Monthly Archives: March 2011

  • Will Work for Chicken Feed

    by Barbara O'Brien

    I work for chicken feed. Or at least my chickens do. That is what I will tell you when you ask how I train chickens to perform. I have trained chickens to jog on a treadmill, push a button, climb stairs, appear to be swimming, enter and exit an elevator, talk into a microphone, jump onto a desk and shake their tail in someone’s face, and many more behaviors for television commercials and print advertisements.

     
    Most people think that chickens are dumb and just run all over squawking and flapping their wings like…well, like dumb clucks. But I know better. Chickens are highly intelligent birds with tremendous survival skills that have allowed them to become one of our earliest domesticated animals.
     
    Chickens are useful barnyard animals. They peck at manure, eat larva and bugs, and aerate the soil with their scratching. They give us beautiful eggs on an almost daily basis. A flock of chickens is an excellent alarm system.
     
    Chickens are surprisingly trainable, too. When I am looking for a chicken to train for a commercial or an ad the first thing I do is find one that is bold and brave and will eat out of my hand. A chicken has to be food motivated or I will never be able to keep it on the set.
     
    If I want the chicken to walk towards me I hold the food just out of reach and reward it when it takes even the smallest step towards me. This training technique is called shaping. I use shaping to train all kinds of animals to perform. If I want a chicken to go to a certain spot I bait the spot with feed and the chicken is rewarded for going to the right spot. Eventually, the feed is removed and the chicken will still go to the spot.
     
    Omega Fields Animal Ambassador, Pretty Peggy, was remarkably easy to train for her many appearances in Perkins Restaurant commercials. In one spot, she had to portray the downtrodden wife of a late rising rooster. We trained her to sit still on a therapist’s office chair and cluck and squawk on cue as if she was talking to the therapist. I trained her to do this by showing her food and rewarding her when she made noise but didn’t move position. Her appearances in Perkins commercials were very successful.
     

    So, the next time you see chickens roaming and pecking in a barn yard, remember that they are a lot smarter than they look.

  • Braveheart Rescue, Inc. One Simple Mission: Where Dogs Come First

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

     

    My experience Braveheart Rescue Robin's adopted dog, Apachewith 8 State Hurricane Kate, a rescued Katrina dog, taught me a lot about rehabilitating dogs and giving them a safe environment to just learn to be dogs. Kate traveled with me from Louisiana to Minnesota, where everything was different. She’d suffered significant physical and emotional trauma during and after Hurricane Katrina. Not knowing her history before I met her in Louisiana, I was challenged to understand her and help her become comfortable in this new environment. When I realized that Kate wasn’t socialized to other dogs, I knew we had a long road ahead of us. After a couple of months though, Kate picked up a ball to play, perhaps for the first time in her life. She kicked up her heels and cavorted with joy. I finally felt like we were on the right path.

