Articles

  • Blue Chicken Eggs

    Written By Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily

    blue egg

    There are basically three types of chickens that lay blue eggs - Ameraucanas, Araucanas and Easter Eggers (although Cream Legbars do lay blue eggs as well and are just becoming available in the US) - but only two of the three ALWAYS lay blue eggs, so you'll want to be sure of what you're ordering if you are determined to have blue eggs.

    ameraucanas
    AMERAUCANAS

    Ameraucanas are a pure breed recognized by the APA since 1984. They were most likely originally bred from South American blue egg laying breeds but were developed and standardized in the United States. They come in eight distinct colors including, Blue, Black, White and Wheaten, which all share these distinct Ameraucana traits:
    ● Peacomb
    ● Muffs and beard
    ● Red earlobes
    ● Tail
    ● Blue legs
    ● White foot bottoms
    ● Always lay blue eggs
    araucanas
    ARAUCANAS

    Araucanas are also a pure breed recognized by the APA since 1976. They originated in Chile most likely and come in five colors including black, white, duckwing silver and golden. Araucanas all share these distinct Araucana traits:
    ● Peacomb
    ● Ear tufts (this gene is lethal to developing chicks if inherited by both parents)
    ● Red earlobes
    ● Rumpless (no tail)
    ● Green or willow-colored legs
    ● Yellow foot bottoms
    ● Always lay blue eggs
    easter eggers
    EASTER EGGERS
    Easter Eggers are not a recognized breed. They are mongrels - mixed breed chickens that do possess the blue egg gene but don't fully meet the breed specifications of either Araucanas or Ameraucanas. They can come in any color or combination of colors and share these traits:
    ● Any kind of comb
    ● Muffs/beard/ear tufts or none
    ● Any color earlobes
    ● Tail or tail-less
    ● Any color legs
    ● Any color foot bottoms
    ● Can lay blue but also sometimes lay green, tan, pink or even yellow
    So if you want to be guaranteed blue egg layers, you will want to raise some Araucanas or Ameraucanas; but Easter Eggers are fun because you never know what color egg each will lay until she starts laying, and even identical-looking hens often lay varying shades of bluish or greenish eggs.

    Make sure to add Omega Ultra Egg to your chickens daily ration for up to 8x more Omega-3 content per egg, harder shells and brilliant plumage. Learn more >> https://www.omegafields.com/poultry-products/omega-ultra-egg.html

  • The Things We Miss

    Written by Jenny Pavlovic

    Several friends have lost 2-legged and 4-legged loved ones during this past year. The holidays are a busy time when these losses can be especially painful. So I invite you to focus on your loved ones this season, to give them your undivided attention and really see and enjoy them.

    One friend lost her Australian Cattle Dog to cancer. She told me that he used to sit by her chair in the evening. She would drop her arm over the side and pet him, unconsciously much of the time. Now when she drops her arm over the side of the chair, it is painfully obvious that he’s no longer there. So I invite you to be aware of and consciously enjoy those small interactions with your animals.

    When I say “the things we miss” I mean the things we miss once our loved ones are gone. I also mean the things we miss while our loved ones are here and things are happening, but we don’t sense them or understand them, or aren’t paying attention.

    When I watch my dog Chase interact with the kids at the library, I’m amazed at his intuition. Like the time he met a little 5-year old girl for the first time and went into a play bow. She said, “Look Mommy, he’s bowing!” I later learned that the girl was afraid of dogs. After reading to Chase, she told me that he was the first dog she hadn’t been afraid of. I think he went into a bow upon meeting her because having his eyes at her eye level would have been too scary for her. So he bowed to make himself shorter, and of course to invite play.

    I've learned a lot from Gingersnap, our cat. Last winter she often sat by the north wall of the living room, near a heat duct. I wondered if there was a critter in the duct. But during the summer, I found out that mice were getting in under the siding on the outside of the wall by where she'd been sitting. Ginger was like a pointer for mice. While the mice were out, I filled the hole with foil to keep them out and she stopped sitting there.

    ginger the cat

    In September, Ginger hopped up on the stove in the kitchen. She knows she's not supposed to be up there. But she was obsessing about something in the range hood. She took a swipe at the filter/guard above the stove, her toenail got caught and she pulled the whole thing off. The next thing I knew she was presenting me with a little mouse.

    A month or two ago, Ginger sat in the middle of the kitchen floor at night. There was no evidence of mice in the kitchen, and I couldn't figure out what was drawing her there. Then I discovered little bits of insulation on the floor in the basement below and learned that mice were running along the pipes on the basement ceiling, just below where Ginger sat in the kitchen at night. I'm sure animals sense a lot that we don't get, and I'm learning more and more from Ginger. Winter came early here this year, and it seems like a lot of mice found their way in.

    On November 9th, while walking the dogs by the St. Croix River, I spotted a pileated woodpecker drumming on a pole. I was able to take several pictures before it flew off. In the 25 years that I’ve lived here, I’ve often heard pileated woodpeckers, but can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen one. A couple of weeks later, I learned that a friend’s fiancé had passed away in a car accident on November 8th.  Pileated woodpeckers had appeared to his family and his fiancé that weekend, and she had remarked that it would be just like Carl, a logger, to visit as a pileated woodpecker. So was it merely a coincidence that I saw the woodpecker that weekend?

    woodpecker

    Those of you who have been reading along know that we lost our Australian Cattle Dog Bandit to multiple myeloma in March. On the day that he crossed over and countless times since, bald eagles have flown over our yard and the field where we walk every day. Chase usually spots the eagle first and runs along with it, barking up to it. Often I’ve seen a bald eagle crossing over the highway just in front of my truck as I’m driving 50 mph or more. I don’t know how they do it.

