Omega Fields

  • Prebiotics in Horses

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Last month we discussed the use of probiotics in horses, including the definition and types of probiotics, their effectiveness, and when their use might be warranted.  This month we will address a closely related and often misunderstood topic: prebiotics.  The use of both of these feed additives may work synergistically to promote digestion in your horse, keep his immune system in top shape and allow him to face the various stressors which may be present in his life.

    As opposed to probiotics, prebiotics are not live organisms.  Rather, they are chains of specific types of carbohydrates which promote the growth of organisms which are beneficial to the well-being of the host.  Prebiotics are derived from a variety of products, including milk, fruit, vegetables and fermentation byproducts.  These are typically short chains of fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), which are a mix of fructose and glucose, mannose oligo-saccharides (MOS) or galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS).  Simply stated, oligosaccharides are shorter chains of carbohydrates or saccharides (sugars) as compared to polysaccharides such as starch, glycogen of cellulose.  For a review of carbohydrate terminology, please see: Equine Carbohydrate Disorders Part 1. Because of the type of bonds joining the carbohydrates together, prebiotics are not able to be enzymatically digested in the stomach and small intestine.  Instead they provide substrates for fermentation of a specific group of bacteria and thus allow them to flourish.  It may be helpful to think about prebiotics as providing food for the good types of bacteria, rather than feeding your horse.   In ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep and goats, they have a direct effect on the rumen microflora, while in monogastrics and hind gut fermenters such as the horse, prebiotics pass to the hindgut where they exert part of their beneficial effect.   Horses also have a substantial microbial population in the foregut as well.  While the use of prebiotics in gastric health of the horse has not been explored, it does appear promising as a potential tool in maintaining stomach health.

    So why would you have to feed the bacteria?  Certainly a horse on a high forage diet would have adequate nutrient delivery to those microbes, correct?  Well, different types of organisms utilize different substrates for food.  If there is more food available for one type, they will be more successful and reproduce at a higher rate.  Cellulytic bacteria are responsible for fermentation of the fibrous portion of a horse’s feed and are typically associated with a higher pH in the gut.   However, amylotic bacteria prefer substrates such as sugars and starches. When we over feed concentrate to our horse or forages containing more rapidly fermentable sugars, these amylotic bacteria flourish and can produce negative by products for the horse.  Prebiotics typically provide substrate for more beneficial strains of bacteria including bifidobacteria (found more in humans), lactobacillus and lactate utilizing bacteria.  The use of prebiotics has shown to be effective in preventing the rapid and detrimental shift in bacterial population which occurs when horses are overfed concentrates. Now certainly it would never be advisable to subject our horses to a rapid increase in carbohydrates.  However, we could think of supplementation of prebiotics during periods of dietary adaptation, shifting to a new feed source or when starting to graze in the spring as a potential way to modulate gut microflora. However, supplementation of prebiotics would not be an alternative to slow controlled adaptation to new diets.

    Prebiotics may have more benefits than just helping to increase fermentation or stabilize the population of the hindgut.  While not digested in the small intestine, prebiotics help prevent the colonization of pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella and E coli.  Doing so improves the overall health status of the animal.  They do so by binding to the carbohydrate receptor sites on the bacteria which are used to bind to intestinal epithelial cells. By “tricking” bacteria into binding to these oligosaccharides, they are prevented from binding to epithelial cells and proliferating. Promoting the growth of the beneficial bacteria may even limit the growth of pathogenic bacteria.  Bifidocacteria and lactobacillus possess their own bactericidal/anti-microbial effects against harmful bacteria. The “good” type of bacteria may also release enzymes which destroy the toxins produced by pathogenic bacteria.  Clearly it is easy to see why the feeding of prebiotics has gained much attention in feeding production species as an alternative to antibiotics.

    In addition to these direct effects on bacteria, immune-stimulatory effects of prebiotics have been observed in a variety of subjects. These appear to be not only in response to viral or bacterial challenge, but even with allergen stimulated immune responses. Human infants supplemented with prebiotics which mimic those found in breast milk developed fewer infections compared to those not receiving prebiotics.  There is also some evidence that intestinal epithelial cells may be able to transport prebiotic oligosaccharides, putting them in direct contact with cells of the immune system.  In an in vitro equine study, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (lymphocytes, macrophages) showed an increased immune response when these cells were cultured in the presence of GOS and FOS. When these same cells were challenged with LPS, the effect was even more pronounced in cells cultured with FOS and GOS.  The use of prebiotics may be a tool in helping to develop the immune system of neonatal foals, as has been proposed in other species.    Finally, prebiotics may serve as natural anti-oxidants themselves. In part this could help explain their immunomodulatory effects as well.  Therefore, consider using prebiotics when the animal might be undergoing periods of stress, as stress typically weakens the immune system.

    Even beyond their ability to affect the population of micro-organisms in the hindgut or stimulate the immune system, prebiotics may also help with insulin sensitivity.  This has been shown in dogs, veal calves, rodents and humans.   The effect is believed to be due to the alteration of fermentation in the hindgut, resulting in a shift in the ratio of volatile fatty acids which are produced. In obese horses supplemented with short chain FOS, a modest improvement in insulin sensitivity was observed after 6 weeks.  Prebiotics may serve as an aid to restoring insulin sensitivity, but certainly should not replace diet modifications or a sound weight loss program.

    Certainly the addition of prebiotics to the human food supply is increasing, and a number of products designed for use in pet foods and production animals point to the value of this natural foodstuff in promoting the health for all. There do not appear to be any risks associated with feeding prebiotics, and the number of proven health benefits is quite expansive.  The evidence for their effectiveness in improving the health and well-being is so many species of animals is substantial.  So if your horse needs help with digestion, stress, his immune system or even insulin resistance, consider a prebiotic.