    Kate’s story is included not only in her own book, 8 State Hurricane Kate, but also in the new book Dogs & the Women Who Love Them: Extraordinary True Stories of Loyalty, Healing and Inspiration, by Allen and Linda Anderson. This book is a wonderful collection of stories about women and the dogs who have changed their lives. I had the privilege of joining the Andersons to share Kate’s story at book signings in Minnesota. That’s where I first crossed paths with the people from Braveheart Rescue, Inc. in Hastings, Minnesota. When I learned about this rescue organization, I could tell that they truly understand dogs.
    Braveheart Rescue is a unique, non-breed specific 501(c)(3) non-profit dog rescue organization. With one simple mission: “Dogs Come First”, they’re committed to saving dogs’ lives, helping them become physically and psychologically healthy, and finding them homes where the people and dogs fit together well. At Braveheart Rescue, dogs are given needed veterinary care and each have their own kennel space with a raised bed. They go outside a few times every day, and when healthy and ready for socialization, they’re exercised with other dogs in a fenced area.
    Brandi Tracy is truly a dog whisperer who moves among the dogs and keeps order with a simple touch or a word. It’s amazing to watch her interact with the dogs. Robin Romano adopted her dog Apache from Braveheart in 2009. She was so impressed with the organization that she became deeply involved in its continued success, caring for dogs, scooping poop, doing laundry, organizing fundraisers, attending dog adoptions, and pitching in where needed to help Brandi run the rescue smoothly.
    Braveheart Rescue, Inc. was inspired by a dog who changed Brandi’s life, leading her into full-time dog rescue. Brandi ran a boarding kennel for years on acreage outside of Hastings, Minnesota, occasionally helping rescue dogs. One day she learned of Braveheart, a husky mix who had been hit by a car. Enter Brandi, who tried to save Braveheart’s right rear leg. After three surgeries and many rehabilitation sessions, amputation was determined to be the best course. But Braveheart didn't give up, and neither did Brandi.
    In addition to his injured leg, Braveheart was in critical condition. After the accident, he "died" on the table at the vet clinic. Both sides of his pelvis were broken. His ribs were extremely bruised, and he had a severe concussion. The vet pumped fluids into Braveheart until he could absorb no more. People sat with the injured dog for several hours, almost certain he wouldn't make it through the night. Everyone except Brandi thought Braveheart's story had ended. But Brandi waited.
    Suddenly Braveheart raised his head, his eyes partially swollen shut, and sat up looking dazed and confused. Everyone, including the vet, was amazed.
    Brandi made it her mission to give Braveheart a wonderful life. Today, hears after the accident, he’s a happy and healthy dog, and they’re the best of friends. Nothing daunts Braveheart. He runs like the wind on his three legs, to the dismay of squirrels and rabbits. He loves to go for rides, and goes everywhere with Brandi. There is no question about his excellent quality of life.
    Brandi was so inspired by Braveheart’s heart and will to live that she decided to help other dogs who might not otherwise get a second chance. Since formally becoming a rescue organization in 2008, Braveheart Rescue has taken in dogs in need from New Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama, Indiana, and many other states in addition to Minnesota.
    Ralf was rescued from a local humane society. He’d been labeled dangerous because he was food aggressive, usually an automatic death sentence. But Ralf gobbled up anything in his sight because he was starving. Once his hunger was sated and Brandi and Robin worked with him, he ate very gently from their hands with a grateful look in his eyes. He soon learned to sit on command when offered his food, and gave a quick kiss before he started eating. Ralf now lives in Stillwater, Minnesota with a wonderful family. He campaigned door-to-door with his human owner who ran for office.
    Roo, a puppy mill dog who had never enjoyed human interaction or the medical attention he deserved, came to Braveheart from Georgia. He arrived with the worst case of heartworms the vet had ever seen. At seven years old, Roo never complained once as he fought for life with every ounce of his little black Chow-Chow body. Four treatments, two surgeries and eight months later, Roo walked out the door and into his new home. Brandi said, “To watch him waddle out the door with his new family was nothing less than divine”.

    Coy, a smaller than average Siberian Husky, was found chained to a rusted out truck in South Dakota, where she was sometimes locked inside for days. In her short two year life she'd been beaten, verbally abused and had whelped four litters of puppies. Coy was finally rescued by a loving young woman and transported to Braveheart. She was vetted and on the road to recovery from her spay surgery when she was diagnosed with cancer. Coy endured two more surgeries and never looked back. She continued to maintain her sweet, affectionate personality and was adopted by a kind young couple.

    Journey, an Australian Cattle Dog, was running out of time in a Kentucky animal control facility. Her owner had gone to prison and nobody came to claim her. She was middle aged, overweight, and had cloudy eyes. Lost and alone, she was running out of options when Brandi offered to take her in. At Braveheart, Journey has received needed veterinary care, is losing weight and enjoys playing in the snow. She’s starting to feel like she owns the place! Soon she’ll be ready to find a new home.

