Monday, December 10, 2018

Winter Water Consumption

Ensuring our horses continue to drink enough water during cold winter weather can be a tough task, but it is an important one.

Dehydration can lead to impaction colic due  to decreased water intake and is certainly a problem we'd all like to a void. An adult horse needs to drink between 5 and 10 gallons of water a day to stay adequately hydrated.  This time of year hay tends to be the primary source of forage so the water content is significantly less than what they get from fresh grasses, which make water intake even more important.  Here are a few tips to encourage increased consumption:

  • Always have fresh, clean water available, breaking the ice regularly and removing any ""chunks"" (but be sure to move those chunks outside the pasture fence or stall to avoid bruising feet)
  • Horses tend drink the majority of their water within 3 hours of feeding times, so plan to provide the thawed or warmed water within that period
  • Warm the water - electric trough heaters properly managed and heated buckets work well if available, or simply pouring a bucket of warm water in once or twice a day will help
  • Provide access to salt or mineral blocks to improve your horses' thirst
  • Adding electrolytes directly to the feed can help stimulate water consumption
  • Allow access to forage 24 hours a day to keep the fermentation process of digestion continually working
  • Feeding a warm mash is a quick way to add a little hydration to the diet - start with a little water and increase it a bit every day until they are accustomed to the different texture of the wet feed

Monday, December 3, 2018

So, what is quality horse hay?

This is a question that a lot of people ask and are asked.  And the answer, as so many Extension answers are, is “It Depends”.  Of course, there are many factors that go into determining if the hay is “good.”  A previous article on the NC Horse Blog talked about how to understand a forage report.  You can find that entry here.  And that is certainly the place to start when trying to determine the quality of the hay.  Another factor is the horse that you are feeding.  Different classes of horses have different nutritional needs.  Are you feeding a “pasture ornament” or a pregnant mare or an endurance competitor?  Or maybe you have some weaned foals to keep growing.  All these animals have different nutritional requirements.  And many can be met by hay/forage. 

It seems many folks think they can look at hay and tell how good of quality it is.  And this is a good preliminary judgement.  Some things to look at are: are there weeds (or other contaminants) present; are there seedheads or blooms present (this indicates maturity at cutting); does it smell like fresh cut grass (or are there burnt, moldy or fermented aromas), is it low in moisture and is it green.  But, ultimately, the true determination of quality is the chemical analysis.

At the State Fair every year, there is a forage show.  You should check it out October 2019 – it’s always in the Jim Graham building beside the restaurant.  This year, one of the classes had three entries, and the entry with the lowest visual score (based on characteristics listed above) won the class as it was highest in protein and energy.  Without the chemical analysis, you would not know how good that hay was.   In fact, the hay had enough protein to feed a maintenance horse and breeding stallion.  It was just shy of enough protein to feed a performance horse.  Additionally, the hay had enough energy to feed a maintenance horse, breeding stallion, performance horse, broodmare, and growing horse.  And many folks would have passed it by just after looking at it.

Below is a brief table with some of the nutritional requirements for various classes of horses.

Table 1. Crude protein, acid detergent fiber and neutral detergent fiber requirements for various feeding classes of horses (expressed on a 100% dry matter basis). Referenced from Paul Siciliano Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, who is now with NC State University.

Feeding Class
% Crude Protein
% Acid Detergent Fiber
% Neutral Detergent Fiber
Breeding Stallion
Growing Horse

While visual inspection is good place to start, the only true way to know the nutritional value of the hay is to have it analyzed.  The NC Department of Agriculture performs forage analysis for $10 per sample.  Your Cooperative Extension agent can help you with the sampling and the forms. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Security Around the Horse Barn

As much as we would like to be able to just tie our horses to the trailer to watch a class at the horse show, leave the tack room open all day for ease of access for ourselves and clients, and not worry about the horses kept at the farm a couple of miles away, things can happen.  Equipment, tack, and horses can go missing due to theft.  Being careful and having a security plan in place can prevent the loss of valuable equipment and even the loss of a horse – otherwise known as rustling.