  • Omega Fields Continues its 12 Year Relationship with InfoHorse.com

     

     

    Newton, Wisconsin – Omega Fields, Inc. has continued its 12+ year advertising relationship with InfoHorse.com (www.infohorse.com), the nation’s largest horse website.  “We have been the main sponsor of the Equine Health page on infohorse.com for most of those 12 years and have also recently become the main sponsor of their new site’s Canine Health page on dogowner.com.  As part of our sponsorship we provide 4 equine nutritional articles annually to InfoHorse to help educate their readership on important issues in the Equine Health arena.  We value our relationship with InfoHorse because of their commitment to the Equine market as well as our positive results from our advertising there.” according to Moriarty – Omega Fields President.

     

    Here are the facts according to InfoHorse:

    • InfoHorse.com remains the biggest National Advertiser of Horse Products in America, reaching about 1 million horse owners annually with an average of 800,000 Product Page views-- per month.

     

    • HEALTH is our NUMBER ONE most clicked on area carrying 97% of our traffic.

       

    • 82% of our readers stated they came to InfoHorse.com from the Catalogs (Jeffers, ValleyVet, SmartPak and Dover top 4 in our survey)

       

    • In July we opened up a SISTER SITE called "DognOwner.com" which is on track for nearly 400,000 dog owners.

       

    • HEALTH is our NUMBER ONE most popular area on our new site DognOwner.com

     

    About Omega Fields

    Omega Fields® is recognized as a minority-owned business. Its mission is to offer the finest quality, most nutritious products at fair prices, and to provide outstanding customer service. Omega Fields wants its customers to have exceptional experiences with their products, staff, websites and retailers.

     

    Omega Fields is the first manufacturer in the animal health industry to use human-grade, non-GMO stabilized ground flaxseed, rich in fiber and antioxidants, and containing the optimum ratio of the full spectrum of Omega 3, 6, and 9 Fatty Acids for equine, goat, canine, poultry and human nutrition. The innovative use of flaxseed milled with a unique stabilization technology ensures long shelf life and superior quality for Omega Fields’ products.

  • A Decade of Devotion

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    We lost Bandit to multiple myeloma in March, and our little pack continues to find its way. When Bandit’s body was failing and I realized he was in pain, it became apparent that he was ready to go. But I could tell he was concerned about how we would manage without him. So we spent time with him doing things he wanted to do for one last time, and cherished our last hours together. I reassured him that we didn’t want him to be in pain any longer, and that somehow we would get along without him. Bandit wanted us to be happy and celebrate life.

    Australian Cattle Dogs usually live longer than ten years, so whenever I begin to wish that we’d had more time, I remember that a miracle brought us together in the first place. One step this way or that and our life together would not have happened at all. I’m grateful we had that ‘chance’ meeting.

    Over the past ten years, I think Bandit has influenced my life more than any other being. We lived together day in and day out. He leapt out of bed every morning ready to face the day. He was a 'glass half full' kind of guy who always brought me the ball, and whacked me on the leg with the rubber chicken when I sat at the computer for too long. I called him my 'recreation director'.

    Bandit was so smart, so intrepid, and so good at everything that I had to learn a lot just to keep up with him. As a team, we had many accomplishments in versatility, herding, agility, obedience, rally and tracking (to name a few). But most of all, he was a loyal and wonderful companion whose energy filled our house with love. He took care of me in many ways that I’m still just beginning to realize. Our love was pure.

    Those of us whose dogs are part of our families know that they influence us in many ways. When I look back over my time with Bandit, I see how he changed me. Better than Eckhart Tolle or anyone else, Bandit taught me that all we really have is this present moment, and we’d best enjoy it and not postpone being happy. He taught me that I don’t have to be completely serious; I can laugh and enjoy the journey and still get my work done. Bandit turned me into a positive person, a glass-half-full person. He was a lead-or-get-out-of-the-way kind of guy. I had to step up just to stay ahead of him, and that helped me in other areas of my life too.

    Bandit accepted me completely and loved me completely for who I am, thus he helped me accept and love myself. He helped me understand that I have what I need inside of me. Bandit never fit into anyone’s box any better than I do. He taught me that it’s best to be myself even when I don’t fit in, that sometimes I’m meant to be different for a good reason. Uniqueness is a gift, and others can learn from me.

    Who would have thought that a little red ball of fuzz could do so much to change my life for the better?

    My spiritual journey with Bandit began with the miracle that brought him to me as a bolt out of the blue in 2004 (http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2448), and continued all the way to the bald eagles who visited me several times in several places before and after his passing in 2014. I learned to believe in miracles and to understand amazing spiritual connections between animals and people, connections that are made among animals too.

    Bandit was always the pack leader and hall monitor among the animals in our family, a solid protector and friend. As Bandit’s health declined, Chase wanted to take over and I had to manage the pack very carefully. Once Bandit was gone, our house seemed way too quiet. Nobody brought me the ball every time I stepped outside. Nobody hit me on the leg with the rubber chicken while I was working at the computer. I felt like I couldn’t be whole without him, until a friend pointed out that I’m so much more because of him.

    People told me that Bandit will send me another dog, just as my dying dog Rusty sent Bandit to me. Maybe he will. But for now we’re finding our balance without a third dog. Three dogs was always a lot for me, and I have thousands of dollars of vet bills to pay, for Chase’s and Bandit’s cancer treatments. I’m looking forward to working more with Chase and especially with Cay, who was always the third dog with two very busy older ‘brothers’.

