Monday, April 10, 2023

Field Day! Pasture Management for Horse Owners

Register at

Location: Carolina Horse Park, 2814 Montrose Rd. Raeford, NC 28376

This hands-on field day will cover rotational grazing, pasture, and hay management.
Amazing Grazing will be there to discuss the benefits of one-wire temporary fencing.
We will discuss soil reports, fertilization, and weeds during pasture management.
Hay management will cover the nutritional values of different types of hay, understanding of
forage analysis,
and how hay management can improve your pasture health.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Spring and Soil Amendments

It is past April 1, so that means soil testing has returned to NO CHARGE with the NCDA lab.  Like, so many other things, the cost of lime and fertilizer has increased quite a bit over the past couple of years.  It is natural for pasture managers to look for ways to save money.  Soil sampling and following the recommendations for soil amendments is one of the most cost-effective tools we have for pasture management.  If you have questions about what all those numbers mean when you receive that soil report, reach out to your Cooperative Extension agent.  

There are a few products out there now to claim to have a liming function but at a much cheaper price than traditional ag lime.  Again, it is only natural to look into these products due to the proposed cost savings.  However, I caution you. As is the case many times, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Here is a link to an article written by Dr. Gary Bates from the University of Tennessee addressing the science behind lime.

I'll also share a story concerning someone trying to save some money on pasture fertilization.  A farm store had a "mix" of fertilizer in their storage area.  It was a combination of fertilizers that were cleaned out of their spreader truck.  There was no analysis on this fertilizer but it was cheap because they needed it out of their way.  Someone bought it and spread it on their pastures.  Costs included the reduced price of the fertilizer plus time and fuel to spread it.  A few weeks passed and the pastures did not look very green and did not seem to be growing well in spite of decent rainfall.  This producer is most likely going to have to go back and spread more fertilizer, particularly nitrogen, to get decent production.  So, in the end, how much money was really saved?

Fertilizer and lime are expensive.  Following the soil report recommendations so that you are applying what is needed and not over-applying some nutrients and/or under-applying others is your most cost effective means to pasture management when it come to nutrients.  

Monday, March 27, 2023

Purchasing a New Horse

Who hasn't gone browsing on Equine Now to see what's out there every now and then?  Buying a horse is not quite as simple as "add to cart," but online browsing is a great place to start.  Searching online marketplaces or watching online auctions gives you an idea of what people are asking for the type of horse you're searching for.  You'll start to pick up on what is a reasonable price and what seems high or low.  Bargain shopping can be a dangerous game when buying a horse.  Low price can indicate underlying health or soundness issues.  When searching online, always schedule an appointment to see the horse in-person if possible.  Though there are options to purchase site-unseen and have them delivered.    

The greatest advantage in buying a horse directly off-the-farm is that you can have the opportunity to ride the horse before you buy it.  By making an appointment to purchase a horse from the owner you will be able to see the horse in its home environment and ask lots of questions.  You also have the option for a vet to perform a pre-purchase exam. The downside to this purchasing option is that you usually pay more. 

In-Person Auction
Auctions have a bad reputation among some horsemen, but they are a reasonable option for purchasing a horse as long as you avoid the pitfalls.  Arrive early so that you can see the horses ride in the warmup pen and ask lots of questions.  You shouldn't bid on a horse if the first time you laid eyes on it was entering the sale pen.  You probably won't be able to ride a horse, but that's not because the seller is trying to hide anything.  Auctions can be a stressful environment for horses and letting lots of people the horse doesn't know take a ride won't help them relax.  If you want to see the horse perform a certain maneuver like backing or taking a lead in each direction, ask the rider to show it to you in the warmup area.  Auctions can be a way to purchase a horse at a cheaper price, but not always.  Make sure you know what you are willing to spend before you start bidding and stop when you hit your threshold.  

There are so many horses in need of a home.  Retired race horses or cart horses.  Abandoned or neglected horses, ponies, and donkeys.  If you are interested in pursing a rescue horse for the right reasons, it can be very rewarding.  I would not suggest rescue if you are trying to purchase a horse at a cheaper price.  Often rescues are very affordable to purchase, but they come with hidden fees.  You may need to pay more for a special diet so they can recover properly.  There will be veterinary expense and possible hidden medical issues that didn't present at time of purchase.  If you are unwilling to spend the money needed to properly rehabilitate a rescue horse, one of the other purchase options may be a better fit for you.  

Tips for Success
Regardless of the purchase method the following are always best practices.
  1. Have a veterinarian do a pre-purchase exam
  2. See the horse in person riding at the walk, trot, and canter both directions, and backing
  3. Don't buy a young horse for a young or inexperienced rider
  4. Don't bargain shop 
  5. Ask Questions!
Best of luck finding your new trail or show companion.  