First the property.  Horse barn owners may want to consider placing some video cameras, or even trail cameras, to be able to observe who is coming and going around the barn.  Conspicuous camera systems are a good deterrent to theft, as long as they are placed where they are difficult to tamper with.  Camera can be on a wireless network, and images/videos can be stored for later review.  Cameras should have high resolution even at night in order to be able to identify who is coming and going.  They can be set to start recording when a motion sensor it tripped to save time in reviewing and storage space.

Alarm systems can be pretty simple, or can be very sophisticated.  They can consist of infrared beams or pressure sensors that will trigger an alarm when tripped.  However, around a barn there can be animals moving about that can cause false alarms, so set sensors so they aren’t tripped by raccoon, dogs, or cats that may be roaming around.  If there is no one close enough to hear an alarm, it is hard to investigate immediately, but the noise itself can be a deterrent.  Be aware that alarms can be tripped intentionally to get an idea of response.

Keep access gates and barn doors locked during hours when there should be no one present around the barn or paddocks.  If clients need to get to the barn during off-hours, they should have a contact number to gain access.  While a lock keeps honest people honest, they also provide a measure of deterrence to would-be thieves and helps keep valuable tack and equipment, not to mention horses, secure.

Perhaps the most important part of securing property is also the simplest – be observant about who is coming and going any given day.  Check references for a new farrier, feed dealer, or even new clients.  Ask friends and neighbors about anything unusual that may have happened, and enlist their help in being observant around the neighborhood.  Around a busy barn, it may be easy for a thief to grab some tack and load it into a truck or trailer, or just hitch up a trailer and just leave without people noticing until it is too late.  Again, be observant and ask everyone around the barn to also observe what is going on.

Now for the horses.  A lot of the things mentioned above will also protect horses.  Having good identification and good photos of each horse, including distinguishing features, is very useful and can be critical in recovering a horse that was stolen.  Many veterinarians and others recommend that horses be microchipped for identification and most veterinarians have microchip readers that aid in getting horses back to their owners. Freeze branding is an outward means of identifying horses and will deter theft is there is an obvious identifying mark that is registered to a farm or ranch. Several states record brands for identification purposes.

Horses have been stolen from horse shows and other places off the farm.  As was stated earlier, we should be able to tie a horse to the trailer for a short time while watching a class at a horse show without worrying about someone untying the lead rope and walking away with the horse, but this does happen.  Be security conscious when at horse shows, trail rides, or other equine events and take turns watching the classes while someone keeps an eye on the tack and the horses.  Being good neighbors while at an event helps keep everyone’s property safe and secure.

These are just a few things to consider in making sure that horses tack, and equipment stay where they are supposed to be.  Have conversations with family, friends, and neighbors and get other ideas to consider that won’t break the bank, yet will provide a measure of security around the farm and at events.  Implementing a few security measures is less expensive and less painful than replacing equipment or dealing with the loss of a favorite horse.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Hauling Safely and Your Driver's License

Eileen A. Coite
County Extension Director
Sampson County Cooperative Extension

 Having the right type of driver’s license and tags on your vehicle sounds simple enough, but is it? If you are hauling agricultural commodities and livestock, there are certainly rules and guidelines to be familiar with.  This is just one component to remember when driving on public roads, hauling ag commodities.  There are many guidelines to follow and be familiar with.  Today, let’s focus on the driver’s license.  

First, we need to think about what, who, where, and how something is being hauled. 
Is this a truck and trailer, a semi load of a crop or livestock, a tobacco trailer, etc.  There are so many different situations and scenarios, and it is difficult to address them all here, but hopefully we can scratch the surface. 