    Bandit’s absence from our household has shifted the pack balance. Chase and Cayenne and Gingersnap the cat are working it out. I’m enjoying seeing different parts of their personalities emerge. Chase is the pack leader now, yet Ginger has taken over some of Bandit’s ‘watchdog’ duties. Cay, who always followed Bandit, is learning to manage without him. You may recall that Chase goes into the bathroom and puts his front feet up on a stool when he wants a gentle hug from me (or when he thinks I need a hug). Cay has been watching, and with the hall monitor gone, she now comes into the bathroom seeking a hug too. The other day, I also found Gingersnap the cat with her front feet up on the stool, waiting for me to give her some lovin’. The pack is mellower, enabling Ginger to integrate more easily than before.

    Although Chase and Cay would love to go tracking, I haven’t been able to do that yet. Bandit and I spent so much time last year training for a tracking test that I can’t bear to go without him. I’m thinking about taking Chase and Cay out to herd ducks though, something Bandit was too powerful for even at age ten. And I’m wondering if Cay is ready to start practicing for the therapy dog test, so she might volunteer at the library as Chase does.

    Over Mother’s Day weekend, Chase and Cay had fun playing ball with a 5 year old girl and a 2½ year old boy. I was supervising closely as the girl threw the ball for Chase and he retrieved it again and again. I was astounded to see the boy throw the ball for Cay and watch her retrieve it and set it on the ground in front of him, over and over. Cay doesn’t usually retrieve for me; she fetches the ball and runs all around the yard with it. So I was amazed to see her watching the girl play ball with Chase, and then copying the pattern with the little boy. Both dogs were very gentle with the kids, dropping the balls for them. They didn’t jump on or bump the kids at all. I was surprised because Cay never seems to know where her back end is. She bumps me all the time. It was fun to see how well both dogs did with the kids, and I was encouraged about Cay’s potential to work with kids as a therapy dog.

    Our dog sitter, who has known Bandit since he was a pup, gave us a beautiful garden stone in his memory. Now that the spring weather has finally arrived, I’m building him a memorial garden. Hauling dirt and making a garden can be a lot of work. But not too much work for the guru in the red dog suit who jumped out of bed every morning full of joy, ready to greet the day, eager to work and play.

    We miss Bandit terribly, yet still feel his presence on our walks, and in the amazing lessons he taught us that help us find our way. Rest in Peace sweet boy. We look for you in the sky with the eagles, and we celebrate life in this present moment, just as you taught us.
    ………
    What have you learned from your animals? What more can you learn by paying closer attention?
    Give your dogs the best nutrition by adding Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets to their daily diet.

  • Digestive Aids in Horses

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will explore the use of digestive aids in horses, in particular probiotic usage. Probiotics are increasingly used in human medicine, production animal species, and of course in horses.  More owners are looking for safe and effective alternatives to pharmacological methods for promoting the well-being of their horses.   In this article we will discuss what type of organisms fall under the probiotic umbrella, the form in which they may be fed, their effectiveness and when their use might be warranted.

    In general, probiotics are live organisms which are fed with the intention of their survival within the gastrointestinal tract.  The original concept behind the use of probiotics was to provide a beneficial type of microorganism which can alter the fermentation process in the hindgut, or to shift the microbial population away from more negative types of organisms.  Typically these organisms promote digestion and alter the types of volatile fatty acids that are produced.  This was typically referred to as a competitive exclusion effect.  However, it is becoming more widely understand that probiotics may have farther reaching effects than just simply outnumbering undesirable bacteria.  This differs from when organisms are fed for their nutritive value, such as often done with yeasts.

    Horse owners have many options when selecting probiotics, including powders, pills, pastes, feeds, live culture yogurt or even innoculations of fecal microflora from healthy horses.  The key feature for a probiotic to be effective is that it is able to survive exposure to acid, bile and enzymes in the foregut of the horse and reach the hindgut alive.   In addition it must remain viable during processing and storage of the product. Further, microorganisms must be present in sufficient quantities to have an effect.   From extrapolations in human studies, it is suggested that foals be provided with a minimum of 10 to 20 billion colony forming units or CFUs with some studies suggesting an increase of 10 fold in adults.  Therefore concentrated forms of probiotics are often the most effective, rather than just a feed with added probiotics which may contain insufficient organisms.  It is highly recommended that horse owners read product labels carefully in choosing a digestive aid for their horse to ensure the product contains living organisms at sufficient numbers.  Unfortunately many commercial products may not actually even contain the amount of microorganisms listed on the label.  In a study from 2002, products contained as little as 2% of the CFUs claimed on the label.    In addition, some claims may be misleading and actually only contain fermentation products, which are not live cultures and therefore not probiotics.

    Beyond viability and amount of probiotics, the type of organism contained in the probiotic is key.  The most common classes of probiotics are the lactate utilizing bacteria including lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and enterococci. These bacteria are those that convert lactate to propionate in the gut which may help stabilize colonic pH.   Live yeast cultures have also been used, in particular Saccharomyces cervisiae.  This differs from the use of yeast products which may be fed in order to supply vitamins or protein from the process of digestion of the yeast itself.  When looking for a yeast supplement intended to be a probiotic, be sure that it actually contains live yeast   Most species of organisms in probiotics are not typically found inhabiting the gut of the horse. Thus they fail to form permanent stable colonies in the gut, and will no longer be present after administration has been ceased.  Therefore continual supplementation may be necessary depending on the desired outcome.

    Live yeast and bacteria supplementation may have beneficial effects beyond that of just supplying a different microorganism with fermentative capabilities.  Some yeasts may release enzymes which digest the toxic by-products of pathogenic bacteria.  It is also believed that yeasts and lactate using bacteria may have immunostimulatory effects, stimulating the gut associated lymphoid tissue.  This enhances the immune system of the horse and may make them more capable of handling exposure to pathogens. Other pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella and E coli may bind to the yeasts rather than the epithelial tissue of the gut, thus preventing their colonization. Supplementation of live yeast has also been shown to improve digestibility of fiber and increase the amount of lactobacillus in the hind gut which again may be protective against acidotic conditions in the hindgut.