Monday, March 20, 2023

Rodent Control on Farms

By Becky Spearman, Bladen County Livestock Agent and Margaret Ross, Area Specialized Poultry Agent

Rodents can be an issue on horse farms in North Carolina.  They can spread disease, cause feed losses and contamination, and cause structural damage to the barns and equipment.  In the barns, they gnaw on electrical wiring exposing live wires and causing a fire risk, destroy insulation and ventilation systems. 

Rodents are prolific breeders and can reproduce at amazing rates.  The three rodents of concern in our area are the House mouse, Norway rat and the Roof rat.  They all have some differences in behavior which can be used in determining control methods. 

Characteristics of Rodents:

Behavior - rodents have a home range they spend most of their time in.  Mice live in smaller territories ranging 10-25 feet.  Rats range around 100 feet and live in colonies.  

Eating Habits - Rats usually eat their entire meal for the day at one time, usually at night while mice eat small amounts of food several times during the day.  Rats are more wary of new objects, so it may take longer for success with bait stations and traps to be effective.  It may take at least 5 days for the rat to accept the new object while a mouse may accept it overnight.  Rats are also pickier eaters and like fresh food while mice are more curious and more willing to try new foods.

Reproduction rates - rats can produce 10-12 litters per year with an average size of 6-8 babies.  A single rat pair can produce 15,000 descendants in only one year!  The reproduction rate for mice is similar with 5-10 litters per year with 5-6 babies. 

Front incisor teeth on rats - grow on average 5 inches per year, so rodents gnaw constantly to keep them worn down.

Rats can climb both horizontally and vertically.  They jump vertically as much as 36” from a flat surface and 48” horizontally from a flat surface.  They can swim as far as ½ mile in open water and travel against sewer lines in substantial water currents.  And this surprised me - they can drop 50 feet without being killed or seriously injured!!

Sanitation practices: minimize and clean up feed spills, mow around buildings/houses to decrease cover, throw away garbage frequently, and not stack lumber and other construction debris near buildings. Exclusion is a lot harder in the barn area themselves, but focus exclusion practices in offices, storage buildings and feed rooms.  Exclusion includes sealing cracks or openings in the building.  Leave no holes larger than ¼ inch.  Doors, windows and screens should fit tightly. 

Population control: trapping can be an effective way to control rodents.  Trapping rats may require more skill and labor.  The advantages to trapping is that it doesn’t rely on potentially hazardous rodenticides, success is visible, it allows disposal of carcasses, and can eliminate odors.  There are several available traps which can be single trap or multiple-capture live traps.

Rodenticides (toxic baits):  baits are formulated with an attractant and a rodenticide in them.  Some baits may be restricted use pesticides (RUP) and require a pesticide license.  Different types  of rodenticides work in different ways to kill the rodents.  There are situations where each type may be a better choice.

Bait stations with rodenticides and placement is critical.  Using a bait station targets the rodents and allows them to feel secure while eating the bait.  It also can help keep out other animals on the farm.  Proper placement and maintenance is critical - keep in mind the home range of the rodents so you’ll ensure you have plenty of bait stations.  Always wear gloves when putting out bait for your protection as well, as rodents will avoid the bait stations if they smell human scent on them. Bait stations can be purchased or made on your own.

Rodenticide formulations come as bar baits, concentrates, tracking powders, or pellets. The bar baits contain a rodenticide, a grain product, as well as a binder. The binder allows the bait to hold up during moisture events. These products are typically found as chunks or bars. It’s extremely important to read and follow the label instructions because all types of rodenticides are poisonous and can put other animals at risk that are not the target animal of the rodenticide. Be sure to read the manufacturer information and warnings. 

To be effective in implementing a rodent control program, you must be monitoring and evaluating the program constantly. There are several reasons rodent programs may not be successful: not enough bait stations, the control area is too small, not enough exposure time to the bait, easy access to other food supplies, not stocking bait stations on a regular basis, choosing the wrong bait, moldy or old baits, and not rotating baits. It’s very important to properly handle rodenticides. 

Predators: cats and even dogs can be a method of control, but in reality rodents may be attracted by the food left for the cats or dogs.  They can catch some mice, but may not be able to keep up with them as they multiply quickly.

Prevention and good sanitation practices are critical to keep rodents out because it is hard to eradicate them if you have a problem.  Knowing rodent behavior can help you determine what control methods may work best for you.  If you have any questions about rodent control on your farm, contact your local Cooperative Extension office. 


University of California - IPM - Rats

Rodent control in the poultry house - Oklahoma State University

Texas A & M IPM action plan for rodents

Controlling Rodents on the Poultry Farm - Mississippi State

Monday, March 13, 2023

Foaling Checklist


Spring is full of life! The grass is starting to grow, pollen is everywhere, and foals are on the way.  Having foals is exciting but can quickly become scary.  The best way to prevent an emergency is to be prepared.  Here is a checklist to help makes sure you are prepared. 

