Monthly Archives: May 2012

  • Marketing Your Horse Business through Social Media Part 2, Content Strategy: What You Share Keeps People Interested

    Written By Randi Thompson, Founder of the Award-Winning Facebook Business Page “How to Market Your Horse Business”
    In my first article of this series, I explained how “offline” businesses can benefit by having a presence on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+. I left you with a two-part “assignment” for getting started:
    1. Look at what other businesses like yours are doing on social media sites and web sites to promote themselves. What do you think their marketing strengths and weaknesses are? Are you clear about what they have to offer? How can you incorporate some of those ideas in your marketing?
    2. Talk to your existing customers to find out what they’d like to see from you in the social media world. What do they do with social media? Where are they “hanging out” and who do they think are the “movers and shakers” of the horse social media world?
    Now let's continue by exploring content strategy.
    Developing Content: What you share on social media will attract people looking for what you have to offer.
    The expression “Content is King” originally referred to print and broadcast media but it’s equally true in the online world. A great comment, photo or video may get people to visit your web site or follow you on social media for a while, but if your content doesn’t remain valuable to them you’ll quickly drop off their radar and their newsfeeds.
    Our goal is to get people to respond to us and interact with us through the comments and content that we share. Here’s why content and comments are the secrets to success for marketing on social media:
    1. Good content builds loyalty. If a business had to get a new customer to make every sale, their marketing challenge would be enormous! A horse publication, for example, doesn’t make most of its money from people picking it up for the first time, it makes money from people who realize its content has ongoing value that they need, so they subscribe. Really successful Internet sites, blogs and social media pages also get most of their traffic from repeat business, based on the value of their content. It’s the content we share that gets people interested in what we have to offer and, most importantly, gets them to respond to our comments. When people respond to your comments, those comments go viral on the newsfeeds and you are then exposed to more people who are looking for what you have to offer!
    2. Relationships lead to sales. When you build loyalty through high-value content that encourages people to interact with you, you’re actually creating relationships with people who are interested in what you have to offer. We’d all rather buy something from someone we have come to know, like and trust.
    3. Well-planned content helps people find you. Search engines like Google and Bing are a way of life, zipping through the virtual universe to recognize and rank content that most closely matches a user’s query. You can help your content be recognized and ranked through the use of “Search Engine Optimization” or SEO. A whole SEO industry has sprung up to specialize in using the right “keywords” that will get a site recognized early and ranked highly on Search Engine results lists. But you have to do more than focus on keywords – your business has a better chance of flourishing if you provide great content first, while having a decent understanding of SEO and keywords.
    But What Should You Be Saying?
    It’s exciting to think of all the ways you can communicate on social media – your comments, photos, audio and video can be fun to think about and create. But the most important step in determining your comment strategy is deciding what you should be saying so people will respond and your comment will be shared on their newsfeeds.
    If you want people to purchase your products or services, you need to be able to tell them what you have to offer in a way that’s easy for them to understand. Even more important, you have to show them how what you’re offering will benefit them. The first step in creating “benefits-driven” content is to organize your own thoughts about what you’re offering and how you are going to promote what you have to offer.
    1. Start by making a list of the products and services you offer. If you have a retail store you don’t need to list every saddle and bit – just the product categories. If you have a boarding barn, you could include types of stalls; types of turnout; specialized services; what type of riding rings you have and whether you have trails your clients can ride on. If you’re a trainer, you could include group or individual lessons; discipline specialty; working with green or problem horses; offering weekend clinics, etc. No matter what specific horse business you have, you need to break it down into specific products and services you feel prospective clients will be looking for – you can’t promote what you can’t describe!
    2. For each of your products or services, identify what is different about your offerings – and hopefully unique or better – than what the competition offers. Find those things that set you apart so your potential customer can understand why your offerings are the best choice for them.
    3. Think about your priorities in terms of what you should be promoting first or most actively; you want to be sure what you’re promoting is not just relevant but is also of high value. For example, if your barn stays full of boarders but you need to add revenue, you could emphasize other things like lessons, summer camps or “adult pony club” activities. If you’re a retail store, you may have certain products that offer repeat purchase opportunities and better profit margins than other products. Here’s why prioritizing is important: on your own web site you can provide comprehensive details of your total business but when you’re marketing through social media, your comments have to be briefer and more targeted. The good news is that you can use social media comments to drive “target customers” – people who are looking for what you have to offer – to your website or social media network.
    Giving careful thought to each of the three areas above will help you develop a content and comment strategy as the foundation for all of your marketing activities. So get started! In my next article I’ll talk about how you can use your comments to sell what you have to offer.
    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. For a FREE copy of Randi Thompson’s e-book, DIY – Get Listed Locally, How to Get Your Small Business Listed Online in the Local Searches!, go tohttp://www.howtomarketyourhorsebusiness.com/downloads/DIYGetListed.pdf.   You can also join Randi on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/howtomarketyourhorsebusiness.