    Probiotics are frequently administered when there is believed to be a disruption in normal gut microflora, such as during bouts of diarrhea, following anti-biotic administration or other gastric upsets.  This can include any stressful period for the horse such as travel, new environments, or alteration in diets. Horses supplemented with yeast and subjected to transport had greater biological diversity of bacterial species in the hindgut, and an increase concentration of lactate using bacteria and cellulytic bacteria.  Thus these horses maintained a healthier hindgut population compared to non-supplemented controls.  Supplementation of live boulardii yeast, a sub species of Saccharomyces cervisiae resulted in a shortened period of diarrhea and a quicker return to normal feces in horses suffering from enterocolitis compared to a placebo group.  Horses in this study had a broad range of causative factors for the diarrhea.  Thus probiotic administration may be an additional therapeutic tool in managing colitis or diarrhea in horses.    Probiotics may also reduce the detrimental effects of a high starch diet on the microbial population.  Typically high starch diets promote the growth of amylotic bacteria and decrease the population of cellulytic bacteria, thus suppressing fiber fermentation.  In addition, the by-products of amylotic bacteria are responsible for lowering the pH of the hind gut.  If probiotics are used in conjunction with higher concentrate diets, the overall health of the gut may be improved.

    So when is a probiotic right for you?  Certainly during periods of digestive upsets, probiotics can help return the microbiology of the gut of the horse to a healthier state.  They may also assist a horse during times of stress, not only preserving the health of the GI tract, but also the health of the horse itself.  Probiotics promote a stable pH in the gut and can assist in fermentation in the gut.  There a very few negative indicators for probiotic usage, rather just be sure that you choose an effective product.

  • Pat Parelli Endorses Omega Grande

    Omega Fields receives Endorsement for Omega Grande® from Pat Parelli of Parelli Natural Horsemanship

    Newton, Wisconsin – Omega Fields, Inc. receives a strong endorsement of its Omega Grande® product, a flax based complete nutritional supplement from Pat Parelli of Parelli Natural Horsemanship (www.parelli.com).

    Here is what Pat Parelli had to say about Omega Grande®:

    "My horses were just not looking their best.  Since I've switched to Omega Grande I can already see and feel a difference in just a few weeks.  They are shinier, have better muscle tone and so easy to feed!”
    - Pat Parelli

    And here is Pat’s barn manager, David Berry, responsible for the feeding program for Pat’s horses:

    It has only been four weeks since we started the horses on Grande and I have seen several positive changes already.  We feed Grande on top of our own special grain mix.  The mix consists of oats, barley, sunflower seeds and a little bit of ground limestone.  I have been able to reduce the amount of grain being fed since starting Grande. The horses eat it easily with or without grain.  I have witnessed improvements in coat condition with every horse.  They are all shedding their old dull winter coats and growing soft sleek shiny hair back in its place. Our red horses are getting redder and out black horses blacker.

       The most impressive change I have seen is in their muscle tone.  We were trying another complete feed before. The horses were fat but they had trouble developing muscle.  They would either be fat ponies or skinny horses. We were finding it difficult to get them fit.  Now, with Grande, they are rapidly developing muscle with exercise rather than just losing weight.    As time goes on I expect to see continued positive changes in our horses.  As an added benefit, my feed room looked like a pharmacy before Grande.  Grande has eliminated the need for mass supplementation and has allowed me to reduce the amount of raw ingredients I keep on hand.  In the past we have always been able to have fit and healthy horses but we had to mix all of our ingredients ourselves to get the desired results while keeping our principles intact.  Now nutrition is easy!  Sometimes nature and science can work really well together.  Grande is a good example of that!

    And from Lisa Alley-Zarkades (owner of Panadero XLVI – Omega Grande Ambassador and the “pretty face” on the packaging):

    “Panadero XLVI has been a loyal Omega Grande® Ambassador for many years now. His photographic beauty in films and pictures has shown off his amazing shimmering silver shine. He gets many compliments regularly on his beautiful shine as his coat color evolves each year. Panadero's longtime trainer and partner is Margit Deerman, 3 Star Parelli instructor.   She has taken Panadero to Level 4 in the Parelli Program. And he has been a guest at the Parelli Pagosa Springs Ranch several times. Linda Parelli has ridden him while at her ranch. She has always been very complimentary of his behavior, temperament and beauty.  Omega Grande and Parelli natural horsemanship have been our winning combination.”

    “Wow! It is very gratifying to be put to the test by such well experienced, discerning and demanding professionals as the Parelli’s and pass muster with flying colors” said Omega Fields’ President – Sean Moriarty.

  • Equine Body Language

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Y’know, you can’t hide anything from a horse. He knows what’s going on in your mind. Sure, you know what he’s thinking, too, sometimes, but he seems to be so much better at it than you and I, doesn’t he?

    Our horse has gotten so good at “mind reading” because it’s his natural “language” among other horses -- and it naturally spills over into his communications with us. He doesn’t have to figure out what a “hard eye” is when he sees ours (and, of course, he doesn’t read our minds), he knows it very well because he’s seen it on other horses all his life. And that’s half of the communication transaction – that which we transmit. The other half is what he receives, or better put, how he perceives what he sees, and therein lies communication by body language! Of course it’s his natural language – raised in his natural environment among other horses in his herd, it’s the only language there is. He learns to read and comprehend the most subtle of signals, and he puts that learning to good use when we’re introduced into his life.

    There was probably a time ‘way back, before our ancestors perfected the art of language, when we, too, communicated mostly with body language. But our world then, as theirs still is now, would have been quite small, and our need for communication quite basic. Not much has changed with horses over the millenia, however, and it’s safe to assume that horses everywhere communicate in the same manner. Interestingly, those of us who spend time with horses have intuitively picked up on their language without realizing it.

