the stomach and intestines of calves and, “can be classified into six pathogroups based on virulence scheme: enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC), shiga toxin-producing E. coli, enteropathogenic E. coli, enteroinvasive E. coli, entero aggressive E. coli, and enterohaemorrhagic E. coli.” (Cho, Yong-Il)

Among the six types of E. coli, ETEC is the leading cause of neonatal diarrhea as this bacteria produces toxins that stimulate the lining of the intestines. This stimulation causes the intestines to secrete excessive fluid, which then becomes diarrhea.

In order for ETEC to stimulate the intestine and cause diarrheal diseases, it must first colonize, or adhere to intestinal mucosal membranes in the intestine of the calf. This is done as a result of pili or fimbriae, which are adhesins found on the surface of the bacteria, and are known as K99 adhesin antigen.

When a calf becomes infected with ETEC, they will produce an abundant amount of diarrhea and experience abdominal pain. E. coli will also prevent the calf from absorbing the water and nutrients found in their dam’s milk, as most of the water and nutrients in the calf will be lost in diarrhea.

Once infected, the calf will lose fluids, minerals, and salts (electrolytes) which results in dehydration and acidosis, and being that a calf is 70% water at birth, the mortality rate is high.

When a calf is suffering from scours, it is quite apparent in their appearance as they may show several symptoms such as sunken eyes, weakness, dryness in the mouth or nostrils, depression, and weight loss to name a few.

The best action to combat scours caused by E. coli is through preventative action, as treatments to reverse scours can prove to be expensive and sometimes futile measures. E. coli is usually transmitted from the consumption of contaminated food and water, from insect bites, and unsanitary living conditions.

To reduce the likelihood of a scour outbreak, a calf must first and foremost have a strong digestive system. This means that it is at an optimum pH and is primed to absorb water and nutrients.

It is advised to always provide clean feed and water to the calves, keep them properly vaccinated with the latest vaccines, provide clean living quarters, and, perhaps most importantly, keep their stress as low as possible.

Understanding the causes of calf scours will allow producers to provide preventative measures to protect their investments and livestock; this includes having a firm understanding of E. coli and the effects it can have on the young calf.

Sources
Baecker, P A et al. “Expression of K99 adhesion antigen controlled by the Escherichia coli tryptophan operon promoter.” Infection and immunity vol. 56,9 (1988): 2317-23.
Cho, Yong-Il, and Kyoung-Jin Yoon. “An overview of calf diarrhea – infectious etiology, diagnosis, and intervention.” Journal of veterinary science vol. 15,1 (2014): 1-17. doi:10.4142/jvs.2014.15.1.1
E. coli.” Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 6 Jun. 2011. academic-eb-com.aurarialibrary.idm.oclc.org/levels/collegiate/article/E-coli/472242. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019.
“Enterotoxigenic E. Coli (ETEC) | E. Coli | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014, www.cdc.gov/ecoli/etec.html.
Henderson, Greg. “Calf Scours: Causes, Prevention and Treatment.” Drovers, www.drovers.com/article/calf-scours-causes-prevention-and-treatment-0.
Stokka, Gerald, and Louis Perino. “Calving Tips: Going To War On Calf Scours.” Beef Magazine, 26 Dec. 2018, www.beefmagazine.com/mag/beef_vets_opiniongoing_war.

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Dillon Sackett: 2018 South Dakota State Champion Tie-down Roper

By Horses, Youth Profiles No Comments
Photo courtesy: John Sackett

Meet Dillon Sackett, the 2018 South Dakota State Champion Tie-down Roper! After looking for a solution to a hot and unfocused horse, Dillon’s found that Zesterra® makes the difference between a good roping and a great one.

PEAH: Hi Dillon! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! First off, we’d like to know – what titles do you currently hold?

DS: Hello! Well, I was the 2017 20x Rodeo Showcase Champion Tie-Down Roper and this year I’m the 2018 South Dakota State Champion Tie-down Roper.

PEAH: Congratulations! That’s an impressive accomplishment! Obviously, you must belong to a few organizations. Which ones are you a part of?

DS: I belong to SDHSRA, SD-4H Rodeo, Little Britches Rodeo, SDRA, FFA, and the AQHA. I am also partnered with Hotheels Roping Dummy, and Ramona Horse Feed.

PEAH: It sounds like you’re really active and busy with all of these organizations. So tell us, how did you come to use Zesterra®?

DS: Zesterra® has majorly benefitted my horse throughout this high school rodeo season! My horse was hot in the box when we rope calves. Found out about Zesterra® and he stands like a rock in the box now! I have not heard a bad thing about Pro Earth Products.

PEAH: We’re so happy that it’s helping both you and your horse! Can you tell us what your goals for the next few months are?

