Monday, June 19, 2017

Think Before You Breed

Breeding your mare for profit or for personal use is a huge undertaking both financially and physically.  If you are thinking about breeding your mare this year, here are a couple of things to consider before the deed is done.  

Once you have decided to breed, you must think of all of the potential cost. Have you prepared for the financial burden that you are about to undertake? There are a few categories to think about when trying to determine the complete cost of breeding.  There is the stud fee which can range between $500 and $5,000 depending on quality of the stud.  Next there are breeding fees, including veterinary fees, semen collection, and shipment if you choose to utilize artificial insemination.  You also have to plan for the total cost of caring for the mare throughout gestation and the cost of the foal after birth. They both will need vaccines, farrier services, and deworming. After that if the foal is for personal use, you will not have to worry about auction or selling fees, but if this foal is for profit that will need to be included in your budget.

After preparing your financial plan, you will need to assess your mare. Does your mare have the ability to get pregnant and maintain a foal throughout the entire gestational period?  To make sure you will need to perform the multi step breeding soundness exam to ensure that her body is fully equipped and healthy enough to safely carry a foal to term.

Once you know that your mare is able to foal, you can start to evaluate what stud is right for your situation. Many people often want to try and breed for color as the first priority.  However,  you should prioritize structural correctness and breeding for soundness to obtain a healthy foal.  Another factor to look for when selecting the stud and a broodmare is temperament.  Temperament is often overlooked, but is an important factor in determining how well your mare will do during pregnancy, and it will be a good indicator of the foal’s temperament as well.  

Consider why you are breeding this particular mare? Is it because you are looking for something specific in a riding horse?  If that is the case then your best option might be to purchase a horse instead.  There are many horses that are of good quality that go unwanted and then possibly fall into the wrong hands and are neglected.  Instead of breeding your mare and bringing another horse into this world, you may be better off saving another.  Chances are it will not be exactly what you are looking for, but it could be close enough, and certainly less costly than breeding.

If you are still set on breeding your mare here are several articles that go into detail about cost and knowing when your mare is ready to be bred.

Financial Success in Breeding:

Monday, June 5, 2017

Sand and Manure Ingestion

Horses that eat sand or manure normally have a reason for doing so, but figuring out what that reason is and correcting it, can be a challenge.  Horses may eat sand out of boredom, because they are not getting enough grass or hay, or because they have a mineral deficiency.  Bored horses may need some balls or other toys to entertain them.  They also probably need more exercise than they are getting.  Increasing your horses exercise time, may counter some of the sand eating.  They may also learn this behavior from other horses. 

Horses that don’t have enough access to hay or grass, will sometimes eat sand or manure because they are trying to fill their stomach’s.  Increasing intake of what they need to be eating should curb the sand and manure eating by keeping them full.  If the pasture where your horse is located is really short, sometimes they can eat the roots that are covered in sand unintentionally.  Foals that eat manure are normal because of their curious natures, but it can also be helpful for them to ingest bacteria that are healthy for their guts.  However, adult horses eating manure is not normal and an indication of a problem.

It’s good to give horses minerals even if the sand eating is not the reason.  It’s easier for horses to eat a loose mineral because it’s difficult to get enough mineral out of blocks because their tongues are different than cattle.  It should be fed free choice in a bucket or container separate from the feed, so they can eat as much as they need.  It needs to be specific for a horse and not be a trace mineral.  Trace means they are mainly getting salt and not much mineral.  Horses need both.  It needs to be kept out of the weather, so it stays dry.  Once it gets wet and clumpy, horses don’t normally eat it.  If horses don’t eat the mineral you provide, they are probably getting all the vitamins and minerals that they need from their feed.  If you have problems with one or several of your horses eating sand and manure, it’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian about preventing it, before they end up with colic.