  1. Phone Number:  Your emergency and normal veterinarians are saved in your cell phone and posted in the barn. 

    1. Make sure that your veterinarians know the relative due date of your mare. Do not hesitate to contact them if you suspect something is not going right. 

  2. Thermometer: the key to telling if the temperature of foal/ mare is normal, or if an infection is present 

    1. The normal temperature

      1. Mare: 99-100 F (37-38 C)

      2. Foal: 100-102 F (37.7-38.8 C)

  3. Stethoscope: helps indicate heart and respiratory rates

    1. Normal Heart Rate

      1. Mare: 28-40 bpm

      2. Foal: 80-120 bpm

    2. Normal Respiration Rate

      1. Mare: 8-16 bpm

      2. Foal: 20-40 bpm

  4. Scissors

  5. Flashlight: 

    1. Charged batteries

  6. Tail wrap:

    1.  keep the tail out of the way

  7. Obstetrical (OB)  Gloves: 

    1. check position or pull (if no progress)

  8. OB Lube: 

    1. This is essential before checking the position or pulling 

    2. KY, J Lube, Livestock Lube

  9. Exam Gloves: 

    1. handling placenta, 

    2. cleaning mare or foal

  10. Liquid Soap

  11. Umbilical tape or clamp

  12. Umbilical cord disinfectant: 

    1. Iodine or diluted chlorhexidine 

  13. Towels

  14. Colostrum

    1. Frozen 

    2. Replacer

      1. Make sure that you get colostrum replacers and not supplements. 

Adapted from  “Tri-state Livestock News: Foaling Checklist”

Monday, March 6, 2023

Time for Spring Vaccinations


                                    photo credit:

Has your horse been vaccinated this spring?  Everyone has their own system and situation, but we all should meet the "must dos" on our vaccine list, preferably soon, before insect season.   First and foremost, make sure you consult your veterinarian.  Variations in a vaccination plan may be due to your horses age and exposure to other horses, and travel plans.  According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the following *core disease vaccinations are those we ALL should make sure our horses are protected from. These 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 disease 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.  Core vaccines have clearly demonstrable efficacy and safety, with a high enough level of patient benefit and low enough level of risk to justify their use in all equids.

The next vaccines are risk based, meaning that they are selected based on assessment of risk performed by, or in consultation with, a licensed veterinarian. Needs vary between individuals, populations, and/or geographic regions.  

  • ·Equine Herpesvirus (EHV)
  •  Equine Influenza
  •  Equine Viral Areteritis (EVA)
  •  Potomac Horse Fever
  •  Strangles
  •  Anthrax
  •  Botulism
  •  Leptospirosis
  •  Rotavirus

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 for this article: American Association of Equine Practitioners Guidelines 2020. Visit for more details and updates.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Buttercup Weed Management

Last year many people were dismayed to find a sea of yellow flowers in their pasture when spring rolled around. While buttercups can be pretty to look at and a sure sign that spring has arrived, their toxicity to livestock and their invasive nature make them a very unwanted sight in a pasture. 

Buttercup is a short-lived perennial weed that behaves more like a winter annual. It begins to germinate in the fall and grows into the spring when the weather warms up. It has characteristic shiny, bright yellow flowers with five petals. This weed thrives in pastures where there is little competition, such as overgrazed areas or bare patches.

All parts of the plant are toxic to livestock and can cause blistering in the mouth and internal parts of the digestive tract, diarrhea, colic, and even death in extreme cases. However, buttercup is bitter and most horses will refuse to eat it as long as other forage options are available. The toxin that causes these issues will not be active when the buttercup is dried, so it is not a concern in hay.

Since buttercup starts growth in the fall, it is important to have a thick stand of grass that will prevent the new seedlings from taking root. Proper fertilization and grazing management in the fall will help encourage this thick stand. Avoid overgrazing throughout the winter to prevent creating an environment that is favorable to buttercup growth.

When buttercups are present, mowing in the spring can help reduce flowers and therefore seed development. But mowing alone will not eliminate the plant and the problems it poses.

Chemical control is a very effective strategy, but it is important to utilize this method early. Once it flowers, the plant is too mature for herbicides to have effective control. The ideal time to apply herbicides is late February through early March while the weeds are still small. 2,4-D is an effective herbicide that provides good control when applied early. Other effective herbicide options include aminopyralids (eg. GrazonNext), 2,4-D + dicamba (eg. WeedMaster), triclopyr (eg. Crossbow), or metsulfuron (eg. Cimmaron). Picking the right product can depend on other weeds you need to control at the same time. 

If your pasture had issues with buttercup last year, you can count on them being back again this year. Start scouting early and be prepared to utilize control methods.  If infestations have been heavy in the past, do not expect this problem to go away after one herbicide application. It can take several years of timely chemical control to get the buttercup under control. Always encourage a thick healthy stand of grass to help reduce weed pressure.