    Bernie, a sweet blue heeler, was on death row in a kill shelter in Louisiana. His chances of survival became even slimmer when he tested positive for heartworm. Brandi took him in and he has responded well to treatment. Once his series of heartworm treatments are completed, he’ll be socialized with the other dogs and will be evaluated for adoption.

     These are just a few of the dogs who’ve been given love and a second chance at Braveheart Rescue. Brandi founded the organization at great personal risk and depends on the generosity of others to keep the rescue running smoothly. If you would like to provide financial support, volunteer to help care for the dogs on a regular basis, organize a fundraising event in your community, or provide computer, accounting or other support, please contact Brandi through www.BraveheartRescueInc.com.

     

    Learn more about Braveheart Rescue, Inc. at the Twin Cities Pet Expo on March12th-13th at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Meet author Jenny Pavlovic at the Braveheart Rescue booth, pick up free samples of Omega Nuggets and register to win Canine Shine for your dog. A portion of 8 State Hurricane Kate and Not Without My Dog Book sales at the Pet Expo will be donated to Braveheart Rescue, Inc. Find more information at www.BraveheartRescueInc.com, www.8StateKate.net and http://www.twincitiespetexpo.com/about.htm.
    What dog has changed your life?

  • Developmental Orthopedic Diseases: Part 1, What are they and why do they occur?

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Developmental orthopedic diseases are a serious concern for the equine breeder.  All of the hard work and preparation of selecting the right match between mare and stallion, the hours put into proper mare care, culminates hopefully in the arrival of a sound, healthy foal.  All of this excitement and hope can be ruined if your foal ends up having skeletal abnormalities which may jeopardize his future success.  With this article we will explore some of the many causative factors of this spectrum of disorders and what you may be able to do to prevent or reduce the likelihood of their occurrence.

    First of all, developmental orthopedic diseases, or DOD, is actually a generic term for a host of disorders.  Simply put, anything which is an abnormality of the horses’ skeletal system during its formative years can be classified as a DOD. The most commonly occurring maladies are angular limb deformities, flexural limb deformities, osteochondrosis and physitis.

    Angular limb deformities

    Angular limb deformities are very common in all breeds of foals. These can include either an inward deviation of the joints (varus) or outward deviation of the joints (valgus).  Most commonly these deviations are seen in the knee, hock and fetlock joints. The foal can have one or more joints affected, and can also vary quite widely in the severity of the condition.  The causes of this condition vary; with some the manager can address, while others are due to random chance.   Both premature and dismature foals very commonly have angular limb deformities due to the lack of strength in supporting structures, or the failure of complete ossification of the cuboidal bones (small bones of the knee and hock).  The causative factors of these conditions may be an infection or inflammation of the placenta or uterus, twinning, and severe stress in the mare.  Development of angular limb deformities post foaling is due to a difference in the growth rate across the inside and outside of the growth plate.  In essence, the difference in speed in bone development causes the bone to veer to one side or the other.  This can be due to a variety of factors including dietary imbalances or environmental factors, as well as genetics.

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    Premature foals are those born before 320 days of age, while dismature foals may be of a normal gestational age but are weak, small and appear unready to have been born.  These foals are typically thin, are slow to stand, have poor suckle reflex, can chill rapidly and are marked by fine silky hair coats and soft ears and lips.  These foals will require a high level of assistance in their care, but with proper supportive care and a lot of time and effort, can continue on to lead normal lives.