    November 13th would have been Bandit’s 11th birthday. There wasn’t much opportunity for me to see an eagle here that day since I had to walk the dogs in the dark that evening. Knowing Bandit’s playful spirit, I figured he’d do something different anyway. When I arrived home from work that day, his stuffed basketball, which had been in the same place on his bed since March, was on the other side of the room, right in my path as I walked through the house. Chase and Cay had been kenneled while I was gone and hadn’t moved that ball since Bandit left us. The ball is too big for Ginger the cat to move. So it felt like a ‘hello’ from Bandit.

    On Bandit’s birthday, Chase brought me the jolly ball like Bandit used to, and Cay brought me Bandit’s rubber chicken. They must have sensed his presence too.

    cay and chase

    A few days later I was walking the dogs up on the hill, thinking that I should tell a friend the story about the stuffed basketball. Suddenly, Chase took off full speed across the field, looking up at the sky, and let out a bark. I looked up and there was the bald eagle, making a pass across the field. He just made that one pass and then was gone. If Chase hadn’t pointed him out, I would have missed him. Chase continued to look for the eagle in the sky, and barked every once in a while. I think Chase and the eagle were communicating. I wonder if Chase felt Bandit’s spirit in the eagle as I did. I don’t completely understand these interactions, but I’m intrigued by them. Most of us miss so much and understand so little about our natural world.

    eagle

    Which brings me back to my original thought. This holiday season, take time to slow down and tune in to the natural world around you. Live in the present moment with your 4-legged friends. Take in and enjoy their essence and the little ways they keep you company. Ponder what you learn from them, or would if you were paying more attention.

    The holiday season can get way too busy. So I invite you to sit still with your loved ones and really notice what you’ve been missing, and what you’ll miss some day when they’re gone.  I promise you won’t regret it. Happy Holidays!
    ~~~
    My new book, There’s a Chicken in My Kitchen: Bandit’s Big Birthday Blizzard, is about a blizzard that ‘unplugs’ us and gives us the chance to really see and appreciate our loved ones. Watch for it next year.
    ~~~
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  • Preparing for Winter

    Written By Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.

    Horses enjoy cold weather and the relaxation that winter brings, but it takes more than hay to keep them healthy during the colder months. Optimal nutritional planning will help them enjoy the season and emerge in good condition when spring arrives.

    Hay is not enough

    Hay cannot compare in nutritive value to fresh grass. Once grass is cut, dried, and stored, it begins to lose vitamins C, D and E, beta carotene (for vitamin A production), and omega-3 fatty acids. Normally, your horse produces vitamin D when he is exposed to sunlight. But spending more time indoors, combined with shorter daylight hours, can induce a vitamin D deficiency that leaves bones, joints, and muscles unprotected. Therefore, a vitamin supplement, along with ground flaxseed (to provide omega 3s), will fill in the nutritional gaps created by hay-only diets.

    Consider alfalfa

    Contrary to popular opinion, alfalfa it is not higher in sugar than grass hay. It is high in protein, but this is a good thing. At a moderate intake (approximately 10 to 30 percent of the total hay ration), it boosts the overall protein quality of the diet, keeping your horse’s muscles, joints, feet, skin, hair, and bones fed, and protecting his blood and immune function. Alfalfa also serves as a stomach buffer against developing an ulcer, a common occurrence when a horse is stalled during the winter after being used to full-time turnout.

    Offer hay free-choice

    Cold weather increases the metabolic rate, which means that horses need to burn more calories to maintain a normal internal body temperature and a consistent weight. When you provide hay free-choice, you will notice that your horse naturally consumes more to help stay warm and account for his higher energy need. Free-choice is always best (regardless of the season or condition of your horse) because it allows your horse to self-regulate his intake and eat only what his body needs. Consider testing your hay; choose hay with low sugar and starch levels for the insulin resistant, laminitic, or overweight horse.

    For more calories, add concentrates

    For many horses, hay will not provide enough calories to maintain normal body condition.  A high fat commercial feed is fine for healthy horses. For the easy keeper or insulin-resistant horse, avoid sweet feeds and those that contain oats or corn. Beet pulp, alfalfa pellets, or low starch commercial feeds are excellent alternatives. Fatty feeds such as rice bran, ground flaxseed, or chia seeds offer the most concentrated source of calories. Avoid corn or soybean oils, since they promote inflammation due to their high omega-6 fatty acid content.

    Older horses need special attention

    Your older horse may need a joint supplement along with vitamin C to help produce collagen (the protein found in bones and joints), since less vitamin C is produced by the body as horses age.

    For the aged hard keeper (or any hard keeper, for that matter), be sure there is no competition from more aggressive horses for hay. Feed a senior feed, along with added ground flaxseed. And be sure to check your horse’s teeth. Poor dental health is the number one reason for weight loss in older horses.

    Other tips

    • Use a prebiotic (fermentation product, not live microbes) or a potent probiotic (one that contains billions – at least 109 – colony forming units, or C.F.U.s) to keep the hindgut microbial population healthy.

    • When feeding bran mashes, or any added feed, feed it every day. Consistency will prevent colic. Keep in mind, however, that bran (rice or wheat are most common) is very high in phosphorus in relation to calcium. Therefore, use a commercial product with added calcium or feed alfalfa to counteract the elevated phosphorus content.

    • Provide fresh, temperate water. Never rely on snow to meet your horse’s water needs. Water should be kept at a palatable temperature to encourage drinking and prevent dehydration.

    • Remember to provide salt. Salt blocks, free choice granulated salt, or adding two tablespoons of table salt to your horse’s meals per day (divided between meals) will keep his body in proper water balance.

