Written By Dr. Kris HineyWhile 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.
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?
Written By Walt Friedrich
Recognize the famous opening lines from the old TV show, “Mr. Ed”? Biologically, it’s a true statement. But look again: there is one huge separator in horsedom, and all horses fall into one category or the other. They are either wild/feral or domestic, and while biology and appearances are the same, the lifestyles are completely different. We’ll refer to American ferals here, though much of their condition is mirrored in the world’s true wild horses.
We, in America, can thank the Spanish of 500 years ago for reintroducing the horse onto this continent after an absence of tens of thousands of years. Columbus brought several dozen domestic horses with him, leaving them on the island of Puerto Rico when he returned to Spain, so they might reproduce and, later, serve future Spaniards in quest of wealth on this continent. Those explorers and gold-seekers used them quite handily. Thus, over time, they found their way to northern South America and Central America, ultimately into Mexico, thriving everywhere on their journey. Of course, there were escapees into wild country, notably into what is now southwestern United States, where the fugitives did what horses do – they organized themselves into bands and continued to thrive, but without aid from humankind. These were the progenitors of the modern feral western mustang. The “training” they had received while in captivity was quickly forgotten, as they gained competence in the free but dangerous lifestyle of American ferals. Learning literally “on the run”, over time these magnificent creatures thrived as a transplanted species, developing into very large herds with distinct social orders.
Then, as fate would have it, the tables turned somewhat as our West gradually became populated. Settlers tapped this now-vast resource for animals that provided transportation as well as labor – and there we were, with domestic horses as part of our lives, but with a twist. Our society lived closely enough with both domestic and feral horses that we could easily recognize their differences in lifestyle and behavior.
Good thing, that; by bringing horses into our families in a very real sense, we are easily able to compare them with their feral counterparts. Very convenient – but by taking him from his natural environment, we also take on the responsibility for his well-being. It’s a huge responsibility, since the Caretaker of the ferals is Mother Nature herself, who can do a much better job of it than we can. Fortunately, when we hit a snag, as we often do, we can look across the way and maybe see how Nature does it.
Many of those snags we hit sort of come with the territory. The life of a feral is rather simple, and the needs are generally rather easily met. For instance, as grazers, food for feral horses consists primarily of growing plants, but stands of growing plants are often scattered in our western wilderness, causing feral herds to move constantly in quest of suitable and sufficient sustenance. It is estimated that ferals typically move 20 or more miles every day as they seek out food. Sounds like a tough life, but that’s what it makes these horses…tough. That’s a lot of exercise, it keeps them healthy and fit, burning the energy coming from the sugars in the grasses. Pretty simple – eating a variety of growing plants, lick at mineral deposits, drink fresh water, and move, move, move. The entire species’ success is based upon that simplicity.
But now consider their brothers, the domestics. Rather than in the freedom of the open range, many live fetlock-deep in relatively lush grass in our pastures, and in addition, we provide hay and grain. So they typically have little problem getting food, and they need do practically no work to get it.
What about shelter? For the feral, it’s whatever and wherever he can find it – a stand of trees, thick brush, a rockpile to act as a windbreak. Now, that’s “roughing it”. The domestic, on the other hand, often has a stable with stalls, or at least a run-in shed
Food and shelter, the basics of life. So it would appear that the advantage goes to the domestics.
But not so fast, there’s a price to pay for those benefits. The combined results of Mother Nature’s nurturing and their own genetics supports the ferals’ ability to survive and prosper in their simple but sometimes harsh reality, and Darwin’s survival of the fittest – natural selection, actually -- precept keeps the gene pool healthy. Domestics, however, often live their privileged lives within the confines of a fence. A horse has evolved to move, almost constantly, and with the fenced-in restriction, it’s up to his humans to see that he gets some work – but rarely 20 miles per day!
The less-fortunate domestic finds himself living in the confines of a stall for much if not all of the time – this poor fellow misses not only movement, but also fresh air and sunshine, and, importantly, the ability to keep something in his stomach all the time by grazing. Now, who would think that an empty stomach can lead to an ulcer? Yet that seems to be the case; a stall-bound domestic, unable to feed sometimes for hours, compared to a feral, grazing a little all the time, is much more likely to develop ulcers. It is claimed by some that gastric ulcers are very common in domestics, often going undetected or undiagnosed, to the horse’s detriment.
All horses are created, designed and built to eat a variety of growing plants, and thrive on them. Grain never was on his original menu – yet it’s standard for most domestics, largely, some believe, out of habit. When a horse pulled a plow all day, he needed more energy than forage provided, and grain – carbohydrates -- filled the bill. But today’s typical domestic, whose biggest workload amounts to carrying a rider from time to time, rarely needs help from extra carbs. And when an overload rushes through his digestive system and into his cecum, he’s in danger of serious complications, like colic, laminitis, founder.
The natural diet of a feral is rather nicely balanced, thanks to the variety of plants he ingests along with the mineral licks he visits for that extra “punch”, and he takes in water untampered by civilization, then tops it off with constant exercise. The result is a naturally healthy horse, rarely afflicted with common ailments of domestics, such as colic, ulcers, laminitis, founder, navicular disease, Cushings, Insulin Resistance, even rain scald, just to scratch the surface of a long list.
Though lacking the benefits of a free lifestyle, domestics can do almost as well as long as they are properly fed and cared for. Grazing the same variety of grass every day, eating the same type of hay, hardly qualifies as a well-balanced diet, resulting in horses “old” before their time.
What can we do about it? It’s not rocket science -- feed healthy and well-balanced diets, and ensure as much exercise as we can provide. The exercise part is easy and fun for both ourselves and our horse – riding! -- and get him out of his stall and into the field as much as possible. The diet part means back off on the store-bought feed, then take that first, giant step: get his hay analyzed. Armed with that list of nutrients he takes in, we can supplement what’s lacking easily. But be selective, and read the labels carefully. It’s not just what’s in it, how much of each nutrient and how they balance is equally important.
A good general supplement will be rich in Omega-3s, magnesium, zinc and copper, but contain little or no iron (the horse gets all he needs from grazing) – these minerals are often deficient in pasture grasses and hays, but they are vital for good equine health. One of the best such supplements is Omega Fields’ Omega Horseshine® (www.omegafields.com).
There are many laboratories that will analyze your hay. Contact your local Ag Extension for names. One of the best is Dairy One in Ithaca, New York (www.dairyone.com).
