Monthly Archives: January 2012

  • Milo Takes “Find-it” Very Seriously!

    Written By Leigh Pyron
    I met Milo when he was just eight weeks old. I thought he was the cutest chocolate Lab puppy I ever met. I know… have you ever seen a puppy that wasn’t cute? Milo is four years old now, but when he was about six months old I started taking him out with my morning group of dogs. Now that Milo was a part of the group, there were a few things he would have to learn in order to fit in with the pack. I taught him various basic exercises such as, wait, stay, come, sit and “Find-it”.
    “Find-it” is so easy to teach and it’s a wonderful way to get the attention of one dog or even 6 dogs! All I have to do when I’m out with a large group of dogs is say, “Find-it!” and the dogs come running as the treats fall all over the ground. Now Milo always loved this game, but as he grew older he became much more interested in sticks and, most of all, tennis balls. Yes, Milo is one of those labs that is crazy about tennis balls. So, given that Milo understood the concept of “Find-it” with treats, I thought I’d try to use the same exercise but instead of searching for treats have him search for tennis balls. Sure enough, all I had to say was, “Milo find the ball, “Find-it” and off he would go with his nose to the ground in search of any lost balls hiding in the brush and long grass.
    Now, the space where I take the dogs for their morning outing is a very large, open marshland area that has many large Pampas Grass plants scattered throughout the middle of it. These ornamental grasses grow quite large with long, thick, graceful blades and delightfully fluffy off-white plumes, which grow up through the middle like a floral decoration. The long leaves are very coarse and sharp to the touch, but the dogs love to run through them and rub themselves against them.
    One morning at the marsh Milo was looking a bit bored so I told him to go and “find” a ball! So, off he went searching with high hopes of finding one. Not long after I sent Milo on his search I happened to hear a loud crash in the brush. I couldn’t imagine what caused the noise because at that moment my group and I were the only ones there. I continued to walk ahead and as I rounded the bend with the other dogs I happened to see something moving in the middle of a clump of Pampas Grass. As I got closer, I was trying to figure out what it was that was moving back and forth in the middle of the plant, I finally realized it was a tail! Yes, Milo’s tail! That crazy Lab went head-first and dove into the middle of the 5 foot tall clump of pampas grass. I was laughing so hard wishing someone were here to witness this when Milo’s head popped up out of the top of the bush with a tennis ball stuck in his mouth. Just as I called out to him he disapeared again head first down into the grass. I tried calling him to come out, but only halfheartedly because, at this point, it had become quite entertaining. All of a sudden, POP! out came Milo with two balls in his mouth.   He leaped into the air out of the clump of grass and took off running looking quite proud of his find.
    Now, I said to myself, what on earth gave Milo the idea to search for a ball in the Pampas grass? And then I remembered… when the dogs would get too crazy over a ball and I would have to take it from them, I would usually toss it high up into the middle of the Pampas grass so they couldn’t get to it. I thought it was a great idea because there is no way they could possibly jump up that high or get down into the middle of the grass. Well, let me tell you, the old saying really applies to Milo…“if there’s a will, there’s a way,” Milo’s way!
     Have fun when teaching "Find-it." Dogs love this exercise and, why not, there is always a reward of some kind that follows! It’s important to use high value treats when you teach this exercise, because you are trying to redirect your dog’s attention away from something. Usually the more scent the treat has the better. You’re asking him to come back for a treat instead of chasing that fast rabbit that just ran by! Omega Fields’ Omega Nuggets™ make a great “Find-it” treat. They have a strong, appealing smell that dogs love.   Another great dog training investment is a treat bag. Most pet stores carry a variety of these. They usually hook on easily to your belt or clip in the back like a fannypack. Load up your treat bag everytime you go for a walk or an outing with your dog. Before you start out, ask the dog for a “sit” or any basic command and give him one of the treats you are carrying. Then, let him get out a little ahead of you and call him back and give him a treat. Now your dog knows that you have treats and are willing to dole them out.
    Once your dog has learned the basics of “Find-it” there are endless reasons to use it to redirect your dog’s attention:
    • Another dog approaching or a wild animal off in the distance
    • If he is going for an object you don’t want him to have, such as something edible or a non-edible item like a childs toy
    • To catch his attention before he takes off down the road or heads off into the woods off the walking path
    • To get him off furniture or out of the car
    • To get him to change directions on an outing or walk when he is not on a leash. Simply toss a few treats in the new direction ahead of you and say, “Find-it.”
     
