Hoof Health — More Than Meets the Eye

If your horse has "good feet", it's easy to overlook potential issues when they start to develop. If you have struggled with any sort of hoof issue then you already know how much time and energy it can take to keep your horse's feet in top shape. With dozens of hoof-specific supplements on the market, it can be incredibly frustrating if you don't see results, even after following the directions and waiting the recommended amount of time. So, what gives? What's in a Hoof? Horses are known as Perissodactyls. This essentially means they are single-toed animals, as opposed to other ungulate mammals, such as cattle and goats, who have two toes. Your horse's hooves, much like your own fingernails and toenails, are made up of proteins called keratins. These proteins develop a thick, protective layer around the inner structure of the hoof. Obviously, a horse's hooves are like singular, giant toenails. Each of their hooves has to support a great deal of weight and take an enormous amount of pressure and impact. Because of this, it's essential that the keratin wall is as strong as possible while maintaining some flexibility to prevent splitting or fractures. A Gut Feeling Hoof health, just like every other part of your horse's body, begins in his gut. His health is directly related to how well he can digest his food and assimilate the nutrients released from that feed. Regardless of whether you're feeding an all-forage diet or mix it up with some concentrated feeds (such [...]

Heat Stress and Your Cattle

Heat stress is an age-old problem and can have a detrimental impact on your herd. Your cattle may be particularly sensitive to high dew points and extreme temperatures, resulting in heat stress. This only worsens if there is no significant cooling period after the sun goes down and throughout the night. Essentially, this will guarantee that they won't have any opportunity to cool down, putting a great deal of strain on their bodies and resulting in heat stress. What to Watch For Heat stress isn't difficult to spot -- it's very obvious when an animal is in distress. They will display symptoms such as: Early stage heat stress: increased respiratory rate open-mouth breathing slobbering Should the heat stress advance, cattle are likely to: lose coordination tremble stagger If a cow goes down as a result of heat stress, the chances of them getting back up and being able to recover are very, very low. How to Avoid Heat Stress in Your Herd To help your herd transition through these relentlessly warm days and nights, we've provided a short (but thorough) list of things you can do to safeguard your cattle. If your cattle are showing signs of heat stress, it's integral that you provide immediate intervention. If possible, help the process in the evening after the sun has set to help them maintain a fairly natural heat dissipation pattern. Keep water fresh and provide additional water sources. If your cattle are on pasture, give them access to more water. For example, [...]

By | 2017-10-23T11:18:09+00:00 June 20th, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Keeping Your Horse Hydrated on the Road

One of the biggest challenges you may face is keeping your horse hydrated while traveling. Horses can become dehydrated fairly quickly and this is doubly true during hot weather. The average horse (around 1,200 lbs) requires around 5 - 10 gallons of water a day just to survive. While it's true that you can't make a horse drink, you can certainly make them want to. Here are some tips to help your horse stay hydrated on the road. Feed a moisture-rich meal before loading up. This can be done by soaking their hay in water for about an hour prior to feeding, making a soupy mash or grain meal or soaking alfalfa or hay pellets. If you're going to be on the road for a while, consider hanging a hay net filled with soaked hay to provide a little extra moisture and keep your horse hydrated. Be careful to not allow wet hay to sit too long in warm temperatures -- alfalfa, especially, can start to spoil fairly quickly when wet and exposed to heat. You can continue this practice when you arrive at your stopping point to give them that extra little boost. Take water from home with you. While it isn't always feasible to take a full supply of water with you if you're going to be gone for a long period of time, take enough for two or three days. Horses have a tendency to refuse water that is "foreign" or tastes or smells different from the water they're used [...]

Mineral Supplementation: A Summer Essential

It's hot. Your cattle sweat. They need to consume more water. Because of this, they also need to be receiving adequate mineral supplementation to maintain proper balances to thrive. Minerals provide a wide array of necessary nutrients, from electrolytes to maintain adequate hydration and cardiovascular function to calcium for strong bones. It may be hard to keep up with the demands of checking and filling feeders or replacing blocks regularly, but it's in your best interest to ensure your cattle have 24/7 access to adequate mineral supplementation. Choosing the Right Supplements It can be daunting to figure out which minerals your cattle need and which they don't. It all comes down to the feed they're consuming, the presence of naturally occurring minerals in the water source, etc. Forage. Forage contains many different minerals your cattle may need. Depending on what the forage is, what type of soil it's grown in and so on, it can be determined what gaps you need to fill. Testing is available on hay or pasture to determine what the nutrient content (including minerals) is present in your feed. Soil testing may also provide you with valuable information on what your land is capable of providing. Concentrated feed. Concentrated feeds are often fortified with vitamins and minerals. The labeling on these feeds should include the different mineral contents. Depending on how much concentrated feed you're offering, you may need to supplement or scale back mineral supplementation. Water. Some areas produce water that is naturally rich in certain [...]