There is a great little book you can buy or borrow from your library – it’s entitled, “Beyond the Hay Days”, written by Rex Ewing. It’s an excellent, easy-to-read reference on equine nutrition. It belongs on your shelf for quick reference if you’re serious about feeding your beloved equine companion properly. It’s available at Amazon (www.amazon.com – do a search on the home page) as well as through many book stores.
Written By Leigh PyronA few years ago I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner by a good friend of mine. There were 15 people in all and everyone was focused on drinks, conversation and preparation. It was just about time for everyone to take their seats as the turkey was being pulled out of the oven. My friend’s husband carved the turkey, filled a plate full of freshly carved meat and walked away from the bird to deliver the plate to the table of hungry guests. No one paid much attention or noticed that the big yellow Labrador named Bandit had somehow escaped from the bedroom where he had been secured until the food portion of the festivities were over.Labs are pretty well known for their voracious appetites when it comes to human food and Bandit was no exception. As the turkey was being delivered to the dining room I saw Bandit, out of the corner of my eye, enter the kitchen. I looked from the dog to the bird and realized what was about to happen. I got up out of my chair and ran to the kitchen yelling for Bandit to “leave-it” as he went for the turkey. I was too late and all that could be heard was the loud crash of the plate hitting the floor. There in front of me stood good old Bandit covered in turkey juice with a big turkey leg hanging out of his mouth. He was looking at all of us like “What? It’s just a drumstick…” What else could we do but laugh! Thank goodness we at least saved one plate-full of turkey to feed the humans.“Leave-it” is a valuable command for many situations. It should be one of the first things that you teach your puppy. It’s uses are endless, but these are a few things that come to mind
.· Leaving food and clothing items alone· Staying out of the garbage· Leaving another dog’s toys or food alone· Stop eating or rolling in foul things on the trail or walk· Stop an attempt to go towards another dog or a cat, coyote, skunk or any other animalTry to be alert and proactive whenever you use this exercise. “Leave-it” works best if you use it the second before your dog gets a chance to react to something. In the beginning, be consistent by rewarding him every time he does what you want with a treat that has a high value to the dog, like chicken or hot dogs or any strong-scented and appealing dog treat like Omega Fields’ Omega Nuggets. After a few weeks or so you can begin to treat him every other time or less, and reward him alternately with praise and affection or even a favorite toy. Most importantly, have fun with this exercise. You will be very surprised how fast your dog will pick it up, and how often you will use it! Be sure to keep a positive, friendly tone in your voice whenever you practice this. Training should always be fun for you and your dog.This training exercise can be done from the floor or from a standing position.“Leave-it” Floor PositionTake a large piece of treat in your right hand and show the dog the treat. Then put the treat on the floor and quickly cover it with your hand. Let him try to get at it by sniffing and licking at your hand. The minute he stops touching your hand say, “Yes” and reward him with a treat from your left hand. Be sure to keep the treat in your left hand out of sight by holding it behind your back while he works to get the treat from the right hand. Repeat this three times. The fourth time you do it add the words “Leave-it” as he moves towards your right hand. If he stops or hesitates say, “Yes!” and reward him with a treat from your left hand.
Once you’ve seen that he’s getting the hang of it, start setting the treat on the floor uncovered and say, “Leave-it.” If he stops or hesitates say, “Yes” and reward him. Remember to always guard your treat on the floor and be prepared to cover it up with your hand if he goes for it. Also, never reward him with the “Leave-it” treat, only reward him from the other treat hand.
On occasions when I’m working with a dog or puppy that has been rescued and I don’t know how he may react to food, or when the owner tells me that their dog or puppy is very mouthy or aggressive when he takes treats, I use the standing position to train “Leave-it.”“Leave-it” Standing PositionStart out by showing the dog the treat in your right hand and then make a fist, closing the treat inside your hand. Now extend your hand out with the fist still closed letting him sniff and lick at your fist as he tries to get at it. The minute he stops touching your hand say, “Yes” and reward him with a treat from your left hand. Again, repeat this three times and on the fourth time add the words “Leave-it” as he moves towards your right hand. If he stops or hesitates say, “Yes!” and reward him with a treat from your left hand.Once you’ve seen that he’s getting the hang of it, move to showing him the treat in your right hand, leaving your hand open. As he goes for the treat say, “Leave-it.” If he stops or hesitates, quickly say “Yes” and reward him with the treat from your left hand. If he goes for the treat and doesn’t stop, close your fist and start again. Remember, never reward him with the “Leave-it” treat.After I teach the basics of “Leave-it” I step it up a level and move the training into the kitchen. Almost every client that wants basic obedience training for their puppy always asks me the same questions… “How do I get him to stop going for food and how do I stop him from going for the dirty dishes in the dishwasher?The first thing I do is ask the client if they have any tasty human food in the refrigerator that I could use to entice their dog with. Once, I even pulled out a whole precooked chicken and set it on the kitchen floor and believe it or not, after successfully perfecting the first stage of teaching “Leave-it”, this dog didn’t even try to go for the chicken! He waited patiently knowing that he would be immediately rewarded with yummy high value treats if he left it alone.When training the dog to leave the dishwasher alone, I open the dishwasher and pull out the lower rack of dirty dishes. Then I take the same tasty human food from the refrigerator and set it on top of the rack. I use the same steps asking the dog to “leave-it” and immediately rewarding for doing so.“Leave-it” is a very valuable command and one that every dog owner should teach their dog at an early age. Many of the frustrations of owning a puppy can be nipped in the bud by applying this command early and often. The puppy who will become the adolescent and then adult dog, will know what things are off limits and what things are Ok. Also, always be sure to provide plenty of durable toys for your dog to play with so he won’t look for makeshift toys in the bottom of your closet or the garbage can. Early obedience training is one of the keys to a happy and fulfilling relationship with your dog.