     
    Teaching “Find-it”
    Start out by taking a treat and toss it on the ground close by the dog and say, “Find-it.” Once he gets the hang of it you can expand the distance that you toss the treat. If he doesn’t see where you tossed it, guide him by pointing to the treat and when he finds it say, “Yes!” Let his attention wander and then throw a treat and give the command again. When the dog is breaking away from what he is doing and coming over every time you say “Find-it,” increase the challenge by having someone create a diversion. Use a friend with a toy or another dog. When your dog turns his attention to the diversion, call his name and say, “Find-it” and toss a treat. Increase the diversions until you can get your dog to break away every time.
    “Find-it” is also a wonderful way to engage your dog to interact with you and play. You can have someone take your dog to another room while you hide treats for him to find upon his return. When he returns simply tell him to, “Find-it.” Dogs have an instinctive hunting mode and most dogs find it enjoyable to look for things. If your dog is bored from being home alone all day while you’re at work, a ten minute game of “Find-it” works wonders to re-energize them and give them attention.
    “Find-it” is a great tool to have in your dog training tool box. When a big diversion is needed to get your dog to come to you and “Come” just isn’t working, “Find-it,” when effectively taught, will overcome many enticing distractions. It is also a great way to entertain and interact with your dog. A healthy dog/owner relationship starts with positive, fun, interactive training.

  • Chase: Why Dog is Love

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic
    In January, Chase and I started taking a therapy dog class. The point of the class is to familiarize the human-dog team with the exercises they need to pass to become a Delta Society® Pet Partners® team. Chase has been waiting for me to get my act together for years. He loves to meet new people, is very sensitive, and seems like a natural. I’ve thought for a long time that he would make a good therapy dog, visiting the elderly, or kids in the hospital, or anyone who would feel better by having a dog’s company for a little while, a dog to cuddle up with, stroke, and talk to. He’s a great snuggler and a great listener. He’s a sensitive guy—his favorite ball is pink!
    Chase has always been tuned in to people’s feelings. He knows when something is different. He intuitively picks up on any unrest among animals or people. He’s the dog who goes into the bathroom and puts his front feet up on the stool, waiting for a hug. I used to think he did it because he wanted attention. I slowly came to realize that he does it when I could really use a hug. He’s thinking about me and is much wiser than most people realize.
    My friend Sarah rescued Chase in a poor area of rural Virginia, from a man who was going to shoot him for chasing sheep. This young cattle dog-collie mix had a strong herding instinct and, knowing him, was just trying to keep the place organized. But the man, in a rage, stuffed him into a tiny chicken crate and was going to shoot him. When Sarah intervened and saved Chase, she held him on her lap for a long time before he stopped shaking. He knew what was going on.
    You may have read the story of how Chase and I came together (in the book 8 State Hurricane Kate). The short version is that I met Sarah while caring for rescued animals in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. We stayed in contact and I came upon Chase the following spring on Sarah’s rescue website (www.lostfantasystables.com). Seeing that he was a “red heeler mix”, wanting to support Sarah’s rescue efforts, and knowing that my red Australian cattle dog needed a new pal, I followed up. Sarah and I determined that Chase would likely be a good fit with my family. A series of very caring people transported Chase from Virginia to Wisconsin, where I picked him up and brought him home.
    That was in 2006. Chase settled in pretty well here, becoming fast friends with Bandit after a few tussles to settle the pack order. One morning, I was puzzled when Chase wouldn’t go into the garage with me to get bird seed. I later learned that the man used to throw him in the garage by himself for hours. Chase apparently didn’t want to go in the garage with me because he thought I was going to leave him there… alone… for hours.
    Chase also had a few episodes that seemed like traumatic flashbacks. One occurred when we were in an agility class, getting ready to start a course. I hadn’t unhooked the leash yet, but he began to run, thinking he was already loose. I didn’t see him take off in time and he hit the end of the leash very hard. His reaction was so dramatic, especially for such a gentle dog, that we decided he was reliving bad past experiences of being jerked hard or hung on a leash. He was very traumatized.
    In spite of his past, Chase is a very loving and friendly dog. He loves people and wants to connect with everyone. If we’re in a room full of people, like at a book signing, he is bothered if he doesn’t get to greet each person individually. Being locked in the garage all alone must have been a horrible punishment. He’s trying to make up for lost time on the love front.
    Chase has been waiting for years now for me to follow through on his potential. I think he will be a great therapy dog, but I’ve often wondered how I would fit another commitment into our schedule. He has an arthritic back now, probably from being thrown around when he was younger. I’m concerned about someone surprising him with a big hug and hurting him. But a year ago at a book event, I learned about READ Dogs (www.readdogsmn.org) and I think he would be a perfect READ dog. READ dogs sit and listen while a child (or anyone who is learning to read) reads them a story. Dogs are great company and aren’t judgmental. They enjoy any story. A kid builds confidence and gains a friend while reading out loud to a dog. Kids who don’t have pets at home get to make a connection with an animal. A dog like Chase gets to bond with a kid and fulfill his purpose to give love.
    Chase may have trouble passing some of the Delta tests due to his back problems, but we’re going to try anyway. We know that, just as a dog can learn to pass the required tests, kids can learn how to approach a dog kindly and gently. Chase already knows the important stuff. He knows how to forgive and how to give love. His heart is open.
    ~©~©~©~©~©~©~©~©~
    We’re going to share the “secret” behind Chase’s beautiful, soft coat. Once we let our classmates know about Omega Fields Omega Canine Shine® and Omega Nuggets™, they will all have the key to plush, soft and shiny coats that everyone loves to pet!