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    If your foal does have angular limb deformities, there are actually many therapeutic management techniques used to help straighten the limb.  They range from quite simple to the complex and expensive, usually depending on the severity of the deviation.  Conservative techniques involve stall rest in order to prevent uneven loading of the foal’s developing legs.  The foal may be bandaged or splinted, or the hoof can be trimmed or glue-on extensions can be used to help straighten the limb.  For example if the foal has a valgus deformity in in its knee (the lower leg will sweep outwards), the outside hoof wall is lowered, or a glue on extension is placed on the inside of the hoof.  Often dramatic improvements are seen with these simple techniques.  If the limb deviation is more severe, and budgets allow, corrective surgery may be required.  These include periosteal stripping, or placing screws, staples or wires across the growth plate.  The goal of periosteal stripping (removing a section of the periosteum, or membrane covering the bone) is to accelerate growth of the side of the bone growing too slowly. Typically this procedure is done in young foals.  Alternatively, transphyseal bridging is used to slow down the rate of growth on the side of the bone with too fast a growth rate.  However, before deciding on which management technique is the correct one for your foal, be sure to consult with your veterinarian.  Mismanagement can acerbate the problem, and it is also possible to overcorrect the foal, and end up with a deviation in the opposite direction!

    Flexural limb deformities

    Flexural limb deformities are more commonly referred to as contracted Glue on shoe extension can correct contracted tendonstendons.  Foals can either be born with flexural limb deformities, or they may develop later in life.  Foals born with flexural limb deformities may be due to poor positioning in the uterus, toxicities, genetics or infections in utero.  If the condition is mild, foals can recover typically with just restricted exercise.  Foals should be allowed some exercise either in a paddock or by hand walking for short periods of time.  Additionally, the veterinarian may choose to use oxytetracycline to help relax tendons in more severely affected foals.  Some foals may require splints or casts to help in straightening the limb.  However, this should only be done with a veterinarian’s  supervision as  it is quite easy for the foal to develop pressure sores and may be painful.  Acquired flexural limb deformities can be due to traumatic injuries which cause the foal to protect the limb and not bear full weight on it.  The reduced stretching of the tendons with normal loading results in tendon contracture.  They can also be due to a discrepancy in the growth rate between the flexural tendons and the long bones.  It can also be completely normal to see young horses having temporary periods of being over at the knees.  If the foal is showing signs of being over at the knees, the rate of growth should be modulated and caloric intake should be reduced.

    Physistis

    Physitis or inflammation of the growth plate is usually seen at the distal end of the radius or tibia, or within the distal end of the cannon bone.  It is seen as puffiness in the affected joint and may be associated with heat and swelling.  Physitis is typically seen in foals on too high of a plane of nutrition, or in foals being fed for rapid growth.  If the foal is still nursing, the mare may actually be contributing to the development of physitis.  Some mares are simply better milkers than others.  Suggested management techniques may be to discontinue any creep feeding of the foal, or do not allow them access to the mare’s feed.  In addition, the foal may be muzzled periodically to decrease his milk intake, or the foal may be weaned and put on a less calorie-rich diet.

    Osteochondrosis

    Osteochondrosis or OC is caused by a failure of the endochondral bone (the bone underlying the cartilage) to properly ossify.  Bone growth occurs first with the growth of cartilage which is then replaced by bone. If this fails to happen, essentially the bone has a weakened area underlying the cartilage.   It can cause further development of bone cysts or osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD). While these terms are often used interchangeably, OCD refers to a flap of cartilage displacing away from the joint surface.  Causes of OC in young horses are quite diverse and include dietary mismanagement, traumatic injuries, inadequate or excessive exercise, genetics, toxicities, body size, and growth rate.

    Osteochondrosis: Is it the end of the world?

    One of the interesting things about this disorder is how frequently it may actually appear in the equine population.  Many figures are given, with some stating that 20-25% of European foals will develop an OC (Barnevald and van Weeren), while others have found an incidence of 32% in Hanoverian Warmbloods.  However, in the latter study, there was no correlation between radiographic findings of OC and lameness. Indeed, in a recent study of Dutch Warmblood horses presented for a pre-purchase exam, 44.3% of clinically sound horses were found to have OC lesions  (Voss).  Therefore, even if your foal has radiographic evidence of lesions, unless accompanied by joint effusion or lameness or presenting as fragmentation within the joint, it may never represent a soundness issue.

    Next month we will look at what we can do to try and prevent our foals from acquiring any of these development orthopedic diseases.