Written By Jenny PavlovicThe following is excerpted from the book, A Book of Miracles. Copyright © 2011 by Bernie Siegel.Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com.In January, I took my very old dog Rusty to the vet for the last time. Rusty had been a stray, found in a neighboring state. I had adopted him from the local animal shelter and we had been together for over seven years. Now his liver was failing and he was very ill and in pain. Sadly, it was time to let him go.Once the vet gave the injection and Rusty peacefully passed on, I went back out to my truck for Rainbow. She was Rusty’s pal, a much younger and higher energy dog. I led Rainbow in to see Rusty, so she wouldn’t wonder what had happened to him, then took her back out to the truck.Before driving home, I was compelled to go back in to the clinic to get Rainbow a chew toy. I knew she would be lonely as the only dog and would need something to keep her busy. Inside, a blue Australian Cattle Dog (ACD, a.k.a. blue heeler) was standing at the counter with an unfamiliar woman. I was surprised because I didn’t see cattle dogs often and hadn’t seen one at our vet clinic before. I asked the woman if it was okay to pet her dog. I told her that I had just lost my cattle dog mix a few minutes earlier. She encouraged me to pet the blue girl, Opal, and told me that she had a red puppy in her van. He was the last one of the litter and needed a new home. People on her waiting list had been looking for blues. I told her that I had another red heeler mix (Rainbow) in the truck and that we like the reds at our house!I hadn’t even thought about where my next dog would come from. Rusty was very old, but had only recently shown signs of illness. The woman, Louanne, told me that while she was driving to the clinic, she’d been overcome by a peaceful feeling that the red puppy would soon find his new home. She offered to bring him over to meet me. At first I resisted, telling her I couldn’t make a decision on a new dog right away and that Rainbow was probably upset about Rusty passing on. I didn’t know how much more emotion my heart could take that day. But Louanne brought the red pup over. To my complete astonishment, he had Rusty’s double red mask and red ears (Louanne had not seen Rusty). He was a very nice, bold, playful puppy and I was taken with him right away. He and Rainbow got along from the beginning. I didn’t want to make an emotional decision, so I asked Louanne for references. Rainbow and I needed to grieve Rusty’s passing. I was exhausted and needed time to think. Louanne and I exchanged information and Rainbow and I went home. I kept thinking about that red puppy, feeling like he belonged with us. It was clear that Rainbow needed a playmate. I did my homework, contacted Louanne’s references, and two weeks later Bandit joined our family.The amazing thing is that I had made an appointment for the vet to come to my home at the end of the day to put Rusty down. But Rusty was suddenly in so much pain that I didn’t want to make him wait, and drove him to the clinic. Louanne lived over an hour away and this was not her regular vet. She had been referred to my vet for Opal to have a special procedure, and had brought puppy Bandit along for the ride. If I hadn’t gone back in to get Rainbow a chew toy, Opal would not have caught my eye at the front counter, and I would not have met Louanne, or Bandit. I believe the sequence of events that brought Bandit to me were not a coincidence. In his pain, Rusty led me to the only red ACD puppy for miles. Bandit was Rusty’s gift to Rainbow and me, to help us heal from the pain of his loss. I think we experienced an everyday miracle and that Bandit was meant to be with us. My mom says that “God winked” that day.Bandit’s formal name is Hillhaven Bolt Out of the Blue. With his puppy antics and his silly rubber chicken, he brought Rainbow and me back to life. He taught me that sometimes the best friends will find you when you least expect them to, and that paying attention to them is important. Jump on a good opportunity when you see it, because life is too short and you may not get the chance again. Bandit has been a wonderful companion, a perfect fit with my personality who has taught me so much about life. He is my bolt out of the blue, my everyday miracle, and my link back to Rusty.A limited number of personally signed copies of A Book of Miracles (hard cover), the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book (hard cover and paperback), and 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey & Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog (paperback) are available for purchase. Please contact me directly at jenny@8StateKate.net with BOOK REQUEST in the subject line. Find more information at www.8StateKate.net.
Written By Kris HineyImagine a bright spring day. You excitedly turn your horse out to indulge in the fresh spring grass as a special treat. You return in a few hours to collect your companion, but instead are met by an unhappy painful horse, slowly limping its way back to the gate.Sound familiar? Unfortunately for some owners, this is an all too real scenario. Many horses suffer from carbohydrate sensitivities, or metabolic syndrome, which make them extremely susceptible to changes in carbohydrates in the diet. One may also hear these horses referred to as insulin resistant, almost like Type II diabetes in humans. In recent years there has been an upsurge in the number of studies and articles written about metabolic syndrome in horses. While awareness in the general public has increased, many horsemen still wonder if their horse is, indeed, one of these individuals. Should they be paying strict attention to every type of carbohydrate their horse consumes? Should horses no longer consume grass? Does their horse need medication? How do you know if your horse truly has metabolic syndrome?Classically, horses with metabolic syndrome are described by a certain appearance. They are typically obese horses which gain weight readily, and are considered “easy keepers”. Breeds with a higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome include the traditional easy keepers such as ponies, Morgans, and Paso Finos. However, metabolic syndrome can be seen in a wide spectrum of breeds including Quarter Horses, Arabians and Thoroughbreds. Beyond just being obese, metabolic horses tend to have regional adiposity, or specific fat deposits on the crest of their neck, over their tailhead, the sides of their abdomen and also in the scrotal or mammary area. The size of the crest of the neck is often the best physical predictor of metabolic syndrome. The thicker the crest, the more likely the horse truly fits into this category. However, it is important to note that it is possible for leaner horses to also suffer from metabolic syndrome. Despite being lean these horses still demonstrate regional adiposity, along with a susceptibility to pasture associated laminitis, as well as insulin resistance. Therefore, if your horse shows symptoms, it may be wise to have it tested, despite it not being overly obese.Unfortunately the most common way horses are diagnosed with metabolic syndrome is the frequency of laminitic bouts. Usually this is seen following grazing on pasture, especially in the spring or fall. These horses may be young or middle aged, which sets them apart from horses who suffer from Cushings disease. However, horses who suffer from metabolic syndrome early in life are certainly more likely to develop Cushings later on. Cushing horses are also distinct in the prevalence of hair coat which does not shed or long curly hair while the metabolic horse has a normal hair coat.Physiologically, these horses demonstrate insulin resistance. Essentially they must secrete larger amounts of insulin compared to a normal horse, in order to stabilize their blood glucose levels. Therefore, their insulin levels remain higher in their bloodstream, which can have a cascade of effects on their body. They also present with elevations in blood lipids, as well as an increase in leptin. Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells or adipocytes, that normally helps in the feeling of satiety (or fullness). However, increased concentrations of leptin may contribute to inflammation in the body. Metabolic horses also have a lower resting thyroxine levels (T4) then their normal counterparts. However, the low level of T4 does not cause insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, but rather is merely a consequence of altered metabolic profiles.So why are these horses so susceptible to laminitis? What could insulin resistance possibly have to do with painful feet? One of the commonalities between the myriad of disorders that can result in laminitis in horses is a disruption of the circulation to the hoof. Insulin is most commonly recognized for its role in glucose disposal, but it is a hormone with systemic effects. It is presumed that sustained hyperinsulinemia promotes vasoconstriction. It is already known that carbohydrate overload induces laminitis by creating vasoconstriction in the hoof, so the hyperinsulinemic horse may be even more susceptible to shifts in carbohydrate intake. This disruption of blood flow to the foot results in hypoxia and tissue damage to the sensitive laminae. Severe bouts may render the hoof wall unstable and allow the coffin bone to rotate downwards within the foot. This may lead to permanent alterations of the hoof structure.Testing for metabolic syndrome frequently involves blood sampling after a short period of fasting (typically 6 hours). Blood is analyzed for glucose and insulin levels that are above normal. The presence of altered adrenocorticortropin releasing hormone can also be tested if Cushings is suspected in an older horse. Further testing can be done if horse’s insulin levels are within the normal range, but metabolic syndrome is suspected. Horses are again removed from feed, and a standard blood sample is taken. Horses are then given a bolus of glucose and then insulin to determine how the body metabolizes these compounds. This provides a more dynamic picture of the horse’s metabolic response to carbohydrates.If your horse has been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, or has show signs of pasture associated laminitis, it is important to start them on a rigorous management protocol. First, as these horses have sensitivities to carbohydrates, concentrates should be removed from the diet. As these horses are typically obese anyhow, there is little need to supply concentrates to them anyhow. If the owner is concerned with mineral and vitamin intake, there are many products which are intended to complement forage only diets. Typically these are pelleted supplements which are fed at very low levels of intake. The obesity issue in the horse should also be addressed. Exercise should be increased to 5 days a week. Not only will this aid in reducing the body weight of the horse, but exercise also enhances glucose clearance from the blood in a non-insulin dependent manner. However, be sure that the horse is not recovering from any laminitic episodes. Pasture intake should also be limited in these horses. Horses should only have access to pasture for a short time or have access to a very small area. If more movement of the horse is desired, a grazing muzzle should be employed to prevent overconsumption of grass. The horse should receive an all forage diet, preferably of grass hay, with intake reduced in order to encourage weight loss. If weight loss is not able to be achieved at an intake of 2% of the body weight, then reduce feed intake to 1.5% of bwt. Unfortunately simple diet restriction may take a long time due to the efficiency of the horses prone to metabolic syndrome. If the horse has greater degrees of insulin resistance, it is advisable to monitor the non-structural carbohydrate composition of the hay, with it ideally below 10%.If horses have persistent issues with metabolic syndrome after calorie restriction, decrease in adiposity, alteration of diet, limitation of pasture intake and exercise have all been employed, then there are medical therapies which can be used. Levothyroxine is effective in improving insulin sensitivity. If all of these measures are followed faithfully, there is no reason that these horses cannot be returned to a metabolically normal state and enjoy a long healthy life.Next month: We will discuss other strategies that have been employed to assist the metabolic horse.
When out and about at dog events, I carry samples of Omega Fields Omega Canine Shine® and Omega Nuggets™. I get plenty of questions about these products, so I asked the folks at Omega Fields to answer the most frequently asked questions. Read on for the FAQs and their answers.Don’t my dogs get all the nutrition they need from their food?No, not usually. In fact, a lack of sufficient Omega-3 fats in many dog foods can lead to inflammation-type diseases: arthritis, cancer, heart trouble, atopy (itching) and many other degenerative diseases. Please read on and see the additional detailed information about dog food at the end of this article*.What’s the difference between Omega Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets? How much should I give to my dog every day? Do I need to give them both?Each of these products is enriched with Omega-3 essential fatty acids and antioxidants to help maintain the health and performance of your dog. The individual formulas and forms differ a bit. The bottom line is that Omega Canine Shine is a much more concentrated supplement while Omega Nuggets are a most convenient and enjoyable way people have found to “treat” their dogs with the benefits of Omega-3 and fiber. Both products provide dogs the full spectrum of Omega-3s available for optimum health, including the Omega-3 naturally found in flaxseed and the Omega-3 naturally found in fish oil. The details are shown below.Omega Canine Shine Supplement:Omega Canine Shine's base of stabilized, ground flaxseed is enhanced with a high percentage of fish oil, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It is the best supplement choice to boost a dog's diet with short-chain Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 from the flax and grains, long-chain Omega-3 from the fish oil, high levels of four all-natural antioxidants, and a strong blend of 17 vitamins and minerals (especially rich in magnesium). Omega Canine Shine is easily top dressed over your dog's food. Because of its high oil content, it sticks quite readily to the dog food bits.Each one-teaspoon serving of Omega Canine Shine (fed at the rate of 1 tsp for every 20 lb dog weight) contains the following Omegas:726 mg - Omega-3 (Alpha Linolenic Acid - ALA)150 mg - Omega-3 (Docosahexaenoic Acid - DHA)30 mg - Omega-3 (Eicosapentaenoic Acid - EPA)221 mg - Omega-6 (Linoleic Acid - LA)214 mg - Omega-9 (Fatty Acid)Omega Nuggets Treat/Supplement:Omega Nuggets are a tasty and nutritious Omega-3 treat/supplement for dogs in all life stages. The Omega Nuggets base of stabilized, ground flaxseed is enhanced with fish oil, plant-based antioxidants, and cranberry fiber for urinary tract health. They are the best treat choice to boost a dog's diet with both short-chain Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 from the flax and grains, long chain Omega-3 from fish oil, high levels of five all-natural antioxidants, and cranberry fiber.Omega Nuggets are convenient and fun to give your dog -- and dogs love them! Feed as desired while training, working, or playing with your dog - or as an anytime treat. Feed the RECOMMENDED AMOUNT of two treats for every ten pounds of dog weight when using as an Omega-3/Antioxidant supplement. Omega Nuggets Omega-3-rich dog treats are also a fun and effective way to supplement your dog with Omega-3.Each serving of two Omega Nuggets treats (fed at the supplement rate of two treats for every 10 lb dog weight) contains the following Omegas:428 mg - Total Omega-3 - (including Alpha Linolenic Acid - ALA, Docosahexaenoic Acid - DHA, and Eicosapentaenoic Acid - EPA)198 mg - Omega-6 (Linoleic Acid - LA)198 mg - Omega-9 (Fatty Acid)Omega Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets provide the correct ratio of essential fatty acids and synergistic antioxidants to