  • The Goodness of Goats

     Written By Barbara O'Brien

    A few years back I had an assignment to photograph a small goat dairy near Winona, Minnesota. I happily documented the owner and family with the milk goats and even managed to get some nice images of their massive billy goat who was the undisputed leader of the herd.

    They also had many adorable baby goats and I had fun feeding them bottles and watching them play. I noticed that three little white goat kids had escaped from their pen and mentioned this to the owner. She laughed and told me not to worry; those three are always getting out. I finished shooting and was beginning to load up my gear when a small white kid goat jumped into the back of my open minivan.
    “Hey!” I shouted, and was reaching towards him to pull him out, when the other two kids goats jumped in one right after another. They were duplicates of the first goat. All white with big perky ears, and short wagglely tails. “Hey!” I said again, laughing. The owner came over and stated, “You may as well take them. They are too small for the butcher."
    She explained that they were triplets, and although weaned and ready to go, they weren’t worth anything at the sales barn because they were on the small side. They were males and although she’d like to, she can only keep the females or does for her dairy.
    I remembered my husband Kevin’s prior agreement with me that sheep were ok, but no goats! Goats, from our experience, were nothing but trouble. You can’t keep them in their pen, they like to jump on cars (at least the pygmy goats do) and they eat everything in sight.
    But when their three little faces peered out at me as if to say, “Well? Let’s get going,” I knew I was done. Being an animal person, I always have an empty crate in the back of my van, so I loaded the goats in it.
    My four sons were thrilled when the goat kids jumped out of the crate and ran right up to them to be petted. Kevin… not so much. “Goats,” he sighed, shaking his head. “I thought we agreed."
    “They were going to be butchered,” I told him. “I couldn’t let that happen.” As if on cue, the goat kids ran to Kevin, pushing on him with their heads and wagging their short tails. “Ok.” he said to them, while he scratched their heads. “You’re here. You may as well stay.”
    The younger boys promptly named them Marcus, Aralias, and Tiberius. They tend to name animals after what they are reading and it happened to be about the Romans at the time.
    I set the goat kids up in a horse stall with an old calf hut for even more shelter. It wasn’t long before they figured out that they could crawl under the bars of the gate to freedom.
    They became our constant companions. Whether it was chore time, where they insisted on stealing corn from the chicken feeders, or haying time, where they jumped on and off the bales as I tried to move them around, or just hang out in the yard time, where they tried to nibble on the book I reading, they were always part of what we were doing. When a crew came to insulate the house, the goats managed to sneak into the back of their open truck and had to be locked up for the duration.
    We have learned that we can forget about trying to keep them in their pen. There is an old saying, that if your fence can hold water it can hold a goat. We have found this to be true.
    Just when I thought I had closed all the gaps large enough for a small goat to crawl under, they learned to jump right over it. I watched in amazement as they jumped straight up and over, one right after another, like small deer. I wonder why nobody has started the sport of goat agility like they do for dogs. I think goats would be excellent at it.
    And forget about having a garden; although the goats do eat weeds, they also eat all the good plants and shrubbery as well. I remember the first spring we had them, I had a lovely plot of tulips that were just about ready to bloom. The goats had escaped again, and it only took them moments to eat the tops off of every tulip.
    I won’t say they’re all bad though. Now that they are full grown, topping out at 75 pounds each, they protect the sheep and will drive away dogs they don’t know. They are good company and are always curious about what we are doing. Being white, they photograph well, and are easy to find in the dark. And finally, they are always guaranteed to make me smile.