Please read these helpful links for more detailed information:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Feeding Orphaned Foals

From Dr. Holly Bedford, DVM University of Minnesota
Original Article here

Mare's colostrum (first milk) is a rich source of antibodies that protect the foal from infection until the foal's immune system is fully developed. Unlike humans, horses do not receive any antibodies through the placenta prior to birth and therefore are dependent on colostrum. Absorption of colostrum from the foal's gastro-intestinal tract peaks within 6 to 12 hours after birth. By 18 to 24 hours of age, absorption is minimal. In general a, 100 pound foal requires a minimum of 2 to 3 quarts of colostrum within the first 6 to 8 hours of age. Foals should have an IgG test performed within 24 hours of age in order to ensure that they have absorbed adequate antibodies. In the event that equine colostrum is unavailable, intra venous administration of hyperimmunized equine plasma by your veterinarian is the best alternative to provide adequate protective antibodies to foals. Other alternatives to mare's milk include milk replacers, goat's milk, and cow's milk.
The best and most economical alternative to mare's milk is equine milk replacers. These replacers are specially formulated to meet a foal's nutritional needs and are the closest in content to mare's milk. Acidified milk replacers are preferable because acidification enhances nutrient digestibility and allows the reconstituted milk to stay fresh longer.
Goat's milk is the next best alternative to mare's milk. While the fat content is higher than mare's milk, it is highly emulsified and easier to digest than the fat found in cow's milk. Disadvantages of feeding goat's milk include the small packaged volume, the expense, and the greater risk of constipation.
While cow's milk can be fed to foals, it is lower in sugar than mares' milk and has twice the fat content, which can lead to diarrhea due to poor digestibility. If cow's milk is fed, it is best to feed 2% milk (lower in fat) and add dextrose (easily digestible type of sugar) to the milk to increase the carbohydrate content to match that of mare's milk. This can be accomplished by adding 40 millimeters of 50% dextrose solution to each quart of milk, or by adding a 2 ounce package of jam/jelly pectin to every 3 quarts of milk. Honey, corn syrup, or table sugar should not be used to increase the sugar content as these types of sweeteners contain sucrose which is poorly utilized by the foal and can cause diarrhea and colic. Non-pasteurized milk should be heated to 160 F for 15 seconds and allowed to cool prior to adding dextrose and feeding.
Calf milk replacers can be used for foals. When choosing a calf milk replacer, carefully read the ingredients list and only opt for products containing all milk proteins (skim milk, buttermilk, whey, casein) and avoid products containing soy protein, fish proteins, meat solubles, yeasts, or flours, and distiller's grain byproducts. Additionally, check the crude fiber, protein, and fat content. Appropriate levels for foals are: crude fiber < 0.2%, crude protein 20%, and fat 15%.
Foals should be feed 20 to 25% of their body weight per day (not per feeding). It is important to weigh the foal daily and adjust the daily feeding volume accordingly as the foal grows. Gradually, the volume of milk fed can be increased, while the frequency of feeding may be decreased. The average foal should gain approximately 2 pounds per day. If the foal fails to gain weight, the volume of milk or frequency should be increased. A general guideline for feeding normal healthy foals is to feed every 2 hours during the day and every 3 hours through the night for the first 2 weeks (make sure to divide the total amount needed-about 25% of body weight - by the feeding frequency). Once the foal is consuming the calculated milk volume readily, the feedings can be spaced out to every 3 to 4 hours during the day, and 4 hours at night for another 1 to 2 weeks. By 1 month of age, most foals can be fed every 6 hours.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Nutritional Value of Summer Forages

As has been documented on this blog, summer grazing in the northern Piedmont of North Carolina can be a challenge.  The forage base in this area is cool season grasses, which go dormant during the summer months.  This makes many folks think about something to use during the summer to provide good nutrition to their horses.  Often, the answer is to use a summer annual grass.  There was an article written last May (Summer Annuals) that describes which summer annuals are recommended for grazing horses and lists some that should not be grazed by horses.  This article will show a bit more of the differences between these recommended annual grasses used for summer grazing.

The grasses that were recommended were Pearl Millet, Crabgrass, and Teff. Note that most of the quality reports are based on cutting these grasses for hay. Let’s look at some test results for these forages.

Pearl Millet – according to researchers at the University of Georgia, protein levels range from 8 to 11%, depending on plant maturity at harvest. The Total Digestible Nutrient (TDN) levels ranged from 52% to 58%, so this can be a pretty good forage during the summer months.  Consider that the 2016 yield data from Tifton Georgia shows an average of 15,500 pounds of dry matter produced, horses should not go hungry using Pearl Millet for their summer grazing.  Pearl Millet does not produce prussic acid, so that should not be a worry in the fall after frost, but be careful and check for nitrates, especially after the plant has fast growth following a drought situation.