  • Moving with Chickens — Traveling Tips and Tricks

    Written By Don Schrider

    Hello from the great state of West Virginia. At the beginning of April we moved our household from Virginia to West Virginia to a new home. This was a very positive and exciting move, but laborious too as we had to move not only all our household belongings, but our animals and pens as well.
    Moving with poultry takes a good bit of planning to avoid potentially lethal mistakes. Since we have both a guard dog for the chickens as well as the chickens themselves, we had to figure how we could transport both safely. We also had to dismantle the pens and set them up again in order to have a place for our hens. Planning had to include the transportation of dog, hens, and pens as well as the order of packing them. We had to know what we were going to do with the animals while we reassembled their pens and we had to know how long it all would take and how to feed and water everyone during this transition.
    Since many of you may find it necessary to transport your poultry at some point, whether to a county fair, vet, swap meet, or moving to a new home, let me break down the basics that will keep the birds alive and healthy. Chickens can actually survive a few days without food and water if necessary. I don’t recommend stressing the birds this way, but they can survive. What will kill the birds are high temperatures, a lack of airflow, and too much sun in conjunction with one of the two preceding. So how do we address these three primary concerns?
    I have a truck with a cap on the back. Seems like I have always had a truck with a cap and have transported poultry in such at all times of the year. The cap has the advantage of shading the birds and the disadvantage of restricting airflow. I open all the windows of the cap to provide as much airflow as possible. I also follow a rule a friend of mine suggested – once your birds are loaded, get moving and keep moving. Good airflow will help to overcome high temperatures.
    I have several types of crates for different purposes. I have commercial, plastic crates that are extremely ventilated. I have Pullman crates that are four feet long and designed with four compartments – the fronts of which are extremely well ventilated. Lastly, I have enclosed boxes that are designed to carry individual male birds safely without damaging their tail feathers. These male crates are perfect for fall, winter, and early spring but they do not have a large amount of ventilation so are the worst possible crates to use during warm weather. For this move I used only the Pullman and the commercial crates.
    Before loading the crates I counted my hens and the number of spaces I had available. I also feed the birds a good meal that included Omega Ultra Egg™ so that they would have full crops before loading. I also had to consider how many would fit on my truck without packing too tightly or airflow would be restricted. While the commercial crates could handle eight birds in summer when transporting a short distance, I opted to reduce the number in those crates to six. In the Pullmans I placed one bird per hole (four per crate).
    I started loading all the birds, being sure to put them into the crates head first – which makes their natural tendency to go forward into the crate. I found myself in a position of have two extra birds, and so I placed two birds per hole in two of the Pullman holes. For these two doubled up pens I made sure they were in the last, most open positioned pen so that they received the most airflow. I also made sure the paired birds were pairs that got along well and which were smaller in size to reduce the amount of body heat possibly trapped in the pen.