    Permission to reprint this article  is granted, provided by Dr. Getty.

    Dr. Getty provides a world of useful information for the horseperson at www.gettyequinenutrition.com. Sign up for her informative, free monthly newsletter, Forage for Thought; browse her library of reference articles; search her nutrition forum; and purchase recordings of her educational teleseminars. And for the growing community of horse owners and managers who allow their horses free choice forage feeding, Dr. Getty has set up a special forum as a place for support, celebrations, congratulations, and idea sharing. Share your experiences at jmgetty.blogspot.com. Reach Dr. Getty directly at gettyequinenutrition@gmail.com.

    Learn  more about Omega Horseshine and how this Omega-3 supplement will be a great addition to your horses daily ration >>>https://www.omegafields.com/equine-products/omega-horseshine-26.html

  • Forward Foot Syndrome

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Forward Foot Syndrome (FFS) is a common hoof condition that can and does strike all breeds, shod or barefoot. It's all too prevalent, it leads to serious problems, and for the sake of our horses' comfort, we should know how to recognize and prevent or fix it.

    Here are photos to illustrate. First, the beautiful forefoot of a deceased feral horse. It shows most of what we like to see on a hoof:

    walt 1
    Circular shape
    Heels well-separated
    Frog large and robust
    Central Sulcus wide and shallow
    Bars vertical and flanking the commissures
    Quarters relief
    Mustang roll
    Toe rocker

    This foot was trimmed only by Mother Nature. It, together with its three companions, allowed its owner to move twenty or more miles, every day, all year long, rarely suffering any damage, and never wearing out. Feet like this allowed this horse to tackle any terrain on which he found himself, in any weather. He was what we’d call a “rock crusher”.

    walt 2

    In the center is the forefoot of a living horse that has been trimmed regularly with just standard trimming tools – hoof pick, hoof knife, rasp, and nipper. Note the striking similarity to the feral hoof. This indicates that with proper care and trimming, our horses’ feet can closely emulate those of a feral’s, and be capable of almost equal functionality.

    walt 3

    In contrast, to the right is the forefoot of a Forward Foot Syndrome hoof. Note its characteristics:
    Foot shape more oval than round
    Toe stretched forward
    Heels contracted
    Breakover at the toe tip
    Frog long and narrow
    Central sulcus greatly contracted, forming just a crack
    Bars spread out, laid over
    No mustang roll
    Severe wall flaring

    The first thing we need to know about FFS is that it is probably the most common and insidious problem for domestics' hooves. It sneaks up on our horses over time – yet not all horses are doomed to develop FFS. So how does a horse, born with feet destined to look and perform like a healthy feral foot, end up with FFS feet, always tender-footed, and always in some pain? Well, the cause is simply his lifestyle. An afflicted horse is typically underexercised, too fat, and not trimmed frequently enough or properly.

    Feral hooves, by contrast, are in almost constant motion, receiving continuous natural trimming from the terrain. The result is the natural foot condition of a horse that lives the life into which he has evolved. Most of us can’t do much about our domestic horse’s home terrain – it is what it is – but we can and should make sure he gets plenty movement, preferably on varied terrain. We can do that by riding him frequently, and we can ensure he gets the most possible movement at home by allowing him maximum turnout. We can’t overstress the simple secret of healthy feet – movement, movement, movement.

    That leaves us with the trim.

    What does a good trim look like? Well, a good model is the feral horse foot. It’s not that our domestics' feet should look just like feral horses' – even the best rarely do -- but feral horses' feet don't suffer from FFS, and there are lessons to be learned from them. Feral horses are well-exercised, certainly not too fat, and they have functionally excellent, natural trims.

    Most of us are diligent about getting our horses' hooves trimmed.
    Unfortunately, diligence alone won't cut it. Consider a foot that starts out
    in good condition but then starts receiving an improper trim. It may take
    months before we notice it's developed FFS; when we finally see it, we scratch our heads and ask ourselves, "How could this have happened? He’s always had such great feet." Well, it's sneaky, it takes time to develop, and we just don't notice it happening. The irony is that we may have been diligent, paid out plenty in farrier fees or sore backs in our efforts to ensure good feet, yet there we see FFS, while all that was needed to prevent it was to observe a few critical aspects of the trim itself.

    Barring unrelated complications, the prevention is as straightforward as the fix. The fixing process involves numerous proper trims over time, but that's OK – the feet will be better at each trim than they were at the previous trim, and we'll get there step-by-step. We've just got to take that first step. You know the Oriental proverb about how the longest journey starts.

    What follows are the general trim steps specifically intended to prevent or correct FFS in a barefoot hoof. It is not intended to be a how-to on barefoot trimming. It is assumed that a knowledgeable and experienced barefoot trimmer will perform the actual trim, or at least will be available for guidance. It is also assumed that, other than FFS, the hooves are healthy and in virtually normal condition.

    First, during the repair phase, trim frequently. A three week cycle is a good compromise between overworking your back or pocketbook and running the danger of letting hoof growth get away from you.

    Second, be observant. At each trim study the feet on the ground before you
    pick one up. Make a mental note about what doesn't look quite right so that
    you're sure to address it when you have hoof in hand. Continue the study
    when you pick up the foot: using your pick, clean off the bottom thoroughly, including the commissures; remove any loose flaky sole that comes off readily, so you can see all foot and no dirt. Now look to determine the cause of any anomalies you saw before picking up, and note the condition of the sole components.