    He “speaks” to us with his body language, and he expects us to “get it”. When we don’t he will sometimes add emphasis – flared nostrils, maybe, or a head nudge, or even a kick if just flattening his ears isn’t enough. And how quickly we learn from that sort of emphasis! It’s the same emphasis he uses when he’s communicating with another horse, and so it’s quite natural and not a big deal. Unfortunately, when that sort of emphasis happens many of us tend to blame the horse for an indiscretion instead of immediately realizing that he’s just “being a horse” and does not actually bear us any ill will. Usually, however, we can and do connect with his initial ear-flattened message – and so we learn, sometimes the hard way, a little more of his language.

    But there is so much more to a horse’s language than flattened ears. It should be pointed out here that ear-pinning is just one of many examples of equine aggression behavior. We tend to think of aggression as meaning physical attack, but a physical attack and ear-pinning are both examples of aggression body language. We might define equine aggression body language as any physical attempt at control, whether it’s by flattened ear or sudden kick or anything in between, and much of it has counterparts in our own body language. That means that to a degree he and we already do speak the same language. You may become displeased with your horse for some reason, and you glare at him to “make” him behave as you want him to. Your “hard eyes” (your body language) mean the same to him as hard eyes from another horse, and he reacts accordingly. You sometimes use many facial muscles to emphasize your displeasure (clenched teeth, a big frown, hunched shoulders), he sees them all and interprets them accurately. And he does the same thing, actually; if he wants to emphasize his flattened ears, he may flare or purse his nostrils, raise his head up high to make himself appear more formidable, and even stamp his forefeet with great force; he’ll swish his tail, may turn his butt and stand with weight off of one hind leg so he can deliver a ritual kick – all signs to another horse that a big fight may be moments away if he doesn’t back off, and he uses it with us as well.

    A much more common body language example of aggression is that of one horse moving another. We may notice it when it’s obvious – when accompanied by a nip on the rump, for example – but usually it’s so subtle that we rarely notice the body language that actually moves the “movee”. However, she reads it immediately, as do all other horses in the immediate area. The control of spacing between individuals in a herd is an important use of aggression body language, and it has many shadings. For example, at one extreme, when food is scarce each horse needs more space in order to find enough forage, and “back off” signs are the tools used to gain and retain it. At the other extreme, aggression is used continuously, in normal, non-stressed conditions – for example, the “intimate zone” between horses, up close and tight, is entered only by family and close friends, while others are warned off.

    These are common examples of the body language of aggression -- one of our horse’s two basic communication devices. Of course, herd members don’t spend their time in overtly aggressive behavior, and even when they use it, it is rarely violent. Although aggression body language is fundamental in a horse’s lifestyle, fortunately dominant horses – bullies -- are relatively rare. It’s probably why herd members usually get along together so well.

    His second basic communication device is cooperation. Cooperation is the most important characteristic of herd behavior – without it there would be no herd – and body language is the tool that makes it work. Cooperation between herd members implies mutual trust. Without trust a horse will see every new thing as a threat from which he must escape. Consider a grazing herd; each member knows the whereabouts and actions of every other member present, and through trust and body language, he knows that all is safe and content.

    The body language of cooperation is often the antithesis of the body language of aggression; eyes are soft and ears are up, the head is down, grazing, amid a group of herdmates. Horses will lay on the ground for a brief nap in the presence of others; a “sentinel” horse will remain standing and watchful. These are body language messages of trust and acceptance. Two friends will groom each other, obviously in each other’s intimate zone. The foal will work its mouth in the presence of older, mature horses, an action sometimes called “snapping”, which is far from a threat, but rather a message that says, “I’m young, small and weak, and I mean you no harm. Be nice to me.”

    We tend to think of body language as a system of clearly understood signals, and it is, but there is so much more to it than many of us realize. Because of the subtle nature of many body language signals, they occur without our being consciously aware of them. Yet we do pick up many of these tiny clues without realizing it – and so does your horse. You catch his eye moving to look at you while he’s facing off to the side, and you know that he’s paying attention; that’s body language. He sees and interprets a twitch of your eyebrow. Many a trick circus horse has been trained to “count” by tapping a forefoot just by reacting to eyebrow twitches.

    While both horses and people communicate with their own species using body language, it might be assumed that there is a vast gulf between these two disciplines, but this is not the case. We think of ourselves as primarily verbal communicators, but there is surprising research that indicates that we communicate face-to-face verbally only one-third of the time – fully two-thirds of our intercommunication is via body language! Because of the similarities in body language used by horses and ourselves, how interesting it would be if, with some concentrated effort, we were able to bridge that gap somewhat and develop much greater mutual cooperation, understanding and empathy.

  • Grateful for the Journey

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Chase and I are planning a party. We’re celebrating one year of the Dog Gone Reading Program at the Valley Library, where the kids read to Chase to improve their reading skills. Ginny the librarian, the kids, and their families will join us on a Saturday to celebrate, hear Chase’s story, present participation awards to the kids, and share some treats. Chase led me into this work, and he and I have felt such joy from seeing the kids improve their reading skills. We love to hear the kids read, and have enjoyed helping them learn more about dogs. Chase doesn’t have a kid at home, so he gets to spend time with kids. It’s a win-win. One benefit from this program that I didn’t anticipate is the opportunity for kids to learn about and become comfortable with dogs. Most of the kids don’t have a dog at home, or haven’t spent time with a calm dog that they can read with. One little girl was afraid of dogs and told me that Chase is the only dog she isn’t afraid of. He instinctively bows in front of her so his face is lower than hers. I think he’s sensitive to her fear and is trying to appear smaller. He’s also wagging his tail like crazy in a silly play bow, which is hard to resist. This little girl and her family are considering getting a dog, and have researched different breeds at the library. I do my best to answer their questions. I know they won’t enter into dog ownership lightly. One day the little girl told me that ‘Taking care of a dog is a big responsibility!’ She must have heard that at home. But you and I know the rewards are worth it.

