Monday, August 21, 2017

Mosquitoes spread diseases

Mosquitoes are pesky bugs that annoy most of us on summer evenings. Citronella candles, bug spray and avoiding stagnant water are ways we often combat these pest. For horses, it’s not quite so easy. Bug spray and reducing standing water are important but for some diseases spread by mosquitoes, vaccination is your best tool.
            As I sit in the office and write this article, we’ve already seen cases of West Nile Virus and EEE in the US for 2017. Both are mosquito-borne diseases that often result in mortality. A simple vaccination, and annual booster, can greatly reduce the risk that your horse, or donkey, will contract the disease. Mosquitoes can breed in any pond of water that remains for more than 4 days, so it is important to make sure this doesn’t happen on your land (if possible). Keeping your horses stalled at night and using sprays or fans can help reduce exposure to infected mosquitoes.
            West Nile Virus (WNV) is exhibited by flu-like symptoms in equine species. They may seem mildly depressed, have a decreased appetite, hypersensitivity to noises or touch, occasional drowsiness and asymmetrical weakness. The mortality rate ranges from 30-40%. Depending on the area you live in, your horses may need a booster in the spring and the fall. Be sure to consult your veterinarian for the best health plan for your herd!
            EEE (Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis) is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and one horse has already died from the disease in North Carolina this year. EEE causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms may include impaired vision, aimless wandering, circling, inability to swallow, and paralysis. It can take anywhere from 3-10 days for a horse to exhibit signs after being bitten. It is usually fatal and the horses often suffer a great deal before succumbing to the disease.

            Vaccinations are an important piece of any herd health plan and it is important to keep accurate records on all of your animals. These may mean the difference between life and death for your horses. There is no evidence of horses being able to transmit the viruses to other horses, animals or people through direct contact. Please talk to your veterinarian about vaccinations for WNV, EEE, and other prevalent diseases to maintain the health and safety of your animals. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Fall Pasture Preparation

As fall quickly approaches getting your pasture ready for cooler weather should be on your to-do list.  Whether you have Bermudagrass, fescue or another type of perennial grass there are several things that should be done in the coming weeks to help your grass make it through the fall and winter.

Take a soil sample:  Now is a great time to take a soil sample to determine what needs to be applied to your pasture in early fall.  Your local Extension office has the boxes and forms for the soil analysis and will be happy to answer any questions you have about the sampling process or interpreting your results.  The soil analysis is free March 1 through Thanksgiving and is $4 per sample Dec through the end of Feb.

Make soil amendments:  Early fall is the perfect time to lime your pastures based on what your soil analysis recommends.  Your lime recommendations will be based upon your soil type, what you are growing and what your liming history is like.  In the Sandhills, we usually recommend 1-2 tons per acre each year but it will differ depending on your region.  It takes lime 4-6 months to change the pH of your soil, so liming in the fall is a must for happy spring pastures.  Your soil analysis will also include fertilizer recommendations.  If you have fescue or another type of cool season grass, early fall is the ideal time to get your fertilizer out. You will get a fertilizer recommendation in lbs/acre of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium which is useful in calculating what fertilizer to use and how much to put out, but for warm season grasses, nitrogen will be wasted since the plants’ vegitative growth is naturally decreasing.  Too much nitrogen in the fall can actually inhibit the plant from starting its overwintering response.  For cool season grasses such as fescue or orchard grass, a light to moderate application of nitrogen in the fall based on the soil analysis recommendations would be fine.   The most important nutrient you can put out in the fall, however, is potassium, for both warm and cool season grasses.  In the fall, grasses have major root development both in the form of growth for carbohydrate storage for survival through the winter as well as the formation of new growth points.  Potassium is key to good root growth and development.
Overseed/reseed:  For Bermudagrass pastures overseeding with a winter annual, usually ryegrass, is a good practice.  Not only does it provide forage for your animals in the months that your Bermuda is dormant but it insulates the dormant Bermuda plants and provides a natural barrier for winter weeds.  You want to seed with rye or ryegrass from late August to mid-October in the piedmont region, with that window closing a little earlier in the mountain region and a little later in the coastal plain region.  Rye and ryegrass can be broadcast or drilled.  For fescue pastures if you noticed your spring pasture was looking a little less lush than it used to, fall is the perfect time to reseed your pastures.  You can seed fescue by itself, but adding some clover into the mix is a great option!  Not only does it give your animals a little variety in their diet and add some nitrogen into your soil but it also helps dilute the fescue which is important if you have an endophyte containing fescue (which most of us do).  Fescue and clover should be seeded about the same time as rye, late August to mid-October, and should be drilled, especially if the seed includes clover.  To determine depths and seeding rates contact your local Extension Office.  