    Finally, go to the trim. Address any specific problems that you spotted during your evaluation phase, then give the fores the 1-2-3 treatment. That is:
    • 1) Trim the walls -- you’ll want wall height to be very close to live sole plane; bring that long toe back -- you can safely take it back as far as the white line, if necessary; rocker the toe and apply quarters relief (not on shod hoof); address any flaring by flat-rasping the outer layer of wall at the flare (using the fine side of your rasp); this will usually require several trim cycles.
    • 2) We need short heels – take the buttresses down to perhaps a quarter-inch above live sole plane in the Seats of Corn; if the bars are making initial ground contact, shave them back a bit using your hoof knife – but don’t remove them.
    • 3) rocker the toe as needed to allow proper breakover, and apply a mustang roll (not on shod hoof).

    And that’s about all there is to it!

    Finally, some pertinent comments:

    - While every step here is important, pay special attention to the quarters relief. When applied, it will mean that the quarters are slightly above ground contact until the foot is fully weight-loaded. This allows the foot to expand and contract laterally as he walks – known as “hoof mechanism”.

    - Hinds don't get a toe rocker, but do get the mustang roll, and may need a
    vertical cutback at the toe if the toe wall has grown too long out front.

    -Don't trim the toe callus on any foot.

    -You may need to trim the bars slightly if they’re in ground contact and you're trimming to correct a case of FFS, but note that when you're trimming to maintain a good foot, the bars should rarely, if ever, need much attention. That’s because they naturally wear well when more upright, as they should be to do their job. If they’re curvy and laid over toward the outside of the hoof, they are pinching the live sole under them, which is painful. Fix it by carefully shaving off thin layers of the flattened bar until you see dirt trapped under it – you’ve reached the sole.

    -Normally, the frogs don't need trimming, but if they're in trouble, this is an excellent time to deal with it. Clean them up well, removing loose material. If thrushy, spray them with colloidal silver – you’ll probably need to repeat the frog treatment several times a week for a week or two or until the signs of thrush are gone.

    - The steps outlined above are part of the trim method known as the LIM Trim – stands for Less Is More. The essence of the LIM trim is that you do no more than the hoof calls for. You bring the heels back to near the frog buttress, put the breakover far enough underneath so that the foot can start relocating it naturally, and balance the foot according to the live sole plane. In so doing, you're readying the hooves for the forces that act upon them while the horse moves. This trim encourages the heels to expand rather than contract, the bars to become straight rather than curved, and the frog to regain health and bulk up to make initial ground contact.

    If your horse is already afflicted with FFS, you can fix it, over time, by
    applying these principles. If your horse does not suffer from FFS, he's
    probably getting a trim similar in principle to the above - lucky horse. Once FFS is a fact with your horse, it may take a little time to bring those hooves back to health, but you can do it. It's not difficult, but you must be diligent – do frequent trims and ALWAYS follow all three steps. Take pictures so you can see your progress - you may even want to frame them, you'll eventually feel so good about it.

    Learn More about Omega Horseshine - Omega-3 stabilized ground flaxseed supplement that helps restore cracked brittle hooves and develops strong solid hoof growth >>

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  • Double-Yolked Eggs

    Written By Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily

    double yolked eggs

    Only about one in every thousand eggs is double-yolked, meaning that there are two yolks encased in the same shell. Since commercially-sold eggs in the United States are candled prior to packaging and cartoned by weight, any double-yolkers are discarded and never end up on a grocery store shelf, so you could go an entire lifetime eating store bought eggs and never encounter one. But once you start raising your own backyard flock, chances are you'll collect your share. But what causes them?

     

    A double-yolked egg occurs when a hen’s ovary is over stimulated and she releases a second yolk too early. Usually about an hour after an egg is laid, the next yolk is released, but if another yolk is sent down the oviduct too soon, a shell will form around both yolks and result in a single egg. As a result, a double yolk egg is usually much larger than a regular egg.

    double yolked eggs 1

     

    It's far more common to find double-yolked eggs from new layers or older hens near the end of their laying life. It can be genetic, and therefore hereditary, and is more common in the hybrids and heavier breeds. Hens who lay large or double-yolked eggs are more prone to becoming egg bound or suffering vent prolapse, both potentially fatal afflictions.

     

    Double-yolked eggs generally won't hatch if incubated, and if they do, it’s rare for both chicks to survive.

    Make sure to check out Omega Ultra Egg - stabilized ground flaxseed supplement for hens for up to 8x more Omega-3 in your eggs, brighter yolks, brilliant plumage. Learn more >>https://www.omegafields.com/poultry-products/omega-ultra-egg.html

  • Finding Our Way

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Fall is here already. Where did the summer go? I had vowed that this summer would be different from last year, when Chase was diagnosed with colon cancer just after the 4th of July. The rest of that summer revolved around his care and cancer treatments. Then we discovered in September that Bandit had multiple myeloma, and life revolved around his care and treatments too. One season blurred into another, until Chase’s CT scan in February showed no evidence of disease, and we lost Bandit to multiple myeloma in March.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    This summer was different.  Our mellower little pack was still grieving, and finding its way without Bandit. Chase took on the role of pack leader for the dogs. Sometimes Gingersnap the cat seemed to want this role too, but Cay was always content to follow. When Bandit’s health was failing early this year, Chase clearly wanted the pack leader position. Now that he has it, he sometimes seems a bit overwhelmed realizing the responsibility that Bandit had.