    I placed my crates into the truck after they were all loaded, and just before we were ready to leave. Until that time, the birds were crated in a shady and cool location. I put the Pullman crates into the truck facing the rear, in this way as I drove they would get the most airflow. Between each crate I placed 2x4 boards, to ensure there was air space between crates. (My mentor told me of a breeder who once placed his prize bird first into his truck. He packed the truck so tightly that the bird ran out of air and died before they arrived home. Air space is very important.) I place my commercial crates on top of the Pullman crates, placing 2x4 boards between them and being careful not to seal in the birds in the centermost holes of the Pullman crates. Once we started moving we drove straight through and all the birds made it to our new home safely.
    Upon arrival, it was going to take several hours to set up the chicken pens and it was late at night. I opted for leaving the birds on the truck overnight. In the morning I got up early to make sure the sun was not going to overheat the birds, making sure I was parked in a shady location, and opened the tailgate of the truck so that more air could move. I fed the birds a breakfast of slices of apple. Apples make excellent food for crated birds. They are not too messy and provide a source of energy, food, and moisture. It took a couple of hours to set up the pens, but everything went well.
    Once the pens were set up, I first filled water containers in each pen. My birds had gone twelve hours without fresh water, so I knew the first thing they needed was a good drink of water as they were uncrated. I removed each bird from its crate head first, being sure to maintain good control of its legs. I carried them cradled in the crook of my arms, their heads a little lower than their tails to keep them calm – never hold them upside down, as it can cause them to suffer strokes and is very stressful. Instead of tossing the birds into the pens, I lowered each one so its feet touched the ground and let it walk away. Doing this builds trust in the birds for being handled. Each bird walked over and had a satisfying drink. Next I feed each group a fresh bit of feed with Omega Egg Ultra to ensure that they got plenty of vitamins and nutrition and to help keep their stress level down and egg production up.
    When I was done unloading, not only did all the birds survive in good shape, but the hens had laid eggs in the Pullman crates. One of the reasons I like the Pullman crates is that they feel like being on a nest for the birds.
    I have had friends transport their birds to and from county fairs in the heat of summer with no bad effects. What are some of the points they follow for success?
    • Plenty of airflow around the pens
    • Never pack the crates too tightly – use boards and board scraps to maintain space around each crate
    • Never more than two birds to a pen if using a Pullman type, and never fill to capacity a commercial type crate
    • Load late in the day, near evening, or at night
    • Keep in mind how long the first birds loaded have sat in the truck without a breeze – once you start crating birds move quickly
    • Unload in the morning so that you are not stressing the birds by handling during the heat of the day
    • Remember, direct sun in the summer can kill crated poultry – use as much shade as possible without restricting airflow
    • Once you get moving, keep moving
    • If the birds will be crated for more than twenty four hours, stop and water all the birds (bring water cups for this purpose). Also feed the birds – corn makes a good feed for this purpose
    • Apples make an excellent food and moisture source and will help relieve boredom for transported hens
    • Cardboard boxes can be used, but large or many ventilation holes must be cut – even when the birds will only be in these boxes for a short time, as cardboard retains heat
    • Pine shavings or straw work well as good bedding sources. Bedding will keep the hens comfortable while traveling over bumps in the road
    The most important things to remember are airflow and temperature during transportation. By keeping these tips in mind, you can transport poultry safely any time of the year.