    We have something else to celebrate. Since Chase began his cancer journey in July and Bandit began his in September, we’ve been on a roller coaster ride. Chase had surgery in July to remove a tumor from his colon, then had 21 rounds of radiation therapy in July and August. On February 18th, a CT scan showed no evidence of disease. So we are hoping now that Chase is cancer free! One of my dreaded thoughts about possibly losing Chase to cancer was that his loss would be taken hard by everyone at the library as well as our own family. Chase is not a young dog and will be nine years old this year. Yet we hope he has many healthy years left. In February, just after the roller coaster reached its peak for Chase, it began a steep descent for Bandit, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in September. The change of pace came steep and fast, and we had to adjust quickly. Bandit had been taking a daily chemo pill since September. Regular blood and urine tests had showed that he was doing well. He went for our usual long walk and insisted on several games of jolly ball every day. But in mid-March he began showing that he was in pain. We were all sore from walking on the ice and snow, and at first I thought he would feel better once the snow melted. We gave him additional pain medications, but they didn’t seem to help much. On March 14th, we learned that Bandit’s kidneys were failing and his white blood cell count was very low. The disease he had fought so valiantly was winning. We weren’t able to alleviate his pain and I did not want to ask one more thing from this dog who had lived every day to the fullest and had given me so much already.  On March 14th I went for a walk with Chase and Cay, leaving Bandit in the house. I thought the walk would be too much for him. But the following morning, Bandit insisted on going for one last walk up on the hill. I was astonished that he could climb the hill, but true to his always intrepid spirit, he led the way. He and I spent some of our last precious moments together up on that hill where we have walked almost every day of his life. There, my Bandit, my inner fire, brought me the ball, played in the snow, rolled in the dirt, and took everything in for one last time. I think he was doing it for me. On March 15th, knowing that Bandit’s condition was not reversible, and that a morphine derivative was not alleviating his pain, we set Bandit’s spirit free from the body that was failing him.

    I cannot begin to tell you how much Bandit has changed my life. But I suppose if you’ve been reading along, you may already know. A miracle brought this little red charmer to me in 2004.  He appeared as a bolt out of the blue http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2448. He was a lead-or-get-out-of-the-way kind of guy, so I had to step up just to stay ahead of him. He jumped out of bed every morning ready to face the day. And, until his body failed him, he was always ready and eager to work—in obedience, Rally, agility, sheep herding, cattle herding, tracking, chasing the ball, you name it. I had never herded livestock, let alone cattle, before determining that I would give Bandit the chance to do what he was bred to do. He earned many ribbons when we were competing, including many second places. But the only blue ribbon he earned was for herding cattle. Moving a herd of cattle around a field with him gave me a sense of peace and accomplishment like nothing else. When 55-pound Bandit was rolled by a cow, he jumped right back up and bit her on the nose, turning her back to the herd. To me this was a great example of how to live your life. If anyone could pack 15 years of living into 10, Bandit could. He changed me to a glass-half-full kind of person. Attitude is everything. Prior to Bandit’s passing, and several times since, I have been visited by bald eagles. Whenever I feel especially sad, one or several of them appear. There seems to be an amazing, intriguing connection. I’m not quite ready to write more about Bandit just yet, but I promise I will write more next time. Our little pack is mourning, and yet we have a party to plan. Remembering Bandit, my true companion, my inner fire.

  • Optimization of Your Horse’s Water Intake

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Last month we discussed your horse’s water requirements and what factors may influence those requirements. This month we will discuss the best management techniques available to fulfill those water needs. Remember that water needs will vary greatly according to diet, temperature and amount of exercise. But ensuring that the horse consumes adequate water may not be as easy as we think.

    First of all, we should consider the manner in which we provide water to the horse. If we remember where a horse naturally would drink water (out of streams, ponds etc), modern management systems are often quite different. Automatic waters may be massive time savers for people, but what do horses actually prefer? Many horseman may acknowledge that horses enjoy drinking from buckets far more than automatic waters. Indeed this has actually been borne out in the scientific literature. Given a choice, horses used buckets over automatic waterers almost exclusively. The type of waterer may also influence horse’s drinking behavior. In a study of horses never exposed to automatic waters, horses preferred float valve waters compared to push valves. Push valve waterers are those in which a horse must use some force of its muzzle against the valve. In fact, in that study, horses never consumed water from the push valves at all. It was believed the larger available reservoir of water in the float waterers encouraged the horses to drink more. In addition, push valves have a somewhat startling effect of the noise of water refilling the waterer. Horses were reluctant to return to the waterer after being startled.

    Finally, the normal intake rate of water by a horse actually exceeds the flow rate of most waterers. Therefore a horse would need to drink much more often when using a low flow waterer. This may actually cause the horse to reduce its intake compared to being offered bucketed water. Now, this does not mean that automatic waters are out, but when selecting a waterer, look for one that maintains a larger reservoir of water or has larger surface area. Try to find a quiet waterer as well. Certainly horses can learn to use push valve waters, but during the training period careful observation should be employed to prevent dehydration. It may also be helpful to install a monitoring system in the pipeline feeding the waterer so that water consumption can be monitored.