    Getting out and about is easier with two dogs than with three dogs, at least when they have to be on leash. We’ve found new places to walk and explore, including a trail by the river near home, and the levy going out to an island in the middle of the river in a nearby town. When out in public walking, Chase had become more protective when other dogs approached. He seemed to have learned this from Bandit and was taking other dogs too seriously for me. Chase loves people and wants to meet everyone, but this thing about other dogs had to change. My herding dogs get upset when a dog on a leash is dragging the person along or lunging out at the end of the leash. Clearly this is out-of-order rude behavior and the person should be in control, so some herding dogs want to fix the situation by correcting the other dog. I’ve told Chase that it’s not his business and I’ll manage the situation. I protect his space and, when necessary, I put my body between Chase and the other dog. I tell Chase to ‘leave it’ and reward him for complying. We’ve been working on this and he’s getting better, even though dogs who look out of control still concern him sometimes.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Over the summer we took several trips to Wisconsin to visit my family. Both dogs rode along and enjoyed visiting. Cay hadn’t traveled much before, so this was new for her. She has become more outgoing with people and eagerly solicits petting. She takes up more space than before, when Bandit sometimes herded her into the corner.

    When Cay had the opportunity to play with my niece’s children, she amazed me. While the 5 year old girl threw the ball for Chase, the 2 ½ year old little boy threw the ball for Cay. Cay is seven years old and has never retrieved a ball for me. So I was astounded to see her retrieve the ball over and over and over for the little boy. She took it back to him and set it down on the ground in front of him. Something magical was happening with Cay and this little boy. She was so good with the kids that I think she may have potential to join the R.E.A.D. program at the library. I plan to enroll her in the class this winter to prepare for the test. To this day, she has never retrieved a ball for me. She runs around with the ball and plays keep away!

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Over the summer, we tended to Bandit’s memorial garden and spread his ashes in many of the places we had enjoyed together. Grief can be a long process, especially grief for a being who taught us so much and was an important part of our daily life. Last week I finished making a digital photo book of my last walk with Bandit and included the story of the bald eagles who visited frequently to lend strength and comfort before and after his passing. The following morning as I drove Chase and Cay to a routine vet appointment, a bald eagle touched down on the grass on my right and then flew across the road in front of my truck. This was in the middle of town, just a block from the vet clinic where Bandit crossed over. I was stunned.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    I’m still catching up on things that I didn’t get to last year, like staining the deck. I bought the stain before July 4th last year and then… well you know what happened. The time with family and friends this year has been wonderful. And of course the time with the dogs is precious as it always has been. The nightly mouth joust between Cay and Chase is comforting.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    When I run into people I haven’t seen for a while, I tell them why I ‘dropped out’ of regular activity for a while, and that we’re slowly getting back on track. I think about the decisions I made last year and how sometimes you just have to go for it, not knowing whether your best effort can bridge the gap between where you are (the disease) and where you need to be (the remission or cure). I took my best shot for both Bandit and Chase, knowing that my best shot might swish through the net or might just fall short of the goal.

    I’m working on a new book in memory of Bandit, based on a true story about my three dogs. The story will remind children to appreciate and pay attention to their pets and will highlight the gifts that we bring to each other. This is an important message for adults too.

    As we move into fall, our little pack is still finding our way, knowing that we’re no longer ready for a three dog night*. We are ready for a two dog, one cat night though. For now, that’ll do.

    ~~~

    * On cold nights, Indigenous Australians slept in a hole in the ground while embracing a dingo, a native species of wild dog. A very cold night was considered to be a "three dog night”.

    ~~~

    Kids at the local library improve their reading abilities by reading out loud to Chase. When people pet Chase’s soft coat and ask me how it gets to be so soft, I tell them about Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets.>>>

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  • Pasture Management

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Equine Foraging Behavior: Does it matter to you?

    The best environments for horses are those that most closely mimic their natural state. Grazing fresh pasture and continual turn out offer the horse freedom of movement, mental stimulation, and natural feeding behavior. Continuous intake of smaller meals fits with the horse’s digestive physiology, compared to meal feeding witnessed in many confinement systems. Economically, grazing offers a relatively cheaper method to provide nutrients for the horse when compared to buying harvested forages and feeds. When combining adequate acreage with good pasture management, grazing can provide the majority, if not all, of most horse’s nutrient requirements. In fact, many horses can easily consume well over their needed caloric intake and become quite fleshy while grazing good pasture. But what entails “good pasture”? How many acres does it take to meet the nutritional needs of a horse? And what does good pasture management entail? To answer these questions, we first must address the way in which horses make foraging choices.
    forb roughs and lawns sward
    In order to understand pasture management, it is important to get on grasp on the natural behavior and foraging patterns of the horse. Equine foraging patterns are often misunderstood, and can cause mismanagement of pastures, or even worse, a lack of any management technique at all. It is important that the horse owner identifies which foraging patterns and thus management system are most applicable to their scenario. Grazing patterns of free-ranging horses versus pastured or restricted grazing horses differ greatly. For example, information gathered on feeding behavior in feral horses which routinely travel multiple miles per day will differ compared to horses which are confined to either large pastures or small paddocks.

    Horses which are confined to traditional pastures prefer to graze in a pattern that is typically referred to as roughs and lawns, or “patch grazing.” When looking at a typical pasture that is not intensely managed, you will see some areas where the foliage is closely cropped to the ground, “the lawns”, and other areas which appear to be much longer in growth, “the roughs”. To a casual observer, it may appear that the pasture contains adequate forage, yet the horses confined therein may actually be losing body condition due to an inadequate intake of nutrients. This is all too common in pastures with little to no management. Horses will continue to graze these lawn areas, to the point of that the vegetation has lost the ability to recover and to regrow. So while an owner may think a pasture has plenty of grass available, it may not from the horse’s perspective.

    This behavior, while it may not seem rational to a human, does match with the overall physiology of the horse. Shorter grasses are less mature and thus have a higher nutritive value. They have a higher digestibility, more protein and may even be higher in some vitamins and minerals. Despite the fact that more overall feed may be available to the horse in areas with taller, more mature plants, a horse will seek out these shorter, more nutritious plants. This selective grazing pattern may be an evolutionary advantage for this hind gut fermenting species, which need a higher protein quality than do ruminants. Now, this is not all that dissimilar to the foraging patterns of other large herbivores, but horses seem to take it to an extreme. Horses with their incisors, are much more capable of grazing grasses closer to the ground and can intensify this selection pressure on short grasses.