Weed Control:  If your pastures are well managed, such as the fertility being right, ideal pH and overseeding/reseeding, weeds should not be that big of an issue.  In Bermuda pastures, the most useful and effective methods of weed control in the fall is to make the necessary amendments to get the soil fertility and pH right and overseed in the fall.  If the soil fertility is right then your Bermuda should be able to choke out most weeds that try to come up next spring, and overseeding should outcompete most winter weeds.  For fescue pastures the same holds true.  Since fescue is actively growing in the fall and spring, having your fertility and pH right as well as having a strong stand of grass will help to compete with, and hopefully choke out any weeds.  If you feel you need to use chemical control, contact your local Extension Office for recommendations on what will work best for your farm.

Monday, July 31, 2017

New Laws Impacting Horses

Written by the North Carolina Horse Council

The North Carolina Horse Council (NCHC) would like to provide horse owners across the state updates on new legislation that we promoted during the 2017 General Assembly.  This was a very successful and positive session for all horse owners with the passage of the NC Farm Act of 2017.These measures passed into law thanks to the hard work of our NCHC lobbyist and personnel who worked with many legislators to improve the laws and regulations governing our industry.  A special thanks goes to Senator Brent Jackson who initially sponsored these amendments, along with thanks to Representative John Faircloth for his inclusion of the equine theraputic riding facilities amendment. Portions of the Farm Act are shared below. The full bill can be viewed at:

This bill included three major sections for horse owners including changes related to the impoundment of equines, further clarification of income sources eligible for Present Use Value taxation and clarification of exemptions from the state building code for equine therapeutic riding facilities.

 First, the statute was expanded to give boarding facilities and others who are custodians of horses certain rights in the event the horse’s owner is not known or fails to pay the custodian for goods or services provided to the horse. In summary, North Carolina General Statute §68-17 has been amended to provide that custodians of  livestock (including equines) are able to sell, transfer or humanely dispose of livestock abandoned at the custodian’s facility for more than two months without boarding fees being paid PROVIDED that (a) the custodian has given the livestock’s owner advance written notice of the stable’s rights under this statute; AND (b) the custodian has made reasonable attempts to collect any past-due fees during the two-month period.

Advance written notice could be in the form of (i) posting a sign conspicuously in the custodian’s facility which contains the notice language required by the new law; and/or, even better, (ii) incorporating the notice language required by the new law into a boarding agreement or disclosure signed by the owner. There may be other ways to comply, but these two methods seem to be the most obvious and easy to implement.  Exert from full text:
ABANDONED LIVESTOCK AMENDMENTS SECTION 4. G.S. 68-17 reads as rewritten: "§ 68-17. Impounding livestock at large; right to recover costs and damages.damages; abandoned livestock. (a) Any person may take up any livestock running at large or straying and impound the same; and such impounder may recover from the owner the reasonable costs of impounding and maintaining the livestock as well as damages to the impounder caused by such livestock, and may retain the livestock, with the right to use with proper care until such recovery is had. Reasonable costs of impounding shall include any fees paid pursuant to G.S. 68-18.1 in order to locate the owner. (b) Livestock is deemed to be abandoned when (i) it is placed in the custody of any other person for treatment, boarding, or care; (ii) the owner of the livestock does not retake custody of the animal within two months after the last day the owner paid a fee to the custodian for the treatment, boarding, or care of the livestock; and (iii) the custodian has made reasonable attempts to collect any past-due fees during the two-month period. If, after the end of the Senate Bill 615 Session Law 2017-108 Page 3 two-month period, the custodian of the abandoned livestock has been unsuccessful in collecting the past-due fees and the owner of the livestock has not retaken custody of the livestock, the custodian may sell or transfer the livestock by executing an affidavit that identifies the buyer or transferee of the livestock and certifies compliance with the criteria and requirements of this subsection. If the custodian is unable to sell or transfer the livestock, the custodian may, but shall not be required to, otherwise humanely dispose of the abandoned livestock. A custodian shall provide written notice of the provisions of this subsection in conspicuous type to the owner of livestock at the time the livestock is delivered for treatment, boarding, or care as follows: "Pursuant to N.C. General Statutes § 68-17(b), the owner of this facility is entitled to sell, transfer, or otherwise humanely dispose of any livestock abandoned at this facility.""