Crabgrass is a summer annual that not many people think of for use in grazing, but it is a solid performer during the summer months.  Crabgrass is an annual, and there are two named varieties that have been developed for use in pastures.  One of these is Red River Crabgrass and the other is Quick–N–Big.  There are some others generally classified as “common” crabgrass.  Researchers at the University of Arkansas found protein levels of crabgrass hay that was cut at the early heading stage averaged 14.3%, and the TDN of that hay averaged 59.1%.  Crabgrass cut at the late heading stage still averaged 11% protein and 54.8% TDN. Those numbers translate to some pretty high quality forage to graze horses on during the summer.  The folks at Arkansas found that crabgrass can produce over 8,000 pounds of dry matter per acre.  Crabgrass is usually planted in the fall with small grains, or in April mixed with fertilizer.  Crabgrass seed is small and light and does not flow well in a planter by itself.
Teff – This warm-season annual grass has received a lot of attention in different parts of the country over the last decade.  It also has pretty good protein (9 – 14%) and digestibility (55 - 64% TDN) depending on maturity at harvest/grazing.  The quality data is from New Mexico State University.  Production is between 8,000 and 12,000 pounds of dry matter per acre.  It is a very small seed that requires a good, firm seedbed and good seed placement. It is very easy to plant the seed too deep, so be careful.  Garry Lacefield, Extension Forages Specialist with the University of Kentucky, recommends that Teff not be grazed until the root system is fully established. It is a shallow-rooted grass that can be pulled up by grazing, especially if it is grazed too early.  Still, that’s not bad for a grass originally used as a grain crop in Ethiopia and other countries around the world.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spring Vaccination Tips

Have you remembered to vaccinate your horse this spring?  Some of us may have remembered that it's time, but still not checked the task off our list! Everyone has their own system and situation, but we all should have a list of "must dos" on our vaccine list.  First and foremost, make sure you consult your horse's veterinarian for their recommendations.  Variations in a vaccination plan may be due to your horses age and exposure to other horses, and travel plans.  
The "core* diseases (vaccines)": 
According to the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, the following are diseases we ALL should make sure our horses are protected from. The following recommendations are if the horse has been previously vaccinated, and is greater than one year of age. 
·      Tetanus - Annual vaccination with tetanus toxoid, with a booster if a penetrating (puncture) injury occurs 
·      Rabies - Annual vaccination
·      Encephalomyelitis (Eastern and Western) - EEE and WEE should be vaccinated for each spring and fall. With the mild winters we generally have (especially this year) this is critical to protection from the virus carried often by mosquitos
·      West Nile Virus - Similar to Encephalomyelitis, West Nile vaccination is also needed each spring and fall
*Core vaccines are named such because they protect against diseases that are endemic to a region, virulent or highly contagious, pose a risk of severe or fatal disease, have potential public health significance, and/or are required by law.  

The next vaccines are "non-core" but risk based vaccines, meaning that they are selected based on assessment of risk performed by, or in consultation with, a licensed veterinarian, and may vary between individuals, populations, and/or geographic regions.  
·      Equine Herpesvirus (EHV)
·      Equine Influenza
·      Potomac Horse Fever
·      Strangles
There are many factors which influence the right vaccination protocol for your horse.  Stages of life, such as age, reproductive status, activity and exposure to other horses are all considerations.  Always make sure to consult your veterinarian for the best vaccination protocol to ensure the well-being of your horse. 
Information source: UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital for Updated Vaccination Guidelines for Horses in North America (March 2015)
Posted by Eileen A. Coite, County Extension Director, Sampson County 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cost Share Assistance Programs

Written by: Jamie D. Warner
Adapted from a presentation by: Kaitlyn Johnson, Randolph Soil and Water

Many Cooperative Extension offices get phone calls every year about help with funding farm projects such as well drilling, pasture renovation, watering device installation and more.  While Extension can provide valuable technical assistance, it does not have a pool of funds to aid in the installation of any on-farm practices.  For monetary cost share programs, farmers should contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District to see if they qualify for the programs available.  There are three programs that horse owners could potentially be eligible for:  NC Agricultural Cost Share Program (NCACSP), Agricultural Water Resources Assistance Program (AgWRAP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  Below are a few bulleted points on each program.