    But do horses actually make foraging choices based on their actual nutrient needs? In a study where horses were given choices between different grass heights which all met protein requirements, the horses selected the grasses which would provide overall greater intake. Essentially one bite of taller grass resulted in more ingested feed and could allow for faster ingestion of energy. However, if the quality of the vegetation differed, horses began to make rather interesting choices. When protein quality lowered, so that it was only at or below their requirements, horses shifted to foraging choices that would supply their protein requirement, but lowered their overall energy intake. As maturity increased in the taller swards, this preference for shorter swards of higher nutrient content, but less overall available forage, increased. It appeared that horses were able to forage selectively to meet specific needs. If we think about this physiologically, it makes sense. Horses can mobilize fat stores to supply energy needs, but need to ingest specific amino acids in order to synthesize body proteins. Thus protein intake may be a higher priority than overall energy intake.

    Not only do horses make grazing choices according to feed selection, but also to avoid grazing near feces. Horses which are confined to pastures typically exhibit what is known as latrine behavior, or repeatedly using the same areas for defecation. The vegetation in these areas grows quite tall as the horse refuses to use these areas for foraging. This behavior may confer the advantage of prevention of parasite infestation, as most infective worm larvae are found within 1 meter of fecal piles. This combined avoidance of both tall grass and grazing near feces is what creates the roughs, which may represent almost 50% of a pasture. Unfortunately, an owner cannot choose a part of the pasture to create a latrine area. The initial selection of a latrine areas does not appear to be due to any difference in vegetative species or palatability, rather, it is simply due to avoidance of grazing near fecal material. In comparison, free ranging horses and ponies simply defecate where they happen to be grazing and then merely continue walking forward. Presumably, this is because there is enough grazing area available to avoid grazing near feces. In the study mentioned above, there was also low animal density, between about 6.5 acres to 19 acres per animal. These animals were also grazing in rather poor nutritive value areas, thus their feeding decisions may have had more to do with nutritive decisions or pressures, than grazing near eliminative areas. Therefore, if you are fortunate enough to have extremely large pastures or ranges, latrine behavior may not be a concern for you. Alternatively, when horses are presented with small paddocks with uniform grass height, they also do not show any specific latrine behavior, but rather defecate throughout the area rather homogenously. This allows a much more uniform distribution of foraging.

    As we continue to learn more about the foraging patterns and the choices horses make while grazing, we can make better choices for pasture management. To maximize production of our pastures we need to understand the choices horses make, and how we can manipulate those choices to our advantage. Next month we will provide specific suggestions for forage types, stocking density, manure management and more, all based on the basic physiology and behavior of the horse.

     

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  • What? Is It Time For My Horses's Shots Again, Already?

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Well, maybe, but let me pose a few questions first:

    Other than for Tetanus, when was the last time you had a vaccination?

    Do you consider your immune system to be reasonably strong?

    When you’re in the midst of a crowd, do you ever feel unsafe because there may be people nearby who have a contagious disease?

    Now, ask yourself the same questions with respect to your horse.

    Interesting, isn’t it? If you’re like most folks, you haven’t been vaccinated since you were a child (except maybe for Tetanus, if you cut yourself in the barn recently). And yet, you’re not worried about being near sick people in a crowd. If you give it some thought, would you come to the conclusion that you’re still protected from those illnesses because of all those childhood injections you endured, and your immune system is strong? It’s a logical explanation – we know contagious diseases can spread easily (evidenced, for example, by shocking conditions in some third-world countries), yet you – and most everyone you know – are spared. Well, feel good about it. You should. In large part, it’s because of those childhood injections – even though they took place many years ago!

    S0 now consider the contrast between your situation and your horse’s: if you’re like most horsepeople, your horse is younger than you are – and yet your horse may have received “shots” regularly, perhaps every year, while you received them only ONCE, long ago. His kind has been around at least as long as ours, and, like us, he’s survived pretty well – and, also like you and me, without benefit of all those injections during most of those millennia, thanks to our good, strong immune systems! See the dichotomy?

    The typical domestic horse is the subject of repeat inoculations every year or two, and always against the same threats! How strange. As history has amply demonstrated, his immune system is quite adequate, and for all but the current miniscule percentage of his species’ total history he received no injected protection, but now he’s apparently considered to have such a weak immune system that it needs frequent reinforcement inoculation.

    The pharmaceutical companies that formulate the injectibles tell you, virtually in unison, that it is simply not safe to take your horse to a horse show and risk exposing him to other horses, or that there is imminent danger that a bug may bite your horse and infect him with some horrible virus, and therefore your horse should be vaccinated again...never mind that he was just boostered last year. Yet you, without a booster, are at the same horse show, even though you are just as much at risk as is your horse. Why are you not pressured to receive the same injectable precaution?

    Which leads to the obvious question: could it be that yearly vaccinations for our horses are unnecessary? Over the years your horse has very likely been vaccinated for the same diseases repeatedly, and to some of them he has developed immunity. Yet powerful stuff is pumped into his system with every booster shot -- could the practice of over-vaccinating our horses actually be causing him harm?

    No-one is claiming that horses should never be vaccinated, but rather that over-vaccination is a problem. Make note, however, that some changes have actually been made in some parts of the world: there is often a longer time interval between tetanus vaccinations than there is with most vaccines, for example. Perhaps we should be traveling farther down this path.