promote visibly healthier skin and coat. Improved learning and memory capabilities make training easier. Greater agility, keen eyesight, and approachability will boost performance. Additionally, both products may reduce stress, increase longevity, boost the immune system, and aid urinary tract health -- helping to create healthy, happy, hardy dogs.Can I give Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets to my cat, or do you have a similar product for cats?Currently we do not offer specific feline products but please continue reading for product recommendations for your cats. Although we market Omega Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets for dogs, they really work quite beautifully on cats as well. They would be excellent choices to boost your cat's diet with both short-chain Omega-3 (LNA) from ground flax, long-chain Omega-3 (EPA & DHA) from fish oil, and high levels of four all-natural antioxidants.The dosage for Omega Canine Shine supplement is 1/2 teaspoon for every 10 lbs of cat weight, so you would only need a very little bit of a sprinkle over your cat's food. The recommended amount of Omega Nuggets treats is 2 per day for every 10 lbs of cat weight. Both are very rich in plant and fish-oil based Omega-3's, so your cat is getting the full complement of Omega-3's 6’s and 9’s. Plus the extra plant and vitamin-based antioxidants support optimal health.Omega Canine Shine can turn your regular cat food into a premium cat food, and Omega Nuggets may become your cat’s favorite treat! Do you have products for other animals? What about people?Omega Fields takes pride in providing premium stabilized ground flax, Omega-3-rich products that improve health and longevity for: People (Mega Omega and Simply Omega-3 supplements), Horses (Omega Horseshine, Omega Antioxidant, Omega GRANDE, Omega Nibblers treats, and Omega Stabilized Rice Bran), Dogs (Omega Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets treats), and Chickens (Omega Ultra Egg). Plus, Flies Be Gone fly traps (NO toxins, NO poisons, NO insecticides) greatly reduce fly health issues and nuisance factors for people and all animals. Find special offers and more information on these products at http://www.omegafields.com/all-category.How do the Omega-3s in Omega Fields products help reduce inflammation in dogs?The membrane, or outer coating, of every one of the billions of cells in the dog's body is unusually rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, Omega-3 essential fatty acids are the structural fat that makes up this membrane and plays a vital role in how cells function. To understand how Omega Canine Shine (as a rich source of stabilized Omega-3 essential fatty acids) helps improve a dog's quality of life, let’s take a look at how cells behave when they are aging and/or damaged by trauma such as skin conditions, allergic reactions, injury, surgery, or disease. When a cell is irritated or damaged, or when it begins to age, its membranes break down. As a result, compounds contained within the cell walls are released into the cell matrix. Some of these substances, such as histamine, give rise to inflammation and associated pain.Inflammation is a dog's natural response to skin conditions, allergic reactions, injury, surgery, or disease. Inflammation is characterized by one or more of the following symptoms: redness, intense itching, swelling, heat and moderate to severe discomfort. When skin becomes inflamed, your dog may experience any or all of these symptoms. With skin inflammation, extreme scratching and itching may cause the hair to be rubbed off, exposing sore, broken skin.Researchers have found that "inflammation" in dogs has similar underlying factors: a decrease in cell stability leading to membrane damage, and subsequent release of compounds that promote damage, spasm and inflammation. The powerful Omega-3 essential fatty acids in Omega Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets work by stabilizing the cell membranes, promoting healing of existing cellular damage and helping to prevent further damage. On a practical level, this means quality of life is improved, and you will see your dog experiencing freedom from the allergic reactions of scratching and itching.Note from Jenny: Omega Fields products worked miracles for my dog Cayenne, who was rescued from the Tennessee wilderness as a feral puppy with a very compromised immune system. She came to me with numerous problems, including severe allergies and itching that inflamed her skin and caused her to lose patches of hair. Omega Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets have helped eliminate her itching and supported her coat to grow back silky and plush.How much does it cost (on average) to give my dog Omega Fields products?Omega Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets are very smart buys! There are approximately 200 one-teaspoon servings of Omega Canine Shine in a one-pound pouch and 96 treats in a 12 oz pouch of Omega Nuggets! See ordering information at http://www.omegafields.com/canine-products.html and receive $2 off your order when you enter the code JP2011.How long will it take to see a difference after I begin feeding Omega Fields products to my dog?You can usually expect to see results within four weeks. It sometimes happens sooner but, since every dog has a different metabolism, we usually are comfortable suggesting a minimum of one month.Let's take a very basic look at why Omega Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets (as super rich sources of Omega-3) have such a positive effect on the overall health of your dog's body. As mentioned earlier, the outer membrane of every one of the billions of cells in the dog's body is unusually rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, Omega-3 essential fatty acids are the main structural fat that makes up this membrane. Consequently, they play a vital role in how cells function.Omega-3 essential fatty acids are the first fats utilized by the body. Therefore, when the cell's membrane is healthy it can let in all the good nutrition for the cell, as well as eliminate all the toxins which will be carried out of the cell and removed by the bowels. It is really quite simple: Healthy cells = Healthy body!Since the coat/skin is by far the largest organ on the animal, it will be the first to show the effects of healthy cells with a beautiful, shiny, full, richly colored coat and healthy skin. Omega-3 is effective as a powerful anti-inflammatory, so if you have dogs with arthritis or hip dysplasia, you should notice them have more free range of movement within a one month period.What do I do with the Canine Shine “powder”? How do I feed it to my dog?Omega Canine Shine is in a powder form that is very palatable and can be conveniently sprinkled directly on your dog's normal food. In fact, in taste tests completed at Ontario Nutri Labs, four out of five dogs actually preferred food sprinkled with Omega Canine Shine over food without it!Do Omega Fields products meet AAFCO standards?All Omega Fields' stabilized ground flax products meet and exceed AAFCO standards:* Our Gold Standard Quality Program begins with the selection of the highest quality flaxseed to protect Omega-3 integrity and ensure palatability. Careful selection eliminates damaged seeds and minimizes microbial contamination.* A natural, proprietary processing treatment further ensures that our products have an all-natural, non-GMO, 99.9% pure, stable, fortified flaxseed composition as a rich source of Omega-3 in the diet. This mild treatment provides long-term stability and palatability, boosts metabolizable energy, and inactivates growth inhibitors typically found in whole grains. Note: The process is all natural, no chemicals are added, and the ground flax is kosher certified. Stabilization consists of how we handle and process the seed. The finished stabilized ground flaxseed is a raw, whole food with full nutritional value.* Flaxseed is purchased from producers in colder, northern climates. Because of the shorter, intense growing season, the flaxseed from these areas contains a higher percentage of Omega-3 than other flaxseeds.