Let me mention two resources upfront that will help with questions.  First, the NC Highway Patrol is offering educational opportunities for NC drivers that haul livestock, horses, and other agricultural products.  Troopers in the commercial motor vehicle division are tasked with offering this education to us, and they are very thorough, knowledgeable, and willing to help us understand.  The second, very useful resource is a booklet created by NC Farm Bureau, titled “HAULIN’ AG:  A Guide to Transporting Farm Products and Equipment in NC” (Fourth Edition).  The booklet is a nice summary of federal highway laws that help us understand the many laws and regulations we must learn. 

A limited quantity of the Haulin’ Ag booklet is available at the Sampson County Extension Center and at the Sampson County Farm Bureau office, but also can be found on the Farm Bureau website: under the public policy tab, or at .

There are actually six types of licenses available to drivers, three regular and three are commercial.  First, let’s review the rules for a regular driver’s license.  If you are exempt from requirements of a commercial driver’s license (CDL), this applies to you. 
Know the weight of your vehicle(s).  Every trailer (and truck) has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVRW) listed on the body of the vehicle.  Look for a metal plate on your trailer, which lists all specifications, including the GVRW.  For regular passenger vehicles, a class C regular license will suffice.  According to the DMV, a class C license allows you to “operate any combination of noncommercial motor vehicles that have a GVRW of more than 10,000 pounds and less than 26,001 pounds, as long as the driver is 18 years of age or older.”  

There are two other classes of “regular” licenses.  These are a Class A and Class B.  The only real difference between the two of these is that the Class A is for any vehicle towing a vehicle of 10,000 pounds or more and the Class B is for a vehicle that weighs 26,001 pounds or more. If the combined tow vehicle and trailer weigh 26,001 pounds or more, you will need a Class A license, but as stated earlier, if you tow vehicle alone weighs over 26,000 pounds, you will need a Class B license.  Another good place to find this explanation is simply on the back of your driver’s license.

Many drivers on the road today have a commercial driver’s license.  There are also Class A, B, and C types of CDLs.  The following drivers of vehicles are exempt from obtaining a CDL:

1.     Vehicles for personal use
2.     Military vehicles
3.     Emergency vehicles
4.     Farm vehicles (that meet all exemption requirements)
a.     Operated by the farmer or employees for the exclusive use of farm
b.     Used for the transport of agricultural products, supplies, or equipment to and from the farm
c.     Not use as for hire
d.     Used within 150 miles of the farmer’s farm

As you review these exemptions, please note that an exemption from a CDL does not include an exemption from the proper vehicle classification requirements.  

Please know that I am not an expert on these regulations, this is merely my research and interpretation of the law, and reviewing informational materials provided, such as the “Haulin’ Ag” booklet.  The real experts are the Division of Motor Vehicles and our NC State Highway Patrol force. Much of the information I have provided here can also be viewed at the NC Division of Motor Vehicles website, at or directly from the General Statutes, found at . Another suggestion for specific questions is to call the NCHP Fayetteville office at 910-486-1058 and ask for a motor carrier section officer.

A free, special event will be held at the Sampson County Livestock Facility on Saturday, December 1, 2018 for horse owners and livestock producers, to review safety and maintenance procedures for trailers, as well as tips on having the right license, tags, etc. If you would like to attend this educational workshop offered by Cooperative Extension and the NCHP, please register by calling 910-592-7161.   Those attending are welcome to bring their trailer for a safety inspection.  Pre-registration is required for planning purposes.  Copies of the Haulin’ Ag Booklet will be available for those attending the workshop. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Equine Colic - Do's & Don'ts

Winter is coming and with the change of weather, we often see an increase in incidents of colic.  There are varying levels of "belly-aches" but all should be treated with proper care and caution.  Check out these guidelines to learn more:

Monday, October 22, 2018

Make a Winter Plan for Your Horse

It is late October and the horse shows, trail rides, and other equine activities are drawing to a close.  Well, not really totally shut down, but there are fewer opportunities to go ride somewhere, plus the weather is a lot less likely to cooperate with riding plans.  It’s not really in the best interest of your horse to just turn out into the pasture for the winter and let all the lessons learned from training and riding just fade away over the winter.  Nor is it good to allow your horse to get too much condition from incorrect rationing and not enough exercise.  Making a plan now to keep your horse in good shape during the winter months will pay dividends when the trail riding and horse show season starts again next year, which is March in this area of North Carolina.  Here are a few things to pay attention to:

Nutrition – don’t let your horse need to work off “extra” pounds next spring! A horse owner needs to make sure that the horse is getting the needed energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins needed for the level of activity the horse will be at during the winter.  Feeding extra energy to a horse that is not exercising much leads to those unwanted pounds, so get a forage test on the hay to be fed, and supplement only the energy and protein needed to meet the needs of the horse – and no more!  See your NC Cooperative Extension Livestock Agent for assistance with forage testing.  Ensure that minerals and vitamins are available during the winter months through the ration or through access to free choice mineral supplements.

Activity – Rather than just turning out for the winter months, consider setting an activity level and routine during those months when the weather may not be conducive to riding a lot.  Exercise doesn’t always mean getting into the saddle and riding.  Working the horse in a round pen on a lunge line can reach a level of activity that will keep the hose’s muscle tone good and will help the horse reach mid-season form more quickly next spring.  When the weather is good for riding, work on some things with the horse that were not up to par last season, either in the show ring or on the trail.  This can include working on loading and unloading the trailer, waiting for the rider commands, or getting used to a certain obstacle so that will not be a problem at the next show or trail ride. Set up a calendar for the different activities planned and stick to it.  Your horse will appreciate both the attention and the company!

Grooming – A little attention paid to grooming during the off months will help the horse stay clean, will help build the bond between horse and rider, and will help identify any physical or health problems that me not be that noticeable from a distance.  Early detection of these problems can help get an infection cleared up before it becomes a major inflammation.  Checking feet will get foot problems identified and fixed, and checking teeth can make sure that any dental needs are identified and addressed before wasting feed and losing body condition of the horse.  Frequent brushing gets rid of dirt and loose hair, making the coat more efficient in handling adverse weather conditions.  Untangling and removing foreign objects from the horse’s mane frequently will save a lot of time and aggravation when preparing for the first horse show next spring.

Having a plan for working with horses during the off-season makes a lot of sense over just feeding and letting them run loose in the pasture for a few months.  Monitoring activity levels, knowing what is being fed, and keeping up with grooming chores, farrier needs, and general health items will yield dividends for both the horse and the horse owner.

For more information on horse care, nutrition, or health matters, contact your NC Cooperative Extension Livestock Agent, or the Cooperative Extension Center in your state.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Managing Horse Manure

Did you know that one 1,000 lb. horse can produce about 10 tons of manure each year?  With that much manure being produced by each horse it is important to have a manure management plan.  Manure is an excellent nutrient resource for soils and considered valuable to farmers and garden owners.  Each pound of fresh manure contains about 0.2 lbs. of nitrogen, 0.03 pounds of phosphorous, 0.06 pounds of potassium.  If stored and handled properly, horse manure can easily be used as fertilizer on pastures, gardens, lawns, etc.


A comprehensive horse manure management plan includes the following:

·         Estimated yearly animal manure production
·         Estimated yearly nutrient production
·         Plans for collecting, handling, and storing
·         Emergency action plan that deals with accidental manure spills or other environmental emergencies
·         If you plan to apply manure to land, please also include the following:
o   Estimated yearly crop nutrient use potential
o   Rotating crops
o   Available land for application throughout the year

Manure storage is a critical piece of a manure management plan.  The type of storage facility will vary depending on the number of horses, manure end use, and available equipment.    Barns with less than 15 horses or that often pasture horses may want to consider small, temporary bins or wire continuous bins.  Barns with 15 or more horses will want to consider a larger, more permanent facility that you can access with larger equipment.  Prior to construction, contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) or USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office to assist you with designing and building a storage site or facility.

Wooden bins for holding manure.
PC: UMN Extension