    Let us pause for a moment and consider that much that you have just read might be called the contrarian viewpoint. It’s logical, we need to give it that, but it’s also pretty strong. But now let’s have a look at the other side of the story.

    A newborn foal is very well-armed as he enters life, provided he receives his mother’s colostrum as he suckles. His natural protection is quite limited, but the colostrum contains his mother’s full repertoire of antibodies. A great way to start life, better even than your and my childhood vaccinations.

    When he’s six months old, or thereabouts, his inherited immunity has declined somewhat, but he has also begun to develop his own immune system inventory of protection, adding to what’s still there from his mother. He should now bolster his colostrum-provided protection  by getting his first array of shots -- the equine version of our childhood inoculations.

    So far so good, he’s ready to face the world. But it’s the adult world, now, and he faces adult horse situations. Since the purpose of vaccinating is to stimulate the immune system to create protective antibodies, his new arsenal will protect him from future attacks. But some of these menacing microbes are great at evasion – they mutate, with the result that the stock of antibodies in the bloodstream and cell walls may not work on an attack by a mutation, and he can suddenly be in trouble. Further, the lifetimes of different antibodies are not all equal, some quite short, in fact. Consider the common cold in you and me – one cold is never enough, it seems, because we continue to “catch” them throughout our own lives. Either the antibodies we’ve built up are short-lived, or maybe what we “catch” is a mutation that’s changed enough that our antibodies may not recognize it. The same considerations apply to our horse. Pharmaceutical companies that develop the injectibles need to be constantly alert for new strains, and must develop new vaccines to counter them. It is a long-term, continuous effort, a sort-of early-warning system, to track tomorrow’s potential invaders.

    Of course the vaccine manufacturers are in business for profit, and if their products do not do the job, then veterinarians will not use them and horse owners will not buy them.  If a vaccine does not do its job well, it will not last long on the market.  On the other hand, manufacturers must act conservatively and make realistic evaluations of their products. They would be out on a legal limb if they claim more than a product can deliver.  Thus, it seems safe to assume that the effects of a vaccine will last longer than the suggested time between booster shots. Updates are needed by the immune system so that its protective inventory is always up-to-date and prepared; it gets updated every time the horse is in contact with an infecting agent as well as every time he gets booster shots. A pretty good protection scheme, that – but the manufacturer must make sure his updated vaccine is available and delivered before it’s obsoleted by further mutation. Immunology is a pretty complicated science, wouldn’t you say?

    So we can see why manufacturers “push” repeated shots – often, today’s formula is updated from that of an earlier version, and while he certainly is in business for profit, the manufacturer is also in business to keep our horses healthy – and so are our veterinarians. It’s obvious that veterinarians in general are very honest in not providing any products to horse owners that do not bring good value for their cost. Most believe in an item completely or they will not provide it to a client or patient. Certainly, there are exceptions to that observation, but in general, our veterinarians take pains to provide an extra level of service to us and to our horses, and in so doing, many will join the manufacturers in “pushing” regular boosters.  

    Well, there you have it. A dichotomy. On one hand it seems to appear that we’re over-vaccinating, at significant cost to ourselves and possible harm to our beloved horses. But on the other hand, pharmaceutical manufacturers and veterinarians need to be sure that they are providing more than just adequate care, and doing so in a timely fashion.

    It is a dilemma. We can second-guess them all day long, but who among us would risk arbitrarily tweaking the rules of the game, so to speak, when the stakes are so high? The take-home is that it is probably wise to provide booster shots to our healthy horses in order to keep them that way, but do the difficult research to determine how often your horse gets vaccinated and against what dangers. They should not be a cookie-cutter answers, like “annually” and “for everything”, but rather customized for your own horse’s circumstances. Remember, we are the ultimate decision-makers. If we think that giving yearly shots is too often, it’s easy to schedule them only every two years – or every three – or however frequently we deem is enough. Considering all the unknowns, one action seems to make good sense – discuss your specific situation in detail with your vet. There is a large fund of knowledge in every vet – we should all partake of it, and our horses are the beneficiaries.

  • Still Saying Goodbye

    Written by Jenny Pavlovic

    We lost our beloved dog Bandit to multiple myeloma in March. I had a beautiful pendant made with some of his ashes inside, and I wear it on a chain around my neck, or on a bracelet. I mentioned before that I had a hard time deciding where to release Bandit's ashes, so I’ve been releasing smidgens of them in many of the places we had good times together. I had released some of his ashes up on our hill where we walk and play every day, and earlier in July I released some under the orange 'Moose that Wouldn't Move' (http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2778) and in my parents' yard in Wisconsin where we used to play ball when we visited.

    One Saturday morning in July I took some ashes along on errands. I released some at the Washington County Fairgrounds where Bandit and I spent many hours doing tracking training. Last summer Bandit and I often went there on Saturday mornings while Chase was resting at home (in Cay's company) from a week of radiation therapy. I'm very grateful that Bandit and I had this time alone together, even while Chase required special care for his cancer treatments. As I released Bandit's ashes there, a red-tailed hawk circled and called out. When I looked up I saw a rainbow sun dog, a colorful ring around the sun. I thought about the time Bandit and I had spent there together, not just tracking, but sitting on the tailgate under a large tree waiting for the tracks to age, enjoying the morning. And I realized that I still have many tears left, some that I let go of that morning.

    It's funny how life often turns out differently than you plan and expect. I thought all that time Bandit and I spent tracking would lead us to tracking and versatility titles, but really that time together was the gift in itself. The dedication and determination to spend that time together, driven by goals that we ran out of time to complete, gave us the gift of that time. The real purpose of it all was a surprise because I never thought I’d lose Bandit so soon. I’m left with these memories of precious time alone with Bandit, time we might not have had if I’d only been able to focus on taking care of Chase.