    Traveling with horses is also a key time to closely monitor water intake. Horses may reduce water intake for many reasons when being trailered for long distance. Stress, unfamiliar flavors of water, reduced feed intake and increased water losses may all create a state of dehydration in your horse. Often during travel, horses will reduce their feed intake, which subsequently reduces water intake. Remember that feed intake and water consumption are linked closely together. Reduction of water intake may lead to dehydration as horses typically increase water losses through sweating while trailering. Often we fail to consider how much muscular work a horse must perform to balance on long trips. Reduction of water availability may decrease your horse’s desire to eat as well. Thus, proper water and feed intake are a must for traveling horses. It is important that we try to break this cycle of reduced feed and water intake to ensure a healthy happy horse when it reaches its final destination.

    Horses may also be reluctant to consume water which has an unfamiliar flavor. Addition of a flavoring agent may accustom a horse to a unique flavor which can mask new tastes. However, it is important to introduce the flavoring agent at a home. Horses accept a new flavors more readily when they are not stressed and are in their home environment. Use a training period prior to travel so that you do not discourage your horse from drinking. Also, in a test between apple and clover flavors, horses clearly preferred apple flavored water. There are multiple products available, so choose one that your horse likes.

    Horses also drink when they eat, thus it is important to offer water simultaneously. Despite the fact that some horses may like to prefer dipping their hay in water, this is a normal behavior and need not be discouraged. While it may be messy, horses may due this to moisten their dry feed and make it easier to chew. In fact, in recent studies, horses consumed their hay much faster when it had been previously soaked. Presumably this was due to the ease of chewing of the soaked hay. This strategy may be helpful for horses which may have dental issues. Others have examined the particle length of forage fed to horses as a way to alter water intake. It has been suggested that chopping hay may encourage water intake or change water dynamics in the hindgut during long term exercise. However, water intake in Arabians fed either long stem hay or chopped hay did not differ, nor did the moisture percentage in the feces. Ultimately the total amount of forage consumed will directly influence water intake.

    Horses are also sensitive to the temperature of their water. In horses completing work which created both dehydration and an elevation in temperature, horses initially preferred a saline solution that was 50 F compared to lukewarm or warm water. However, after about 20 minutes, the horses preferred the lukewarm water. Presumably the horses preferred the cooler water in order to help with thermoregulation. Season also affects water consumption. During cold weather horses reduce their water intake compared to more moderate temperatures. Therefore it is much easier for horses to become dehydrated in the winter, especially if their access to water is limited by ice formation. Horses actually prefer to drink water that is luke-warm compared to icy water. Clearly offering only icy water in winter can easily cause dehydration and potentially lead to colic. Therefore providing a tank or bucket heater in the winter is an important step in health management in the winter. Additionally, adding salt to the diet of the horse compared to offering only a free choice salt block may encourage water intake during cold temperatures. Other solutions to encourage water intake during cold weather include adding water to either pelleted feeds or creating bran mashes. In fact, in one study, horses fed a mash actually consumed more water voluntarily then horses fed a dry concentrate.

    So, while you may lead the horse to water, and it may not drink; t it helps to have a source of water the horse actually prefers! Following these simple strategies can help ensure that your horse is always well hydrated.

  • Egg Bound Hens

    Written By Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily

    Considering that a chicken lays an egg every 26 hours or so, it's no wonder that things sometimes go wrong. Occasionally, an egg will get stuck in a hen’s oviduct and she will become egg bound. Signs of an egg bound hen include sitting on the ground or dragging wings, fluffing up, lethargy and closed eyes. Frequently, an egg bound hen’s tail will be down and most likely she will be straining or pumping her backside. Upon closer examination you may notice liquid dripping from her vent. You may even be able to feel an egg-shaped lump.

    Causes of Egg Binding - More common in young pullets, egg binding could be due to a large or double yolked egg that is too large to pass through, genetics, stress, dehydration, internal worms, low-quality feed, poor health or a calcium deficiency. Calcium is needed for proper muscle contraction. Too much protein in a hen's diet can also cause egg binding.

    You want to handle your egg bound hen carefully to avoid breaking the egg inside her. A broken egg can become infected and lead to peritonitis, which is caused by egg material stuck inside the hen and must be treated immediately with an antibiotic and probiotic powder to build up her good bacteria. Even if the egg is not broken, the condition must be treated quickly. An egg bound hen will die if she is not able to pass the egg within 48 hours, so once you have made your diagnosis, treatment should start immediately.

    Treatment for Egg Binding - Bring the hen into the house and soak her in a plastic tub in your bathtub.

    Submerge her lower body and vent in warm water with some Epsom salts for about 20 minutes, gently rubbing her abdomen. Remove her gently from the bath and towel dry her, blotting her feathers carefully, then blow dry her with a hair dryer set on low heat.

    Rub some vegetable oil around her vent and very gently massage her abdomen once more then put her in quiet, dark location - such as a large dog crate or cage. You want to create moist heat, so set the cage over a pan of hot water, put a heating pad and towel on the bottom of the crate or set up a heat lamp, then drape a towel over the cage.

    Give your egg bound hen an eyedropper of Nutri-Drench and 1cc of liquid calcium. Then give her some time to herself. Repeat the soak in the tub every hour or so until she lays her egg.

    As a last resort, a visit to a vet is recommended or, if you can see the egg, you can try to carefully extract the contents of the egg using a syringe. Then you will need to gently crush the shell, keeping the fragments attached to the membrane and remove it using vegetable oil squirted in and around the vent. This is risky and carries with it the danger of your hen contracting peritonitis, so should ONLY be used after all other remedies have been tried.

    Fortunately, being egg bound is not all that common, and there's a good chance you may never have a hen suffer from it, but it's still good to know the signs and how to treat it.

  • Kidding

    Written By Janice Spaulding, founder of Goat School

    Kidding time is the most exciting time on the farm! Will it be a doeling or a buckling? What will its markings be? What color? How many?? Such fun!