     

     

  • Emergency Preparedness for Your Pet: 8 Things I Learned from 8 State Hurricane Kate — Update 2012

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic 

    In April my truck went in to the shop for a few days and I had the use of Kate riding safely in the car on the way north from Louisianaa brand new, very nice 4-door sedan. I’ve always been a truck person and I soon realized why I was uncomfortable with only having the car at my disposal. I knew that I couldn’t fit my three dogs and cat safely into that car. My truck has three kennels, one for each dog to ride safely, and room for the cat carrier too. It also has martingale collars, leashes, and water bowls on board. The weather was calm that week, but just two days after I picked up my truck, tornados broke out across the country and severe storms hit our area. I knew then that if I had to evacuate, I would be able to safely take all of my pets along. To learn more about how to safely restrain your pets in motor vehicles, read the article, "Restraining Pets in Motor Vehicles Can Save Lives", PetSit.com, Nov. 15, 2011.

    After Hurricane Katrina, I helped take care of rescued animals in Louisiana. I met many people who were searching for their lost pets. Many had lost everything they owned and were desperately searching for the animals they had lost. I learned so much about what not to do in a disaster situation. This led me to write the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book to share what I had learned and maybe spare other families and their pets the agony that so many experienced after Katrina.
    8 State Hurricane Kate, an old Australian Cattle Dog, was rescued from a rooftop in Louisiana nine days after Hurricane Katrina. I met her in September 2005 in Gonzales, Louisiana, where rescued animals were taken for care and shelter.
    With no known address or ID, she was running out of options. When Hurricane Rita forced our evacuation, I drove home to Minnesota, through eight states, with Kate in a kennel in the back seat. While fostering Kate, I listed her on www.Petfinder.com and searched for her original family, even posting a “Do You Know This Dog?” video on YouTube.com (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_ge2g0GDjw). Yet almost seven years after Hurricane Katrina, I still don’t know what her life was like before August 29th, 2005.
    Kate’s story, told in the book 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog, holds valuable lessons for all animals. My journey with Kate also inspired me to write the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book, to organize my dogs’ information in one place, for daily use, travel, and emergencies. This book includes important information from Noah’s Wish, a group dedicated to caring for animals in disasters. The following tips will help keep you and your pets safer and happier.
    8 Things I Learned from 8 State Kate
    1. Microchip your pet. Katrina showed us how easily pets can lose their collars and IDs. A microchip implanted under the pet’s skin is the best permanent identification. I recommend a microchip even if your pet never leaves the house. A flood, tornado, hurricane, or even a surprise bolt out the door can separate you. A microchip is a small electronic chip with a unique ID number, in a capsule the size of a grain of rice. When a pet is found, the ID number is read by a hand-held scanner and the microchip company is notified. The company looks up the ID number in their database to find the owner. A microchip will only reunite you with your pet if you’ve registered your current contact information.
    2. Keep good pet records, including a current photo of you with your pet (to verify ownership) and photos of your pet’s unique identifying characteristics. Store your pet’s vet, food and medication records in one place (like the Not Without My Dog book). Include information on the pet’s daily routine, words the pet knows, and other useful tips for anyone taking care of your pet in an emergency situation. Make sure a designated person knows where your pet’s information is stored, in case something happens to you.
    3. Make a disaster plan for your family and pets. Know the most likely natural disasters in your area. If you must stay home, be prepared to survive without assistance. Assemble a kit to meet your family’s basic needs for at least three days. Store it in easily accessible waterproof containers. If you must evacuate, do not leave your pets behind. Have carriers, leashes, and harnesses for your pets. Know the local evacuation routes, how you’ll transport your pets, and where you’ll take them. Plan alternate destinations because emergency shelters for people often don’t allow pets, and pet-friendly hotels fill quickly.
    4. Make a family communication plan in case a disaster occurs while you’re separated. Know where your family will meet if you can’t reach each other by phone. Identify a neighbor or pet sitter who will get to your pets quickly when they need help and your family is away from home.
    5. Make sure your pets are properly vaccinated, treated for fleas and ticks, on heartworm preventative, and spayed or neutered. Healthy pets are better prepared to survive anything, including displacement and housing with other animals. Accepted vaccination protocols are changing, and some flea and tick treatments are not approved by veterinarians. Do your research and decide what’s best for your pet.
    6. Socialize and train your pets. Socialize pets to be confident in different situations. Positively trained pets are less likely to get lost. Make sure they know how to walk on a leash/harness and are comfortable riding in their carriers in the car. Teach them to wait before exiting the car by pausing, then giving them a reward.
    7. Tune in to your pets. They’re tuned in to you. Give them opportunities to do what they were bred to do. Help them relax and be confident. Appreciate them for who they are. The more connected you are to your pets, the better you will weather anything together.
    8. Be resilient. An old girl who has lost everything can recover with dignity and grace, and be happy. Kate taught me this too.
    Please contact me directly at njennyr@visi.com for a 40% discount on the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book through June 1st (the official beginning of hurricane season). Put “BOOK ORDER” in the subject line.