    Voss, N.J. 2008. Incidence of osteochondrosis (dissecans) in Dutch Warmblood horses presented for pre-purchase exams.  Irish Veterinary Journal. 61:1)

     

     

    What is the difference between premature and dismature?

  • The Chorz Fitness System

    Written By Barbara O'Brien

    I’m starting an exercise craze. Forget the Zumba® dance fitness craze. My exercise program is much better. I call it the Chorz Fitness System.

     

    man handling hay baleThe first module in my Chorz program is called Barn Chorz. This module gives you a good solid workout.  Exercise 1 is Feed the Horses. Reach up into the haystack in the barn, pull down several 70-pound bales of hay, and lug them one at time to three separate paddocks. To increase exercise difficulty, use one hand to drag the bale, and repeatedly wave the other hand in an arc to keep the hungry horses away while you heave the bale up and into the feeder.

     

    Now it’s time for exercise 2:  The Feed Bag Lifts. This exercise works the leg and butt muscles, and is beneficial for your arms and back as well. Begin by unloading the 50-pound feed sack from the pick-up bed. Remember to bend your knees before lifting to avoid injury. Now carry that bag over to the feed barrels and fill them. C’mon, lift, lift, lift that bag. You can do it. Feel the burn in the back of your thighs as you work those muscles. Do this exercise regularly and when you walk down the street people will admire your Feed Bag Physique.

     

    Exercise 3 is Clean the Stalls. Here we use two special sticks available exclusively from my web site in four decorator colors. Pick up the Manure Fork with both hands and flex those muscles by fishing out large chucks of horse manure from the stall’s bedding. Switch to the Pitch Fork and vigorously gather the wet heavy straw and dump each forkful into a wheel barrow. Feel your arm muscles ripple with the effort you are putting forth. Then stretch those back muscles of yours by lifting and pushing the wheel barrow out to the manure pile. Lift, lift, lift that wheelbarrow to dump the load. Variation: Use Ice Chipper(available from my web site in your choice of brass- or silver-like finish) to work those upper arm muscles by dislodging frozen chunks of manure. Shovelthe chunks into a flexible round rubber tote and drag the tote to the manure pile.

     

    Exercise 4 is Watering. This exercise is wonderful for developing strong shoulder muscles and slimming the waistline. Haul several five gallon buckets of water around the farm to the sheep, goats, chickens, and ducks. To avoid overdevelopment of your left or right side, carry two buckets at a time. Since hydration is always important during a workout, make the most of the icy cold water that splashes up on you as you walk with your buckets.

     

    Exercise 5 is called Putting Up the Hay. For this exercise you need one Hay Wagon(available from my web site in Farm Red only). To get the maximum benefit of this exercise, choose the hottest, most humid and breeze-less day of the summer. Unload bale after bale of 70-lb. hay bales off your Hay Wagoninto Barn(available from my web site in Red or Peeling Red.) Ooh, feel that sweat pouring off your body. Now that’s what I call a work out!

     

    I know you’re ready for a break, but don’t just flop after Putting Up the Hay. Remember you must always finish a workout by doing Stretches. Cover your hand with a Plastic Bag(available from my web site in many different colors and patterns). Don’t forget green for those St. Patrick’s Day workouts. Once your hand is bagged, bend your knees and reach down to pick up a pile of dog doo-doo. Repeat this maneuver over the three-acre farmyard until you feel the muscles of your entire body are stretched and smooth. This bending, stretching and reaching is so good for the core, you know.

     

    At any time, to increase the difficulty of your Barn Chorz workout, augment your workout clothing with insulated coveralls and Sorel snow boots.

     

    Whew! Wasn’t Barn Chorz a great workout?

     

    But wait, there’s more. The great thing about my Chorz Fitness System is that it’s unlimited. Once you’re breezing through Barn Chorz and you want more, you can add on exercise modules like Fence Building, Gardening, and Keeping Up Old Farmhouse. You’ll have enough exercise for a lifetime of fitness.

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