  • Marketing Your Horse Business through Social Media

    Written By Randi Thompson, Founder of the Award-Winning “How to Market Your Horse Business”
     
    If you’re running a horse business, chances are you spend more time in the saddle, in the arena or on the business end of a muck fork than you do in front of your computer. But just because you run an “offline” business doesn’t mean you can’t benefit big-time from “online” marketing. In this series of articles I’ll introduce you to marketing through online social media and how it can help build your brand and your business.
    Social media includes big sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+, as well as hundreds of forum and chat room sites dedicated to shared interests – like, say, horses! Millions of people are on social media sites like these everyday – in fact, using social media is second only to checking emails in terms of online activities.
    It’s obvious why social media sites are important tools for online retailers and other online businesses: social media sites are free, efficient ways of marketing to the virtual world. For an online business it makes perfect sense to market to online customers.
    But many people mistakenly believe that social media can’t play a role in marketing an offline business. That can be a serious mistake. After all, your current and potential customers could be on social media at any time. When people want information about something these days, where do they go? To the Internet! Right now there could be someone looking online for a boarding barn, trainer, tack shop, feed store, equine vet or anything else horse-related in your very own area. Would they be able to find your business? What would they learn about you? And who’s controlling what gets said about your business online? The obvious answer is that you should be!
    Your first priority for online marketing is to think about how you want your business to be represented in the virtual world. Your potential customer is sitting at a computer, not at your physical place of business seeing it in real life or hearing directly from you or your staff about what you have to offer. What you need is a virtual means of communicating the same points and benefits you’d be talking about in person. That’s how you’ll create an awareness of your “product,” brand and expertise that reflects reality and sets you apart from your competition.
    The great thing is that technology today can make it easy to develop online content that’s compelling and fun – once you know what it is you want to say. A photo slideshow and short videos can make your social media pages the next best thing to being there. But don’t rush into the fun part yet – first you have to figure out what you should be saying and where.
               
    Step One: Research
    Research is one of the most important things any offline business can do when entering the realm of social media marketing. No matter how obscure your business or what kind of niche you sell to, there are undoubtedly other businesses like yours already represented online. And depending on your specific business, you may actually have competitors with their own online retail outlets.
    Bad news: your competitors got online before you did. Good news: you can scour through all their social media pages (and their websites) to learn from their good ideas and improve on the things they don’t do well. Everything you learn can put you in a more favorable position when you launch your own social media efforts.
    How do you find your potential competitors online? The same way you find anything else you’re interested in: through search engines like Google and Bing, through horse-related message boards and chat rooms, through horse organization websites that carry advertising, for example. If you don’t know the names of many businesses like your own, think of the “key words” that a potential customer would use to find a business like yours and start there.
    Be open-minded about the businesses you’re researching: they don’t have to be exactly the same as your own, they don’t have to be in your region of the country, they can even be a completely online business as opposed to offline. In all cases, you’ll be able to learn from what they’re already doing. Here are some questions to help you get started:
    • How are other businesses marketing their products/services…and to whom?
    • Are they on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+?
    • Do they have profiles on forums related to their products/services?
    • What tone do they use on their social media pages and website: casual, friendly, fun, for example, or serious, scientific, disciplined? Is their tone consistent and does it seem appropriate for their product?
    • How are they using photos and videos?
    As you research each business, critique its marketing efforts and jot down what you liked or disliked, what you thought worked or didn’t, and any ideas you have for improving something. Here are some points to get you started:
    • Is it easy to understand their business and its benefits or is their online content confusing?
    • Does their Facebook profile look unprofessional?
    • Do they have out-of-date Twitter feeds?
               
    Tap Into Your Customers
    As an offline business you have another great source for research: your own real-world customers! Ask them if they’d appreciate your being on social media. Would they be interested in a Twitter feed or a LinkedIn profile? Would they friend you on Facebook and be an active participant? If you have younger customers, they can talk your ears off about social media platforms – after all, they’re the ones most likely to be on social media at all hours! Anybody over 30 may have a less informed opinion on social media but may want to get started on it when you do. Either way, talking directly with your current customers is a great way to consider their needs/wants and likes/dislikes as you start firming up your social media marketing plans.