By | 2017-10-23T11:40:16+00:00 June 14th, 2017|Cattle, Cow-Calf, Pre-Conditioning|0 Comments

Foal Diarrhea 101: Signs and Symptoms

Foal diarrhea can be a difficult health issue to pinpoint and treat. By learning to recognize the symptoms of this condition, you are one step closer to untangling the causes and determining how to best approach treatment. How to Recognize The Symptoms There are several signs of foal diarrhea that aren't purely visualizing the loose stools. Unfortunately, it's difficult to know whether you are dealing with a viral or bacterial cause, or if it's something different altogether. Anytime you have any doubt, it is wisest to seek immediate advice from your veterinarian. Foals are more delicate than adult horses -- they have much weaker immune systems and tend to suffer from dehydration much more quickly than mature animals. If not caught and treated quickly. dehydration will prove fatal in many cases. Some signs to watch for in compromised foals include: Feces on the tail and hindquarters. This is obviously the most recognizable sign that something is amiss with your foal. The consistency and odor can often tell you a lot about the severity of the illness you are dealing with. Lack of appetite. Foals that have diarrhea and are refusing to feed can be in big trouble. A foal that is unwilling to nurse will suffer from dehydration much more quickly than the foal that is still nursing. Lethargy. Foals that are lacking energy are usually already in distress. Tail odor. Foals may not have remarkable amounts of diarrhea on their rumps, but if their tail smells horrible it's likely they [...]

By | 2017-10-23T11:30:45+00:00 June 13th, 2017|Brood Mares, Foals, Horses, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Emergency! Are You Prepared?

Tornadoes. Floods. Fires. These are all terrifying events that can cause a great deal of devastation. As a horse or livestock owner, you have probably considered what you might do in the case of an emergency. You might even have an emergency procedure outlined. If not, it's important to have a concrete plan should such an occasion ever arise. Making a Plan It may seem like a daunting task, but creating a thorough emergency plan could save you lots of time, heartache and money in the event of a disaster. The Center for Food Security and Public Health at the University of Iowa has created an excellent printable checklist to get your plan in order. Some of the things they recommend include: Assessing your animals' housing. Is it indoors, outdoors or both? Do these areas pose any threat to the animals' well-being in the event of an emergency? How many animals do you have on your property? Do you know where each of them is located at any given time? Are they all clearly marked with brands or ear tags? Do you have vaccination and health records? How about records of ownership in the event that they become lost? What are your plans for alternate water or feed sources? Would you have access to alternate power sources, as well? Prepare an evacuation kit. This includes everything from buckets, supplements, and medications to flashlights and a storm radio. Know where you'll evacuate your animals to and ensure that you have adequate transportation [...]

By | 2017-10-23T11:25:12+00:00 June 12th, 2017|Cattle, Horses, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Securing Herd Health for Vaccination Efficacy

Stress on cattle is inescapable. Just as with humans, daily occurrences can create stress reactions. In cattle, the long-term effects can have detrimental effects on herd health, including reduced milk production and quality; poor weight gain and vitality; reduced immunity to both common and less common pathogens; lower-grade meat; and, ultimately, lower bottom lines. In a Catch 22-like scenario, the healthiest and strongest cattle are those that have highly functioning immune systems. In order to support that high level of functionality, they most benefit from a well-planned vaccination program. Thus, in order for the vaccination program to work, herds must be in the best possible health prior to receiving vaccinations. This is where proper herd management comes into play. The most effective way to ensure that a herd is primed and ready for vaccinations is to address their rumen health. As mentioned above, rumen pH is perhaps the most important factor in maintaining a viable and highly functioning rumen. Key points for maintaining a healthy rumen include: Avoiding stressful situations for the cattle that will consequently increase cortisol release. Feeding a balanced diet that promotes beneficial microbial growth within the rumen. Maintaining a proper pH balance within the digestive system. Encouraging adequate hydration. Reducing the use of antibiotics when possible. The bovine digestive system and immune system are indivisible. When they are both working at their optimum levels, they ensure disease resistance and stress resilience. Through careful behavioral and dietary management, every herd has the potential for top production and healthy profit [...]