NC Agricultural Cost Share Program (NCACSP):   
·      The NCACSP helps address nonpoint pollution to improve or protect water QUALITY on Agriculture lands.
·      Eligibility: Landowners or renters of existing agricultural operations that have been operating for MORE THAN three years.
·      Applicants should work with their local Soil and Water Office to develop and approve individual conservation plans that identify the best management practices (BMPs) for their particular operations.  Plan designs should include how to ensure the longevity of the specified BMPs.
·      Applicants could be reimbursed up to 75% of the cost of a predetermined average for each BMP installed.
·      Some projects that could be covered under this program include:  stream exclusion fencing, drinkers with piping or grassed waterways.
·      Depending on the practice you are installing, some specific rules may apply so please consult with your local office before making any decisions.

Agricultural Water Resources Assistance Program (AgWRAP):
·      The AgWRAP is for help installing practices that increase the water capacity or QUANTITY on Agricultural lands.
·      Eligibility: Landowners or renters of an existing agricultural operations that have been operating for MORE THAN three years.
·      Applicants should identify opportunities to increase water use efficiency, availability and storage; implement BMPs to conserve and protect water resources; increase water use efficiency and increase water storage and availability.
·      The Soil and Water Conservation Commission allocated 45% of available BMP funding for district allocations for all approved AgWRAP BMP’s. The remaining 55% will be allocated for new ponds and pond repair/retrofits applications through a competitive regional application process.  Standard reimbursement rates differ by county/district.
·      Projects could include an agricultural pond, agricultural pond cleanout or well installation.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP):
·      The EQIP program is enacted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) which uses federal dollars to complete projects.  They typically get much greater amounts of funds to disperse and use an application ranking process that is slightly different than Soil and Water.
·      EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that helps producers promote agricultural production and environmental quality by implementing structural and management conservation practices to optimize environmental benefits on working agricultural land.
·      Eligibility:  Agricultural producers and owners of cropland, rangeland, pastureland, non-industrial private forestland and other farm or ranch lands. Socially disadvantaged, beginning and limited resource farmers and veterans could be eligible for an increased payment rate and may receive advance.
·      Practices that could be covered by this program include:  prescribed grazing, grazing management plans, controlled livestock lounging areas, exclusion fencing and more.

If you have any more questions about these programs or any others that you may have heard about, please contact your local Cooperative Extension Agent so that they can get you in contact with the appropriate person.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Handling Foals Today to Prepare for Tomorrow

It's never too early to start teaching your foal good manners.  In fact getting them use to being handled and haltered early in life will make your life much less stressful!

The best time to begin conditioning foals to halter is when they're 1 week old - any earlier and you could accidentally damage their necks by pulling on them.  However, before you ever put a halter on your foal, they should learn how to stand quietly and accept being "caught".  One good method is to place your left arm under the foal's neck and around its chest and grasp their tail 6-8 inches above the tailhead with your right hand.  Usually foals will stand quietly if their tails are slightly bent over their croup.  The best place to do this is in a box stall or closed pen with the dam nearby.  If the dam is calm, you can use her to help position the foal in a corner so it will be easier to catch.  However, it can be difficult to use this method if the foal is large or rambunctious, so remember to start early!

These training sessions should be very short (2-5 minutes) and done 2 to 3 times a day.  Once the foal stops struggling and submits to being touched, gently rub its body - including the face, ears, belly, and legs - before releasing it.  Never release the foal if it is still struggling!  This will teach the foal to continue to struggle instead of submit.  It can be frustrating, but remember to be patient and gentle, with the foal.  They're learning too!

During the training sessions, remember to keep an eye on the mare while handling the foal.  Even normally gentle mares can become aggressive if they think their foal is in danger.  Consider tying the mare in a corner of the stall or pen until you know how she will react better.

Below is a short video from Clinton Anderson with some suggestions on how to handle your foals and prepare them for future trainings and care.