Second, the statute was expanded to further clarify what income can be used to qualify for Present use value taxation.  Many horse farms were being denied present use value based on not meeting the $1000 required income. Income from boarding and training fees were not acceptable under the current law. The new clarification offers an additional source of eligible income from a grazing fee.  All boarding fees should include an identifiable grazing fee to be eligible under this new clarification.  Exert from full text:

PRESENT-USE VALUE CHANGE SECTION 3.(a) G.S. 105-277.3 reads as rewritten: "§ 105-277.3. Agricultural, horticultural, and forestland – Classifications. (a) Classes Defined. – The following classes of property are designated special classes of property under authority of Section 2(2) of Article V of the North Carolina Constitution and must be appraised, assessed, and taxed as provided in G.S. 105-277.2 through G.S. 105-277.7. (1) Agricultural land. – Individually owned agricultural land consisting of one or more tracts, one of which satisfies the requirements of this subdivision. For agricultural land used as a farm for aquatic species, as defined in G.S. 106-758, the tract must meet the income requirement for agricultural land and must consist of at least five acres in actual production or produce at least 20,000 pounds of aquatic species for commercial sale annually, regardless of acreage. For all other agricultural land, the tract must meet the income requirement for agricultural land and must consist of at least 10 acres that are in actual production. Land in actual production includes land under improvements used in the commercial production or growing of crops, plants, or animals. To meet the income requirement, agricultural land must, for the three years preceding January 1 of the year for which the benefit of this section is claimed, have produced an average gross income of at least one thousand dollars ($1,000). Gross income includes income from the sale of the agricultural products produced from the land, grazing fees for livestock, the sale of bees or products derived from beehives other than honey, any payments received under a governmental soil conservation or land retirement program, and the amount paid to the taxpayer during the taxable year pursuant to P.L. 108-357, Title VI, Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act of 2004

The third amendment impacting horses was to define therapeutic equine facilities and to clarify that certain farm buildings related to their facility were indeed exempt from the state building code. Exert from full text:

SECTION 8.(b) G.S. 143-138 reads as rewritten: "§ 143-138. North Carolina State Building Code. … (b4) Exclusion for Certain Farm Buildings. – Building rules do not apply to (i) farm buildings that are located outside the building-rules jurisdiction of any municipality, (ii) farm buildings that are located inside the building-rules jurisdiction of any municipality if the farm buildings are greenhouses,greenhouses or therapeutic equine facilities, (iii) a primitive camp, or (iv) a primitive farm building. For the purposes of this subsection: (1) For the purposes of this subdivision, a "farm building" means any nonresidential building or structure that is used for a bona fide farm purpose as provided in G.S. 153A-340. A "farm building" shall include:……..
 (2a) A "therapeutic equine facility" is an equine facility as described in sub-subdivision (1)a. of this subsection operated by an organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code that provides therapeutic equine-related activities for persons who are physically, intellectually, or emotionally challenged.

We hope that these new amendments will indeed help many North Carolina Horse owners. These changes were the direct result of input from horse owners across the state and promoted and successfully passed due to the work of the North Carolina Horse Council. The NCHC is your voice and we encourage you to continue to inform us of your important needs related to the laws and regulations of our state.