Stress and Cortisol Can Undermine Your Herd Vaccination Programs

Over the past several weeks it has been mentioned that high levels of cortisol can wreak havoc on a cow's immune system. Just as in people, cortisol can set into motion all sorts of systemic issues that can be hard to reverse. Careful management practices can go a long way toward helping your cattle avoid stressful situations and in turn have stronger immune systems. What is Cortisol? Cortisol is the main hormone released during stressful events. When there are high levels of cortisol in the system, immunity, in general, can be compromised. It has been widely noted that stress is associated with higher fail rates compared to any other factor (aside from inappropriate storage or incorrect use/administration) when considering the numbers for vaccination program failures. Dr. Rob Callan states in his paper titled "The Limitations of Vaccines": "Many management factors can limit the effectiveness of vaccination including nutrition, environmental conditions, exposure to disease, and vaccination administration. Protein, energy, minerals, and vitamins are all required to develop and maintain a strong immune system. Specific vitamins and minerals associated with optimal immune function include vitamin A, vitamin E, selenium, copper, and zinc. Harsh or stressful environmental conditions can have significant detrimental effects on immune function. In addition, crowding and poor sanitation increase the exposure to infectious agents which can overcome even high levels of immunity. These factors contribute to the increased disease rates associated with climate changes, weaning, herd expansion, shipping or other changes in animal management." Harsh or stressful environmental conditions can have [...]

Five Ways to Prepare Your Horse for Summer

Summer is THE season of the horse -- longer days, warmer weather and a couple of long holiday weekends. What's not to love? It's important to remember, despite the seemingly more temperate weather, your horse will need just as much (if not more) care and attention than they receive during the winter months. Here are five tips for keeping your horse in top shape throughout the summer months. Clean, plentiful water 24/7 Your horse depends on water for not only keeping their muscles and tissues properly hydrated but also to support proper gut function. A horse that isn't receiving enough water during the summer months is just as at risk for colic as during the winter months. Be sure that your horse has access to clean water 24 hours a day. This includes times at shows, events, on the road or on the trail. If your horse refuses water from outside sources, such as at events, be sure to bring an adequate amount of water from their regular source to ensure that they will more readily drink. If this isn't possible, consider adding a flavor enhancing supplement that will encourage water consumption. Keep Up-to-Date Summer is rife with all kinds of pests and diseases making the rounds. Intestinal parasites and other pests can take their toll on your horse quickly. Make sure you keep up with vaccinations to help protect your horse against diseases such as West Nile virus. Your veterinarian can advise you on the appropriate vaccines to administer for [...]

Prudent Use of Antibiotics for Vaccine Efficacy

As it has been evidenced in humans, antibiotic use can negatively impact the delicate microbial balance present in the gut. The same is true for cattle. Use of antibiotics can kill off colonies of beneficial bacteria in the rumen, making rumination less complete and more difficult. There is also the risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains within a herd due to overuse. This can, in turn, impact a vaccine's ability to properly immunize your cattle against disease. Your herd veterinarian can help guide you in prudent use of antibiotics to help not only preserve the gut flora and fauna but also work towards preventing the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria amongst your herd. Dietary Considerations The cow's rumen is a complex system of checks and balances to ensure that every bite of feed is utilized to the fullest extent possible. Cattle do best on a grass-only diet, but this is obviously not optimal for finishing cattle or keeping up with the nutritional demands of milk production in dairy cattle. Cattle that receive large amounts of grain-based feeds have a particular set of challenges to overcome in their digestive process. Grass and forage contain large amounts of fiber, necessitating numerous cycles of regurgitation-chewing-swallowing before the process is complete. The low-carbohydrate makeup and slow breakdown of plant cell wall structures keep the acid production in check, and thus the pH is fairly neutral at around 6.0. High-concentrate feeds such as grain, however, do not require nearly the same level of chewing and ruminating to [...]