     

    Randi Thompson is internationally recognized in social media for her award winning “How to Market Your Horse Business” and “Horse and Rider Awareness". She is a keynote speaker at national events, author, and expert legal consultant for the horse industry.  
     
    http://www.howtomarketyourhorsebusiness

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  • Why Keep Poultry?

    Written By Don Schrider

    December. This is the time of year for reflection and for remembering what we value. Do you remember what attracted you to poultry? What was that early fascination? What benefits has this passion brought to your life? Why do you put so much work into this hobby?
    I start my winter mornings before the sun. I get up and go down to the barn where my guard dog greets me. The chickens hear me coming and the roosters all compete to be the first to announce the morning and breakfast. The world is largely cold and quiet in those dark early hours, but the chickens start to stir. They greet me with great interest and what I imagine is a bit of greedy hopefulness that the “man” may have a special treat today. Every now and then I even manage to remember to pause and just look around, watching the sky start to glow, smelling the fresh, cold air, hearing the sounds of the new day. Greeting each morning with the chickens is one of the wonderful experiences my hobby provides for me again and again.
    Each evening, after I get home from a long day at work, I go down to the barn for my evening chores. As I collect my eggs and empty water buckets (so I don’t have to beat ice out of them in the morning), I observe my flock and decompress from the tensions of the day. By the time I get back to the house I feel relaxed again. Keeping my chickens is the best therapy I have ever found, and has a way of bringing good to a bad day.
    In our family photo album is a picture of me when about 2 1/2-years old, showing a friend the neighbor’s flock of White Leghorn hens. Exposure to this and other neighborhood flocks probably is to blame for instilling the chicken bug into me. I remember standing and watching the chickens for hours. The way they interacted and moved and the noises they made fascinated my young mind. I still love to sit and watch the chickens. Their antics are humorous and even my neighbor, who was never fond of having chickens next door, has found watching the chickens to be a surprising delight.
    Now when I spend time watching the chickens there is an additional sensation – looking over birds with high caliber type and color is a visual experience that, for me, compares to drinking a fine wine. I love the glossy feathers and rich colors. As my flock has grown in quality over the years I have drawn more and more satisfaction from observing it. This satisfaction is perhaps enhanced, owing to the fact that I have produced my own stock for over twenty years now – each bird representing generations of my selecting decisions. It is a blessing to have my chickens.
    So as you reflect on the old year and plan for new, take a moment and consider all the joy keeping poultry has brought for you. What do you enjoy the most? Giving eggs to friends and family? Giving the birds treats?
    As you make resolutions for this new year, be sure to include providing your birds with the best care you can. This should include treats that keep them in the best condition and in perfect health. If Omega Ultra Egg™ is not a part of your feeding program, it should be.
    Text copyright ã Don Schrider, 2012. All rights reserved.

    Don Schrider is a nationally recognized poultry breeder and expert. He has written for publications such as Backyard Poultry, Countryside and Small Stock Journal, Mother Earth News, Poultry Press, and the newsletter and poultry resources of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