* The ENRECO® (our parent company) / Omega Fields® manufacturing facility is American Institute of Baking (AIB) inspected to the highest GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and food safety standards. AIB is an inspection program for food-grade manufacturing plants that establishes and recognizes a standard for consistency in food safety. ENRECO® / Omega Fields® is proud to have earned an AIB “SUPERIOR” rating for the last four years in a row.Do Omega Fields products contain any GMO ingredients?As part of our company’s standard operating procedure, we do not purchase any GMO flaxseed or ingredients. Our AIB inspected, food-grade manufacturing plant is GMO free. Additionally, Omega Fields’ products do not contain artificial preservatives. Omega Fields is very proud that all of our manufactured products are “Made in the U.S.A.”.Is Omega Canine Shine recommended for pregnant dogs?Omega Canine Shine is recommended as a safe supplement for pregnant dogs. During pregnancy the dog's body becomes deficient in Omega-3 because fast-growing brains, eyes, and organs of her puppies utilize most of the available Omega-3. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are necessary for normal growth and development and cannot be manufactured in the body. Sufficient amounts of Omega-3 must be added to the pregnant dog's diet. During pregnancy and lactation the recommended daily serving size for the mother should be increased two or three times.
After the puppies are born and eating solid food, they should also be given Omega-3. Adjust the amount according to the puppy’s weight. They only need a little sprinkle.Does Omega Fields pay you (Jenny) to say these things?Note from Jenny: Omega Fields provided me detailed information about their products. They don’t pay me in cash, but rather pay me in Omega Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets. So you know I really believe in these wonderful products! I have seen the amazing effects on my dogs and have now begun giving them to my cat too.*Omega Fatty Acids - What’s the Right Amount?How much Omega-3 is enough?And how much Omega-6 is too much for your dog?Let’s get some definitions out of the way first. Omega-3 and Omega-6 are called "Essential" Fatty Acids. Because they are not able to be produced by animals it is essential that they be added to a dog’s diet. Omega-3 corrects many dry skin problems and has been reported to decrease arthritic stiffness. People have reported that it gives them and their dogs more energy.Omega-3 and Omega-6 sourcesOmega-3 comes from fish, flaxseed and from the meat of animals that have lived on grass and leaves. Omega-6fatty acids come from corn and from the meat of animals that have lived mostly on corn.Omega-3 and Omega-6 compete with each other in the metabolic machinery of mammals. Excess levels of Omega-6 lead to inflammation-type diseases: arthritis, cancer, heart trouble, atopy (itching) and many other degenerative diseases. Because the body uses the same pathways to metabolize both Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids and since too much Omega-6 inhibits the metabolism of Omega-3, finding the ideal ratio of the two types of fatty acids is important.According to the book, The Omega Plan, by Dr. Artemis Simopoulus (1998, Harper Collins), in the last 100 years the amount of Omega-3 in humans’ and pets’ diets has decreased 80%, whereas the Omega-6 amount has increased 300%.Eating a balanced diet is key!Dr. Simopoulus has found that eating a balanced diet, including the right fats, is the key to good health and longevity for animals and humans. Getting enough Omega-3 fats is key, she says.Recommended ratioBased on research with dogs, canine product researcher, Dr. Greg Reinhart ("The Cutting Edge of Dog Food Technology", Gregory Reinhart, Ph.D. and Daniel P. Carey, DVM, www.GoodDogMagazine.com/articles/) recommends a ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 ranging between 5 to 1 and 10 to 1. Researcher Dr. Doug Bibus of the University of Minnesota ("Metabolism of a-Linolenic Acid from Flaxseed in Dogs", Bibus D, Stitt P., 1998) completed a fatty acid study with dogs. He suggests a lower ratio: between 2 to 1 and 4 to 1. If you use the 5 to 1 ratio as a middle value, this means that dog food that contains 1% Omega-6 should contain 0.2% of Omega-3. Looking at all of the acceptable ratios, you should find somewhere between 2 and 10 times as much Omega-6 as Omega-3 in the food.Pet food labels – are you confused yet?Most Super-Premium pet foods have about 2% to 3% of Omega-6 and thus should contain 0.4% to 0.6% of Omega-3.Very few pet food labels will tell you the exact level of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. Some companies we checked didn’t have the data available (shame!). That means you have to guess.You can estimate the fatty acid content. If the dominating ingredients are corn or corn germ and poultry fat or vegetable oil, you can be sure that the dog food contains mostly Omega-6. Corn oil has a 60 to 1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3, and poultry fat has a 20 to l ratio. Those foods need to be balanced out.Balancing actTo easily provide a more recommended fatty acid ratio to help balance out your dog’s food, you can supplement the food with Omega Canine Shine® - 1 teaspoon for every 20 lb dog weight. Beware of lipid (fat) supplements, as many of them are loaded with Omega-6 and not very much Omega-3. Better to stick with the Omega-3-rich, whole ground flaxseed and refined, medicinal-grade fish oil supplement - Omega Canine Shine®. Plus, Omega Nuggetsdog treats are a fun andconvenient Omega-3/antioxidant treat you can feel good about giving your dog!
Written By Barbara O'Brien
Regular readers of my column know that my husband Kevin really loves his animals. The horses, sheep, goats, ducks, cats, and dogs all thrive under his watchful eye and tender care. He calls them by name and they respond eagerly. The horses hope for the apple treats in his pocket, the goats and sheep hope for the pen gate to swing open, the chickens and ducks hope for some kitchen scraps, the cats hope for an early dinner, the Border Collie and the German Shepherd hope for a stick to be tossed, and the Aussie hopes for the magic word: “Sheep.” And they all hope that Kevin can be convinced to turn their hopes into reality.