If you are interested in purchasing a sign with the required notice language on impoundment to post at your facility, you can contact Cheryl Bennett at the NCHC at: The Council is considering having some compliant signs printed and sold at the NCHC web store where we sell the 99E liability warning signs.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Equine Skin Conditions

Written by Emily Roberts, NC State Intern, Person County

Much like us, horses can develop skin conditions that require attention and treatment.  The weather plays a large role in controlling the horse’s environment which can greatly affect the health of the horse.  While we can’t control the weather, we can help alleviate undesired skin conditions through some preventative management and recognizing some common skin conditions.

To begin, we should regularly observe our horses to recognize their normal, healthy behaviors and appearance.  Therefore, if something seems awry we can better pinpoint the problem.  We should practice regular grooming such as currying, brushing, and combing to remove daily dirt and debris.  In addition to caring for their coat, hooves should be cleaned out daily as well.  By practicing daily grooming, this allows us to inspect them for any cuts, bumps, discolorations etc.  It’s also helpful to know our horse’s normal temperature, pulse, and respiratory rate (TPR) in order to establish a healthy baseline. 

More info on TPR below:

Through recognizing some common skin conditions that affect horses, we can better pinpoint what problem our horse may have.  The list below briefly covers a few common equine skin conditions.  *We should develop and maintain a good relationship with our veterinarian, and consult them for diagnosis and recommendations. * 

Rain Rot, also known as Rain Scald, is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Dermatophilus congolenis.  Horses are susceptible in wet, high moisture conditions.  A heavier coat can trap moisture in, making it harder for the horse to dry out.  Moist coats can soften their skin, so the combination can allow the bacteria to thrive.  The active bacteria can cause scab-type lesions under matted hair.  Removal of the scabs usually pulls the hair out with it, leaving a bare area.  The scabs are commonly found from the neck down the back and over the croup.  To help alleviate this, keep the horse dry and clean.  Scabs can be removed, but some removal may be painful to the horse.  Topical treatments, antimicrobial shampoos, and currying the area can be helpful in minor cases, but more severe cases may require antibiotic injections.  Because this infection is contagious, it’s wise not to share the infected horse’s equipment or tack with other horses, and to clean the equipment after use.  Depending on the situation, isolating the infected horse from the herd may be necessary to avoid spread as well. 

Scratches has a few other names such as Mud Fever or Greasy Heel, but veterinarians will probably refer to it as Pastern Dermatitis.  While we may find Scratches on any of our horses, we may find it more frequently on draft or feathery breeds due to the longer hair at the pasterns.  The effect of Scratches has a number of potential causes from bacterial to fungal to other irritations.  Examine the skin of the pasterns and look for redness, discharge, swelling, scaling, bleeding, and crusting.  The combination of signs can vary as well as the severity of signs.  To help alleviate Scratches, groom and clean the fetlock area, and clip long hair if you are willing.  A horse constantly treading through manure, urine, and mud will be more difficult to cure.  Horses should be removed from wet, muddy areas and stalls should be kept clean.  Some treated shampoos and ointments can help, but a diagnosis is necessary for effective treatment.  

Sunburn isn’t pleasant for us or for our horses.  While any horse can get sunburn, lighter pigmented horses such as Paints, Appaloosas, and Cremellos are more susceptible.  In addition to skin pigmentation, certain plants and medications contain chemicals that can increase photosensitivity within horses.  Clinical signs include redness, blistering, and peeling skin which could possibly swell, crack, and ooze.  Prevention is key here.  Limit the horse’s sun exposure by bringing him inside during the hot, bright hours of the day.  Apply sunscreen or zinc oxide creams to protect against UV rays, and be sure to reapply as necessary!  Some fly sprays may also contain sun protection.  Physical barriers such as fly masks or fly sheets can help reduce the amount of sun exposure the horse receives as well.  Fresh, clean water should be available to help hydrate the skin.  If a horse gets sunburn, applications of aloe can help alleviate the burn, and a heavy coating of sunscreen can help prevent further damage.  More severe cases should be treated by a veterinarian. 