  • Pondering Poppies in January

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic
    June 2, 2006 was my last day with 8 State Hurricane Kate. You may know her story from my first book, 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog. It was with great sadness that I spent that last beautiful early summer day with her, a perfect day to sit together on the hill and say our goodbyes. I wanted to remember everything about her, forever.
    A year to the day later, on June 2, 2007, a striking bright orange poppy bloomed in my backyard, near where Kate had rested on that last afternoon. It leapt out of the dark foliage, announcing its presence. The seed was probably planted by a bird, if you know what I mean. But poppies don’t grow here naturally. I had a strong feeling that this beautiful flower was a gift from Kate.
    In 2007, I declared June 2nd “Kindness for Kate Day”. In Kate’s honor, I asked people to perform an act of kindness to make the world a better place… plant a flower, say a prayer, help somebody, give hope to a homeless animal or a homeless person, collect spare change and donate it to an animal rescue group or a food shelf, appreciate someone’s efforts, volunteer, or come up with another idea and share it. I challenged people to do something new that they hadn’t done before. I wanted to make June 2nd an awesome day.
    In the past few years, a poppy has bloomed in my backyard every year around June 2nd. But now that first poppy has multiplied into a beautiful poppy garden that blooms briefly, reminding me of that June 2nd in 2006.
    Why am I talking about June in the middle of winter? Because I’m thinking about planting seeds. I’m thinking about the seeds I planted during the past year, and the seeds that I want to plant this year. Some of our seeds grow and bloom, yet others don’t seem to germinate. Over time, however, some will grow into a beautiful perennial garden that we and others can enjoy.
    That one orange poppy that spread into a beautiful garden was like the network of caring people who came together to help the lost Katrina animals, then returned to their homes all over the country and stayed in contact, forming a powerful network. It was like how telling Kate’s story connected me with so many caring people all over the country, and even the world. It was like how that one single decision to go to Louisiana to help lost animals completely changed my life. I have grown too.
    Sometimes the seeds that we plant and water and nurture don’t grow into the flowers we envisioned. Yet other seeds that we didn’t even know we had sown yield beautiful and amazing gardens. What seeds have you planted in the past year? What seeds do you want to plant next? What small actions can you take every day to make the world a better place?
    I’m reminded of a local story that just concluded with a happy ending. While on a walk with her foster mom, a rescued Sheltie named Lady broke loose and was running free in a St. Paul suburb. Lady was spooked easily and was running scared. People had spotted her, but days went by as the rescue group and local volunteers searched. Winter was coming and the weather was getting colder. Efforts to find and even live-trap Lady were in vain.
    One afternoon, a man driving home from work spotted a dog in an industrial area, miles from where Lady had last been seen. He recognized Lady and drove to the grocery store to find the phone number on a flyer he had seen. He called the number, then drove back to the industrial area and found Lady again. But he couldn’t approach her; she was too scared. He followed instructions given to him on the phone and kept an eye on Lady from a distance while Sheltie rescue called volunteers. The foster mom, Mel, and others arrived and sat in a ring around the empty lot, encircling Lady from a distance. Eventually, Mel entered the circle. Each time Lady tried to find an escape route, the person on that side of the circle stood up to keep her from bolting away. Eventually, with much patience, Mel got close enough for Lady to recognize her. Mel spoke, touched Lady, and both relaxed, relieved. With tears in her eyes, Mel fastened Lady’s harness and carried her safely to the car.
    If the man, Brad, a complete stranger, had not noticed Lady, interrupted his routine and acted right away, Lady might still be running scared. If volunteers had not immediately dropped what they were doing in the middle of a work day and gone to help form the circle… if people had not listened to the instructions to NOT approach Lady… she might still be out there, or might not have survived.
    But that’s not the whole story. Mel realized how much Lady meant to her and decided she didn’t want to be separated again. So now Lady is home with Mel forever. And get this: In an interview on local TV, Mel said that she didn’t even know who had posted that flyer at the grocery store, but she was certainly grateful.
    Who posted the flyer at the grocery store?
    Think about it. One seemingly small action: a person putting up a flyer about a lost dog at a grocery store. One tired man on his way home from work who remembered seeing the flyer at the grocery store and acted immediately. One patient group of people who showed up right away to form a circle around the scared dog. And, of course, the rescue group and foster mom. They all made a difference. But the happy ending started with the person who posted the flyer at the grocery store.
    Think about the seeds you want to sow in 2012, the “flyers” you want to post. If changing the whole world for the better seems like an overwhelming goal, think about the small things that you can do every day to make a difference, about each bright orange poppy you can plant. Think about the seemingly small decisions you make and actions you take each day. By the end of the year, you might just have an amazing poppy garden… or an amazing “puppy” garden.

     