DS: My goals for 2018 has been to be state champion tie-down roper and make nationals for the first time. There I hope to be 6th or better in the world at the end of nationals!

PEAH: We’re rooting for you! Tell us a little more about you… what would you like us to know?

DS: The horses I use are trained by my family and I. That’s what makes a win even better! Having Zesterra® for my horse throughout the 2018 year has made every bit of difference in winning a state championship in the tie-down!

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Meet Pro Earth Rep Heather Butler

By Horses, Rep Profiles No Comments
Photo courtesy: Heather Butler

Areas Served: Missouri & Arizona

One thing you can tell right off the bat when you talk to Heather Butler? She loves horses! Between training her own barrel horses and competing, she knows what it takes to keep them at their best.

Learn more about Heather! Read on…

PE: So, Heather, what made you want to get involved in working with Pro Earth?

HB: I have used Zesterra® on my own horses since I was introduced to it by a friend in Wyoming. My horses love the product and I have seen significant changes in their performance and behavior!

PE: What do you like most about our product(s)?

HB: Zesterra® is easy to administer and is available at a reasonable price. I also really like that the products are made with all-natural ingredients.

PE: What is one accomplishment you’re incredibly proud of?

HB: I trained two incredibly athletic 5-year-old mares to perform and compete with top competitors — all at just 5 years of age!

PE: So, what would you like us to know about you? Your family, hobbies… anything you would like us all to know.

HB: I really enjoy barrel racing, hunting, and fitness! I love the outdoors and spending time with family and friends. When I am not on horseback I can usually be found either at the gym or working on construction designs.

PE: Which Pro Earth Products do you offer to folks in your area?

HB: I currently offer Zesterra®.

PE: What is the easiest way for people to contact you? 

HB: It’s best to call or text me at: 435-531-3873.

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The Mare: Pregnancy Trimesters 1 – 3

By Brood Mares, Foals, Horses No Comments

First Trimester Care – A Confirmed Pregnancy

The first trimester of your mare’s pregnancy starts on the day of conception and ends at day 113.  During the first trimester, her nutritional requirements will be basically the same as they were before she became pregnant.

To ensure that your mare maintains a healthy weight, she can be maintained on high-quality forage, pasture or hay and unlimited access to a mineral salt block. If she’s a “hard-keeper”, supplementing with a concentrated feed and keeping her stomach pH balanced will help to maintain her body condition score and digestive integrity.

During this first trimester, best practices dictate that she not receive vaccinations in this period of time. It is, however, recommended that she be dewormed sometime between days 60-90.

While the dietary needs for your mare may not change much if, at all, special precautions should be taken to protect the newly-implanted pregnancy during the first 30 days.

These precautions include things such as reducing her workload and avoiding any high-intensity exercise. This is particularly important on those hot days.

Second Trimester Care – Maintaining Good Body Condition

The second trimester for your mare begins on day 114 and goes until day 225. This is sort of the “coasting” period. She can resume her regular workload (within reason) and shouldn’t have any energy deficits.

During the second trimester, your mare should receive a total of two EHV-1 vaccinations. One should be administered on day 150 of the pregnancy, along with a second deworming. The second EHV-1 should be administered on or around day 210.

Maintaining your mare during her second trimester includes providing a generous amount of high-quality hay and just enough grain or concentrated feed to keep her in moderate body condition. You may also need to add a vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure that all of her nutritional requirements are being met.

Third Trimester Care – The Home Stretch

The third, and final trimester for your mare runs from day 226 until around day 340 – the average foaling date.  This trimester is undisputedly the most important trimester in terms of fetal growth and development.

The first two trimesters of your mare’s pregnancy will be relatively easy with regards to care and support. Now that she is in the final stage, she is going to require more care and attention.

Due to the rapid growth of the fetus towards the latter part of the pregnancy, the nutritional needs of your mare will increase by about 30%.  It is imperative to concentrate on vital nutrients, vitamins, and mineral content of her feed – this is so much more important than just calories.

During this third and final stage of pregnancy, your mare will need to receive the most important set of vaccinations, known as “Pre-foaling” vaccinations.  These vaccinations are primarily for establishing a solid immune system in the foal, however, the mare certainly benefits from these vaccinations as well.

The administration of these vaccines during this time will help ensure that your mare produces high levels of antibodies that will provide the immunity-boosting building blocks of her colostrum.

Monitor your mare regularly when she’s close to term. By “regularly” that means “continually”, as in every hour.  It is particularly important to pay attention to anything that seems off.

The number one sign to look for is if your mare is lying down more than usual. Another thing to watch for is an abnormal vaginal discharge that may lead to infection and can be fatal to the foal.

The last part of the pregnancy can be an exciting, nerve-wracking time, to say the least.  Always go with your gut – if something seems alarming, contact your veterinarian right away. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

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