So it’s no surprise that the latest additions to the farm have fallen for Kevin.A few months ago we were asked to provide some Canada Geese for a commercial. They had to walk back and forth across a golf course putting green and look as destructive as possible.I located a breeder in the SE corner of Minnesota. Kevin and I drove down to buy the geese. We pulled into a beautifully kept farm with a century old barn that gleamed in the late afternoon sun. The elderly owner and his son came out to greet us. The geese, over one hundred of them, were in a penned area that spanned two acres and had a big pond in the middle. As soon as they saw the owner many of the geese ran over to him with beaks open and heads bowing up and down. The owner spoke quietly to them and they followed him around. The owner and his son selected two pairs of geese, caught them, and loaded them into the crates in the back of our van.Everything was done with great gentleness and patience and I was impressed with how tame the geese were. The owner and his son had taken great pains not to stress the birds and they seemed to respond by staying calm and undisturbed.The geese did well in the commercial. We fenced off the perimeter of the shot and used corn to keep the geese located in one place. Gently, we encouraged them to walk where needed for the shot. Their wings had been clipped shortly after hatching, so they were unable to fly and we did not have to worry about losing them. Hand-raised and bred from a long line of hatchery Canada Geese, they would not have fared very well in the wild.After the commercial was over Kevin and I took them home to our farm. We turned them into a pen to keep them safe and help them understand that this was their new home. Kevin spoke gently to them as he fed them. “This is a good place,” he told them. “We have corn for you and there is plenty of grass to eat. You can make friends with the ducks…I think you will like it here.”The four geese were promptly given names by my sons that honored their country of origin: Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, and Nova Scotia. They are impressive creatures with gray backs, long black necks, and thoughtful but sharp dark eyes.Since I usually do the chicken chores, I was the one who fed them and filled their water. They soon learned to defend themselves from the chickens who tried to steal their corn. The geese always regarded me with suspicion. They eyed me cautiously as they came up to drink and made certain not to get too close to me.But all that changed one day when Kevin came to help me. They made a bee line to him and stood about only a foot or two away. “Why, hello, geese,” he said in a friendly tone. “How are you ladies and gentleman today?” The lead goose nodded his head up and down and bowed low for a moment and back up again. Kevin mirrored the goose, and then the goose did it again. “Well, hello,” Kevin said again. The other geese also waggled their heads up and down to greet Kevin. He laughed. “Look,” he said to me. “They like me.”“I don’t know why they should,” I replied, a little put out. “I’m the one who feeds them.” Kevin laughed again. “Maybe you don’t know how to talk to them like I do,” he said teasingly.After a few days we let them out of the pen so they could walk the farmyard and eat all of the bugs and grass they wanted. They stayed pretty close to the barns and didn’t venture up near the farmhouse.The next morning Kevin was near the farmhouse working on the tractor when he heard the loud honk of a Canada goose. All four had made their way up from the barn and were standing behind him bowing and waggling their heads. He greeted them, and then tried to shoo them away. But no, they had decided that he was their leader and that was that. Whenever Kevin went outside they would meet him and watch patiently while he completed whatever it was he working on. Even when Kevin walked out to check the fields, the four geese marched happily along behind him.A few weeks ago I was the photographer on a large fashion shoot. My farm was the location for the shoot. There were models, stylists, hair and makeup people, and a large crew. Our geese, I assumed, would keep their distance from the visitors and commotion, not to mention the six Irish wolfhounds we were using in the shot.Guess again. While Kevin helped to set up the lights, the geese were by his side. When any female member of the crew tried to approach them, the geese quickly backed away, feathers ruffled and wings outstretched. But they came right up to Cowboy, our digital tech, when he bent down to snap their picture.It was then that I remembered that the geese had been raised by quiet gentle men who were careful not to upset them. Their affection for Kevin and preference for men over women made sense to me.Our Canada Geese still do not think much of me. They will come a lot closer to me now that some time has passed and they recognize me as the giver of things good, corn included. But it is Kevin they adore. As I write this column, I can see the four of them clustered just outside the open window of our farmhouse. They are waiting for Kevin to come out. Every so often the lead goose honks loudly to remind Kevin that his geese are waiting for him.
Written By Dr. Kris HineyLast month we began a new series looking at carbohydrates commonly fed to horses, and the different forms they come in. We discussed the differences between simple sugars and polysaccharides and how the bonds which join these sugars have direct implications on how they are digested in the equine. We also discussed a few carbohydrates in particular in which many horse owners have particular interest, including fructans, which may carry health risks, and fructooligosaccharides, which can be used as digestive aids. In the following article I will attempt to define the wide array of terminology that one finds in equine nutrition, such as crude fiber, neutral detergent fibers, and non-structural carbohydrates, among others.Horses' diets primarily consist of plants which are largely made up of carbohydrates. Certainly plants also contain protein, lipids, vitamins and minerals, as well as water, but their primary composition is carbohydrates. If we use the carbohydrate definitions from last month, we know that the cell wall of plants is composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin (which is indigestible by horses), beta glucans, gums and pectins. Inside the cell wall we find the more digestible cell contents which contain the simple sugars, starches, oligosaccharides and fructans. Often horse owners need to know what percentage of these compounds appear in a particular feedstuff. We use a variety of analytical methods to partition these carbohydrates into groups.Crude FiberThe most commonly used descriptor of carbohydrates on feed tags is usually crude fiber. Crude fiber content of a feed is determined using proximate analysis or the Weende system. Crude fiber is the residue remaining after subtracting water, lipids, proteins and the nitrogen-free extract from the feed. Nitrogen-free extract is said to represent mainly sugars and starches. It uses a chemical method of solubilizing the feed using acids and bases. One of the problems in using crude fiber as a descriptor is that any lignin, cellulose or hemicellulose which is solubilized in the process is lost and appears in the nitrogen-free extract value for the feed. Thus, crude fiber values may actually underestimate the fiber value of the feed, and over estimate the nitrogen-free extract portion.NDF and ADFThe Van Soest system of analysis improves on simple values of crude fiber, by separating out different fiber fractions into neutral detergent fiber and acid detergent fiber. These are the most common values which are reported if you have a forage analyzed. Unfortunately this method is most applicable to the value of feedstuffs for ruminants, rather than horses. Regardless, it still does offer the horse owner some important information. The neutral detergent fiber of a feed contains hemicelluloses, cellulose and lignin, although some soluble hemi-cellulose may escape into solution. It does not provide information about fructans, pectins, gums, or beta glucans which are quite readily fermented by the equine digestive tract. Acid detergent fiber represents the lignin and cellulose content of the feed, as the hemicelluloses have been removed. The amount of hemi-cellulose in a feed, which is easily fermented by horses as well, is represented by the difference in value of the NDF and ADF value for the feed.Total Dietary FiberTotal dietary fiber is more frequently used in human nutrition, but may actually offer better information for species which are hind gut fermentors, as is the horse. Total dietary fiber combines many plant values together, and essentially represents the portion of the plant that resists enzymatic digestion which takes place in the small intestine. This includes the traditional fiber components of hemi-cellulose, cellulose and lignin, but also includes pectins, oligosaccharides, mucilages, gums, etc. which are often referred to as soluble fibers in human nutrition. Thus this method recovers more of the true fiber portion of the feed which is susceptible