  • Preparing for the Breeding Season

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney
    While breeding season may be the last thing on anyone’s mind at this time of year, it will be coming soon. Now is the time to ensure that your mare or stallion is going to be at their optimal reproductive efficiency. While much of a mare's or stallion's fertility depends on other factors such as age, condition of reproductive organs, etc., there are some basic management steps we can take to ensure that as few cycles of inseminations are needed to get a mare pregnant. Multiple breeding attempts can quickly outstrip the original stallion breeding fee and be a significant cost to the mare owner. Often we forget that every shipment of semen may be an additional cost, followed by extra veterinary fees, mare board, etc. Therefore it is in the mare owner’s best interest to have her in optimal condition before the first breeding attempt ever occurs.
    So how do you prepare your mare and stallion in January to begin breeding anywhere from February to mid-summer? The easiest place to begin is to look at your horse’s body condition score. For a mare, we want her to be at a body condition score of at least 5 or 6 (see "Too Fat, Too Thin, or Just Right"). A mare in this condition would be a moderately fleshy mare whose ribs are covered by fat, has evidence of fat deposition behind her shoulder and over her tailhead, and whose back is level. Mares that are a higher condition score than that may still have no problem getting pregnant, but are unnecessarily obese. This may result in more wear and tear on her joints. Additionally, as there is no increase in reproductive efficiency, maintaining a mare in too high of condition may just be a waste of feed costs. Furthermore, if she has chronically been obese with localized fat deposition, she may even be at risk for metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance (see Equine Carbohydrate Disorders, Part 3: Metabolic Syndrome).  If your mare is diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, it is important to correct her metabolic profile and manage her carefully through the breeding season. Altered hormonal profile can impair her ability to become pregnant and certainly extra weight in a laminitic mare may increase her level of pain.
    If we look at the opposite condition and the mare is too thin, she will need more cycles to settle compared to a mare at adequate condition. She also may take longer to return to normal cyclic activity following winter anestrous (when mares cease to cycle due to the shorter day length). Thin mares' conception rates may be lower, and if she foals in a thin condition, she may take longer to begin cycling again. With so many negative effects of trying to breed a thin mare, one of the easiest ways to increase reproductive efficiency is to put weight on your mare!
    Stallions also use more energy in the breeding season due to the increase in their activity levels. Stallions which breed mares in an intensive live cover breeding system will of course need more energy than a stallion which is bred only once every other day. Stallions which are more extensively used would have energy requirements similar to a light to moderately exercising horse, and their maintenance requirements will also be elevated (see "Energy for Work").  Typically, stallions are simply more active during the breeding season as they exhibit their normal sexual behavior. Ideally, stallions should be maintained in a body condition score close to 5 throughout the breeding season.
    Beyond just meeting a stallion's energy requirements, feeding of Omega-3 fatty acids may help improve his reproductive efficiency. In a study by Harris, et al, published in 2005 in Animal Reproduction Science, stallions supplemented with dietary Omega-3 fatty acids increased their daily sperm output.  Furthermore, there was an increase in morphologically normal sperm in the supplemented group.  The greatest response was seen in the stallion with initially the most morphologically abnormal sperm. In this study, one stallion who was considered to be a “poor cooler” improved his post cooling progressive motility from 23 to 38% in a 48 hour test cool. Therefore, supplementation of Omega-3 fatty acids may be a valuable tool in improving the reproductive characteristics of sub-fertile stallions.
    Basic guidelines for increasing body weight and condition in horses are really no different for the broodmare or stallion than in other classes of horses. The quicker the gain is needed in the horse, the larger the increase in calories which must be offered daily. If you only have two months to get your mare in condition, you need to increase her energy intake by 30-40% to increase her body condition score by one number. If we have three months, which may be more realistic, the energy requirements increase by 20-30%. Remember, however, if you are trying to accomplish weight gain during the winter, she may also have an increase in energy requirements due to her need to thermoregulate. This will make weight gain more difficult. To add calories quickly to the diet, look for a fat-added feed that will be digested quickly and efficiently.  Remember that fat offers 2.25 x the calories that will be in grains which consist primarily of simple carbohydrates. Fat will also disrupt the metabolic profile of the horse to a lesser extent than a diet high in sugars and starches.
    Of course, beyond caloric intake, always ensure that your breeding horses are consuming a complete balanced diet in respect to all nutrients, have good health care and are suitable candidates for breeding. Breeding horses is a big responsibility in terms of the care and well-being of the mare, stallion and the subsequent offspring.

  • Picture Pups

    Written By Barbara O'Brien

    Just thought I’d share some fun images from a recent shoot with some eight week old American Eskimo puppies. It’s not easy to convince puppies to stay in one place much less as a group.

    I usually start out with one pup.

            It takes a little convincing to get them to stay on the set.
             Ok, that’s better. Could you sit, please?
                    Good sit! Good Puppy!
                Then, I will add another. Could you both look here please?
                 Nice! Good Pups!
               Then I will try for three.
               Hey! Get back here!
               Now you listen to the nice lady, little brother!
             There! That’s it! Such good pups!
    I must admit it is all worth it in the end. Who wouldn’t love getting puppy kisses from puppies like these?

     

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