    The big kidding question always is: How do I know when my goat is ready to deliver? Watch your does. The poor girl may get crankier as she gets closer. Some does produce copious amounts of mucous, very stringy, hanging down, and even dragging on the ground. This is a sign that labor is imminent. Our Boer doe, NanC, used to go 4 or 5 days with a drippy butt, other goats do not have any mucous at all.

    Watch their udders. You will see changes as their delivery date draws near. In some goats the udder expands greatly over time, others will expand just a few hours before delivery. As labor gets closer the udder gets very big, solid feeling, and almost shiny in appearance, often called “strutted” udder.

    For Angora’s, (or any longer haired goat) make sure, if the goat hasn’t been sheared, that you crutch her well ahead of time and also trim around the udder. Crutching is cutting away all the hair on the back end and down the back of the legs and around the udder and teats. It will get ruined during birthing process anyway. Make sure the teats are easy to find for those little ones.

    One of the best indicators of impending labor is “calling”. Your doe will walk around looking like she is in a panic, searching for something. She will call out over and over again. Sometimes it’s a very soft call, sometimes a gentle talking to her belly and sometimes a really loud yelling. She is calling to her baby which hasn’t been born yet. At this stage, she should be kidding fairly soon and should be put in a kidding pen.

    If your doe has been calling, it will get more frantic and the calls could end with a prolonged grunting noise. A water bubble will often be visible and will usually break. She will get up, lie down, squat, get up, pee, lie down and so on; so many times it will make you crazy.

    When we hear the sounds of labor beginning over our baby monitor, off we go to the barn. If you have a close relationship with your doe, she may not want to have her kids without you being around! They can hold back their labor for quite some time.

    Once you see that the goat is actually in labor, you will want to put down clean hay in her area and get your gloves ready. DO NOT put your fingers or hands inside the goat unless absolutely necessary! If it becomes evident that the doe needs some help, put some K-Y Jelly on your fingers and insert one finger, massage the orifice of the vulva gently from inside. This will usually relax and lubricate enough for the baby to slide out.

    The kid’s position should be a nose between two little hoofs. This is, of course, the perfect position but it doesn’t always happen. Don’t be alarmed if you see a little tongue hanging out of the kid’s mouth! They sometimes are born this way, and it’s really quite cute!

    After the kids are born, they need to be wiped down quickly. I usually bring the baby around to the front of mom and wipe along with her licking. We work together to keep baby warm and get it dried off. If there is more than one kid, make sure both or all of the babies are kept in front of the doe. You certainly don’t want her to reject any babies.

    Be aware that sometimes the kids are bright yellow when they are born. This will be more evident in the Angora’s. They look like little yellow chicks! This is normal. It usually happens when a baby is a day or two over due. The baby’s internal organs are beginning to function and the baby passes some of the meconium into amniotic fluid, thus coloring it and the baby with it.

    Sometimes the goat’s teat will have a little waxy plug in the end of it, or over the orifice. This is more common in Angoras. This plug needs to be removed so the baby can nurse. By milking a small amount from each teat you will be assured that the teat is free from this plug. If nothing comes out, gently scrape the end of the teat with your finger nail. In stubborn cases, warm cloths will help. Some kids can nurse the plug right out, but others can’t so always make sure you have taken this step.

    Once you are confident that kidding is complete, this is the point where your doe needs a reward. We fill a small bucket with warm water and molasses (1 gallon of water, ¼ to ½ cup of molasses. It gives the doe some extra energy, plus most of them love the taste. They are also very thirsty at this stage.

    During the three or four days that the doe is in her kidding pen with her new kids, I give her extra grain. About 1 ½ times her regular ration along with some supplement.

    Normally the afterbirth (placenta) usually will be delivered in an hour or two. (However, it can take up to 24 hours ) Try to watch for it. We dispose of it in empty grain bags unless the doe decides to eat it. I know this is gross, but there are all kinds of nutrients and vitamins in the placenta that is good for the doe and helps in her healing after birthing. There are also hormones that trigger milk production. Some will eat it and some most definitely will not.

    One of the reasons to sequester your doe during labor and afterward is for her and her babies to bond. Very rarely, but it does happen, a doe will reject her kid. You will have to take the upper hand here. The mom will have to be held while someone else gets the babe on the teat. A 4X4 kidding pen is very adequate for even the biggest of goats.

    We weigh the babies immediately after birth, and again when the babies are 24 hours old. This will assure you that they are nursing properly. We weigh very often during the first month, just to keep track of what kind of gain the kids of each mom has.

    Mom will get a very yucky, crusty area on and around her tail. Once she is finished streaming (getting rid of what is left in her uterus) it gets all dried up and cakey. You can trim it off with some scissors. Some of it will pull off and parts will just brush off. It is best to clean her up especially in fly season!

    Let’s address the kids and their poop. The first poop is a black tar like substance called meconium which hopefully, mom will clean up for you! Otherwise, it’s difficult to clean up. Warm water and a good butt soak will work nicely to soften and loosen up this gooey substance. I also use baby shampoo if necessary.

    Once the meconium passes, the next bowel movements will be bright yellow, about the same color as yellow mustard. Mom will usually clean this up too, but if she doesn’t you will have to. If this yellow poop cakes over the anal opening, it will get hard and make it impossible for the little one to have a bowel movement. This will eventually cause death. Through the years, I have found this tends to be more of a problem with Angora’s. I think it’s more difficult for the mom to clean up all those little curls around the butt area.

    Most of the time you can pull the cakey mess off, other times it will take a butt soak.

    Want to learn more? Come to Goat School! Our spring class will be held Saturday, May 24th and Sunday, May 25th with a Goat Milk Soap and Goat Cheese Making Class on Monday, May 26th! Go to www.goatschool.com/id28.html for more information!

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