to fermentation in the horse and contributes to their energy supply. Unfortunately this method is not commonly used in commercial feed testing laboratories which serve the animal industry.Non-Fiber Carbohydrates (NFC)Now the definitions are going to start getting a little trickier, and the horse owner may encounter many different acronyms. Non-fiber carbohydrates, or NFC, represent the carbohydrates which are not in the cell wall and are not recovered when doing an NDF feed analysis. The NFC is what remains after subtracting the NDF, protein, fat and ash. It represents the sugars, starches, fructans, galactans, pectins, beta glucans and organic acids. NFC is determined via a mathematical procedure and not a chemical analysis. You may also see values reported as NSC, which stands for non-structural carbohydrates. These values are actually determined chemically and differ from NFC in that NFC values may also include pectins and gums which will not appear when analyzed for NSC.WSCConfused? Let’s add some more letters. Water soluble carbohydrates are also used in equine nutrition to determine the most easily digested carbohydrate portion. The monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides and some polysaccharides appear in this portion of feed separation. Compared to the NSC value for feeds, it would equal the WSC portion added to the starch content of the feed. Starch content of feed can also be analyzed separately as well.Finally, some equine specialists have suggested that carbohydrates need to be redefined in terms of horse nutrition. As they are hind gut fermentors, they handle carbohydrates much differently than do ruminants. Certainly, they also get much more use of cell wall components than do simple monogastrics. Many of the particular disorders found related to carbohydrate digestion in the horse may require us to look differently at feeds than is needed in other species. One of the suggested systems created by Rhonda Hoffman (currently of Middle Tennessee State University) is to separate equine carbohydrates into hydrolysable carbohydrates (CHO-H) subject to enzymatic digestion, and fermentable carbohydrates (CHO-F) which undergo fermentation in the hind gut. The fermentable carbohydrate fraction can further be defined as either rapidly fermentable carbohydrates (CHO-FR) or slowly fermentable (CHO-FS). Slowly fermentable carbohydrates would include those seen in NDF values, with the indigestible lignin portion removed from the value. The rapidly fermentable carbohydrates, whose presence can increase the energy content of a feed, include the oligosaccharides, fructans, beta glucans and pectins. Feeds higher in rapidly fermentable carbohydrates can offer more calories to the horse. Alternatively, some horse owners may need to be aware of the fructan content of feeds or forages in horses more prone to developing laminitis.So what values do you need to know and why should you care?In general, crude fiber values are listed on most feed tags. Typically the lower the crude fiber value, the higher the energy density of the feed. This is not true of feeds which are designed to have higher fat values, and may include fibers to provide a healthier type of feed for the horse. Owners who have horses with insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, as well as PSSM horses, should try and choose feeds which are lower in the soluble carbohydrates such as sugars and starches. However, these values are not always provided on feed tags. Owners may also select away from forages which may be higher in sugars and starches as well for these particular types of horses with demonstrated metabolic disorders.Next month, we delve more deeply into particular carbohydrate disorders seen in horses.
Written By Don SchriderThere is a revolution happening all across the backyards of America; a revolution of hen keeping has found its renaissance. If you are reading this newsletter, then perhaps you are a revolutionary, a patriot of local, sustainable cuisine, a libertarian of food independence, a builder of a new food system, and an independent thinker. If so, you are part of a growing group of people who care about the nutritional value of the food they consume and the impact it has on the environment and society. And maybe, just maybe, you have found that keeping chickens is just outright fun.Omega Fields has asked me to write a bi-monthly article for you. I’d like to consider this as more of a discussion, amongst we revolutionaries, and invite you to ask questions and share your insights. All topics regarding chickens are open. So send you comments to me at . To start this series, I’d like to focus on getting the flock in shape for the coming firstname.lastname@example.orgFall is the time of year when leaves turn red, yellow, and orange and fall from the trees. It is also the time of year that our best egg layers drop their feathers and produce the new ones that will protect their bodies all winter long. Feathers are an important part of the chicken — they help shed rain and snow, protect the birds from cool breezes, and trap body heat to help keep the birds warm all winter long. Feathers need to last an entire year, so the value of their durability, flexibility, and quality are much more than cosmetic for the home flock.So what does it take to produce quality feathers? Don’t commercial feeds contain all the ingredients needed to produce and maintain good feathers? The answer to the second question is “No.” Commercial poultry feed has been developed to supply just the bare minimum of expensive nutrients needed to keep a hen in top laying condition – no extra expense has been considered and no consideration has been made in its formulation for the production of high-quality feathers. As a revolutionary you need to understand that feed formulation has economics as its guiding principle.Feathers are comprised of many tiny, finger-like fibers, hooked at their ends, that are called barbules. As you might expect, the barbules hook together forming solid webs. It is the quality of these barbules meshing that gives good feather quality. Good feathers require a great deal of quality protein to produce. Vitamins, such as riboflavin, aid in producing durable, flexible feathers. And naturally occurring oils, such as those found in Omega Ultra Egg, are needed to maintain water resistance and sheen, and are used to prevent the feathers from becoming brittle and wearing out before the next molt.Quality feathers are an essential for pastured poultry as the feathers are the hen’s natural protection from the elements. So it is as the new feathers are growing that we poultrymen (and women) should concern ourselves with feeding to grow better feathers. I suggest to you that this is the best time to feed out supplements like: probiotics, poultry mineral supplements, poultry vitamin supplements, oils as found in Omega Ultra Egg, wheat germ, and codliver oil, and to feed a protein supplement, like fish meal, or feed a breeder quality feed such as game-bird breeder layer crumbles. Omega Ultra Egg has high percentages of protein and calcium to help increase the total amount of those necessary dietary items.November is also the best time to consider internal and external parasites. Both of these can reduce the quality of the feathers and will cause the bird to consume more calories to stay in good shape. There are some good wormers on the market for poultry, but if you don’t have access to these you can use an old method that was once sanctified by the U.S. Army (circa World War II), that of dropping walnuts with husks still on (preferably green husks) into buckets of water and allow to stand overnight. You use one walnut per gallon, though you can put in two or three walnuts and then add one or two more gallons of fresh water when you feed it out. This feedout a few times weekly will rid your poultry of internal parasites. For external parasites, I recommend adding wood ashes to the areas your chickens choose for dust bathing. This should be mixed in the soil a little bit so that it does not blow away. Don’t worry when your chickens eat some of the charcoal in the ashes – it is a natural anti-toxin and helps in the absorption of calcium. Your chicken poop may be black for a few days, but your chickens will be healthy.Speaking of calcium, the practice of offering oyster shell, or another calcium source, free-choice alongside granite grit, is still an excellent idea for pastured hens. The grit is needed to help digest the choice food the chickens forage and the grains we feed them. The calcium will allow our hens to balance their own diets when their forage does not provide the needed levels. A lack of calcium is also one of the main causes of poor feather condition during summer months and can even lead to feather-pecking and eating (as will low protein levels). Again, Omega Ultra Egg can help increase calcium levels in feed.So let’s feed our birds for good feathers and make sure they enter winter free of parasites. The result will be lower feed consumption, healthier chickens, and an earlier return to laying. The chickens will be happy and so will we!Text copyright ã Don Schrider, 2011. 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.