     

     

  • Feeding Horses for the Prevention and Management of Laminitis

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Nothing is more devastating to the horse owner than to have a treasured partner be afflicted by the painful, crippling disease of laminitis. Laminitis can be a debilitating disease that may ultimately result in the death of the horse or humane euthanization. Unfortunately there are so many factors that can manifest in development of this syndrome that it can be difficult to sort through.
    To understand the development of laminitis one should really understand the physiology of the equine foot. Essentially the hard keratinized tissue which forms the hoof wall is held to the soft tissue by the interdigitation between the sensitive and insensitive laminae. The insensitive laminae (seen here in Figure 1) is formed in vertical sheets on the inside of the hoof wall. 
    Figure 1. An interior view of a horse’s hoof with the soft tissues removed. 1b. A schematic of the vertical lines of insensitive laminae lining the interior of the horse’s foot.
    Connecting to the insensitive laminae is the sensitive laminae, which is living tissue requiring an adequate blood supply of oxygen and nutrients to survive. When an alteration of blood flow or a vascular insult occurs inflammation or even death of the sensitive laminae can occur. The sensitive laminae ultimately stabilize the internal structures of the horse’s hoof, including the third phalanx (or coffin bone). When this stable connection is lost, the pull of the deep digital flexor tendon on the base of PIII rotates it out of place. This condition is referred to as chronic laminitis or founder.
    Figure 2. The sensitive laminae which connect the hoof wall to the horse’s foot.

    Figure 3. A foundered hoof where PIII has rotated out of place due to the pull of the deep digital flexor tendon.
     
    There are many reasons why blood flow can be disrupted to the equine digit. Laminits is often a systemic disease which is only visualized in the foot. While digestive issues lead the list of causes of laminitis there are other physical insults which can occur as well. When procuring wood shavings from a reputable dealer, care should be taken never to include those of the black walnut tree. These shavings contain the chemical juglone, actually a toxin which can kill other plants in the black walnut environment. Other physical causes are concussive trauma, from being ridden on hard surfaces resulting in decreased blood flow to the foot, and excessive loading (i.e., one limb is severely lame resulting in extra loading to the sound limb). Endotoxemia, such as what might be seen in a mare with a retained placenta, may also result in the development of laminitis.
     Nutritionally, a whole series of gastric insults can alter blood flow to the foot.  These include a carbohydrate overload (the classic example of the horse breaking into the feed bin) which leads to an alteration of fermentation in the hindgut.  In order to prevent starch from escaping enzymatic digestion in the small intestine and escaping to the hind gut, it is recommended to avoid a starch intake of more than 2-4 g/kg of body weight per meal. Therefore, a 500 kg horse should receive no more than 1-2 kg of starch per meal.  Pasture grasses have also long been known to precipitate bouts of founder, but typically only in susceptible populations. Ponies, and horses with thrifty genotypes are the most likely to suffer from pasture-associated laminitis. It is believed to be caused by a high level of fructans, although the quantity of fructans required to cause laminitis is unknown. Fructan content is known to vary with the time of year, with a higher content seen in the spring, when most pasture-associated laminitis occurs. Horses which are susceptible to pasture-associated laminitis should also limit their intake of pasture grass in the afternoon, when photosynthesis throughout the day has resulted in a higher level of fructans in the plant. The levels of water soluble carbohydrate gradually decline through the night, making grazing in the morning relatively safer. As the majority of horses which develop laminitis due so on pasture, rather than through the owner feeding excessive concentrates, at least some thought or caution should be used when grazing horses. Ideally horses should be introduced gradually to consuming fresh grass, and susceptible horses' grazing should be limited to when fructan concentrations are at their minimum.
    If a horse does develop chronic laminitis, unfortunately there is little the owner may do nutritionally to manage the horse. Obviously exposure to pasture grasses at peak times of fructan concentration should be avoided. Also, the horse should be managed to lower body weight to decrease the mechanical load on the laminae. Low energy forage should be the primary feed for the foundered horse. However, because low energy forages will typically be deficient in protein, minerals and vitamins, it is important to ensure that the horse is supplemented with a low energy concentrate to make up for dietary insufficiencies. As these horses are often in a great deal of pain, NSAID administration may often be needed, but can also contribute to gastrointestinal upsets. Alternatives to NSAIDS, such as Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, may help to alleviate some discomfort, without the negative side effects.
    Overall, close attention to the diet of the horse, avoiding GI disturbances or causing fluctuations within the hind gut, and limiting grass intake during periods of time where fructan concentrations can be high, will hopefully prevent the horse from ever experiencing this deadly disease.

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