Insect Bite Hypersensitivity or as some refer to as Sweet Itch or Summer Itch, can be common among horses.  Certain insect bites can cause an allergic reaction like inflammation which leads to itchy skin and hair loss.  The main culprit is the saliva from the bite of the Culicoides midge, or what we may refer to as “No-See-Um” gnats.  Prevention is another important tool in this situation.  Use fly masks, sheets, and spray on horses; stable during the day and turn out at night to help reduce insect bites.  Netting can be installed around the barn door and window openings to create physical barriers against insects, and fans in the barn help keep flies out.  Standing water and piles of manure around the barn and pasture should be reduced or eliminated to help reduce insect populations.  Affected horses may be treated with topical creams, shampoos, or feed supplements.  Treatment of horses with severe hypersensitivity should be recommended by a veterinarian. 

Hives, or Urticaria, appear as small, swollen bumps due to swelling in the upper layer of the skin.  The swollen bumps can appear anywhere on the horse.  The allergic reaction can be caused by a variety of factors.  Physical factors include stress from heavy exercise, heat, cold, and sunlight.  Immunological factors include reactions from feeds, medications, insects, airborne agents, bacteria, and viruses.  Because so many factors can trigger the onset of Urticaria, it’s important to consider all of these factors to find the culprit.  Consider any changes in feed such as hay, pasture plants, supplements, and treats.  Take note if there’s been any new or different medications administered such as vaccines, de-wormers, or antibiotics.  Keep in mind seasonal factors such as pollen and mold, and if he’s been heavily worked or in extreme temperatures.  Finally, think if there’s been any different tack, sprays, shampoos etc. recently used that could be triggering the reaction.    

The take home message from this is not really to educate about these skin conditions, but rather to:
1.     Observe horses daily to distinguish their “normal” from their “unusual”
2.     Maintain a consistent working relationship with the veterinarian
3.     Know that preventing problems is better than fixing them

Monday, July 17, 2017

Summer Pest Management

Summer is definitely upon us as are the pests of summer.  Having had such a mild winter there seems to be an overabundance of these irritating pests this year.  Horse flies, deer flies, face flies and horn flies are what our horses are bothered by primarily in the pasture, particularly in areas that are near woods or wet, marshy areas.

Female horse flies and deer flies are blood-sucking feeders that are not only extremely annoying but can cause fatigue, pain, blood loss, and weight loss in extreme numbers.  They land, cut through the skin of the horse with scissor-like jaws and feed on the blood that pools around the wound.  Even after they fly away, the wound continues to bleed and then can attract face flies.  Horse and deer flies are very difficult to control because they only land on our horses long enough to feed it it difficult to deliver a dose of insecticide lethal to them so we have to rely on repellants.

Face flies and horn flies resemble house flies.  Adult female face flies cluster around the eyes, nose, and muzzle.  Clusters around the eyes can cause eye issues such as pinkeye and eyeworms.  They also gather around wounds left by biting flies to continue to feed causing further blood loss. Horn flies have piercing mouths to penetrate skin to suck blood.  They are intermittent feeders that take 20+ small blood feedings a day.  They typically gather on the shoulders, backs and sides but are found on the bellies in rainy or very hot weather.

Because of health issues these flies can cause in our horses, pest management is important.  Some recommendations are:
  • Manure management – regular dragging of pastures to spread fresh manure or complete removal of piles can be effective as some species of flies breed on fresh manure.
  • Avoid (when possible) standing, stagnant water
  • Keep your horses clean – muddy, matted hair attracts even more flies
  • Fly masks are effective barriers from face flies – just be sure to remove them regularly to check your horses’ eyes.  Fly sheets are also an option but choose one that is light-weight, light-colored and/or light reflective for the very hot days. (And be certain it fits well!)
  • Pesticides, when used, should be applied daily as the active ingredients break down quickly and do not provide effective long-term control.  The most effective repellants contain pyrethrins or pyrethroids so check the labels. Sprays and wipes are most commonly used.

While pest control can be difficult and options are limited we should use what we can to make our horses as comfortable as possible during the upcoming summer months.  They’ll appreciate it and in turn so will you!

Phil Daufman and Don Rutz, Department of Entomology, Cornell University
Charlie Pitts, Department of Entomology, Penn State
Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist, University of Kentucky