    Later that Saturday morning in July, Chase and Cay and I went for a walk by the St. Croix River in our home town of Afton, Minnesota. I released more of Bandit’s ashes to the wind in this one more place where Bandit and I had shared good times. We had taken one of our last walks away from home there, when the river was iced over, long after Bandit had revealed that he could no longer track.

    Then on the way home Chase and Cay and I stopped at Afton State Park in the St. Croix River Valley, up on the hill behind our house, where Bandit and I did much of our tracking training. There I released more ashes to the wind. While I was turning the truck around to head home, a spotted fawn cantered out from behind a tree. I was emotionally drained and hungry and wanted to go home, but I paused to watch and enjoy the moment. The fawn's twin leapt out from behind the other side of the tree. They cavorted together for a moment right in front of the truck, then galloped off into the woods. What an amazing gift, something I might have missed before.

    Bandit never fit into a box any better than I do. He led me to all of these places, taught me so many things on our remarkable journey together. Yes, I feel very sad missing Bandit. But I also feel thankful for the time we had together, because I know the deep well of sadness is directly related to how remarkable our bond and our love for each other were.

    On a Sunday in July, we visited Bandit's mama Sparkee at his birthplace near Lake City, Minnesota. Bandit's formal name was 'Hillhaven Bolt out of the Blue', and Sparkee is the blue! Spark, still beautiful at age 15, has lost much of the function in her back end and may not be with us much longer. I gave her my love and thanked her for giving us such a special boy. I scattered some of Bandit's ashes in a wildflower prairie on this farm where he was born, while Chase and Cay enjoyed running in the field.

    How do I even know all the ways Bandit changed my life? How do I let go of a dog who so profoundly taught me things I needed to know? One thing I hope I never forget is that we only have this present moment and we'd best enjoy it. Yes, the lawn mower won't start, the light switch isn't working right, and things seem to go wrong all of the time. But we can still play ball and enjoy this beautiful day and not wait for everything to be perfect in order to be happy. Things are seldom going to be perfect, but if we enjoy this present moment, they might just feel perfect right now. Bandit would whack me on the leg with the rubber chicken, or poke me with the jolly ball, to remind me of this. He was always much wiser than I.

    While in hindsight Bandit showed signs of being ill as early as February or March of 2013, his tests came back normal and he held it together until September. Sometimes I wonder how he ran tracks at all last summer, and I hope I didn't work him too hard. I don't think it's a coincidence that he didn’t quit tracking until the September morning after Chase successfully completed his daily radiation therapy treatments. I think that Bandit held it together until he knew that Chase would survive colon cancer. Bandit knew that I couldn’t bear to lose both of them at the same time. He was that wise and intrepid, and I'm sure he took care of us in many ways that I'm not even aware of.

    I'm still saying goodbye, while yet noticing the many ways Bandit stays with us as we make our way without his physical presence. I haven't been able to track with the other dogs yet this year, even though I know they would enjoy it and benefit from it. Visiting the fields to release Bandit's ashes is a step toward being able to function that way again. Maybe now I can think of it as going to the tracking fields to visit him and create new memories with Chase and Cay. We'll see, as somehow we carry on.

    The garden I built in Bandit’s memory is growing and blooming like crazy, a reminder that life goes on. Somehow we do too.

    ………….
    At the end of June a friend emailed me about a senior red Australian Cattle Dog in jeopardy in Illinois. An unclaimed stray, he was running out of time and urgently needed rescue. Oh, what a tug at my heartstrings. This old guy, called ‘Pops’, reminded me so much of Bandit. His spirit seemed to bust right out of the photo. He was described as being very friendly. He gets along with other dogs and sounds like a very sweet old guy.

    The folks at Homeward Bound Waggin’, Inc. in Quincy, Illinois (http://www.homewardboundwaggin.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/HomewardBoundWagginInc) were looking out for Pops and could pull him, get vet care, and transport him to Minnesota. I checked around for a rescue group to take him in. The Top Dog Foundation in Minnesota (http://www.topdogfoundation.org/), known to be a friend to older dogs, agreed to take him into one of their foster homes.

    Once Pops arrived in Minnesota, he was found to have a broken or dislocated jaw. On July 23rd, he had surgery to repair his jaw and remove three painful teeth. Pops is reportedly doing well. You can follow his progress on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TopDogFDN. If you’re interested in meeting and possibly adopting Pops, please contact the Top Dog Foundation. If you would like to donate toward his veterinary care, please go to http://www.razoo.com/story/Help-Pops-The-Cattle-Dog. Homeward Bound Waggin’ would appreciate your support too. If not for them, Pops probably wouldn’t still be here! Thank you!

  • Heat Stress in Horses

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    How to cope so that summer is great for both of you!

    As we approach the hottest part of the summer, it is important to review some basic strategies that will help us avoid heat stress in horses.  Often it is the summer months where we get the most enjoyment from spending time with our horses, but it is our job to make sure that we don’t overdo it with them.

    So what conditions might make our horses over heat? Obviously high environment temperatures are the key, but also prolonged or intense exercise, or inadequate hydration may all contribute to heat stress.  Horses, just like us, dissipate the majority of their excess body heat through sweating.  Horses have a tremendous ability to sweat, and can sweat as much as 10-12 liters per hour.  Depending on the environmental temperature and the work load, it is possible for horses to become dehydrated in as little as 2-3 hours.  Horses that have inadequate access to water will not be able to sustain the same sweating rate as a horse with proper hydration.  For tips on water intake in horses please see Optimization of Your Horse’s Water Intake.  Horses also physiologically don’t help themselves out when it comes to hydration.  When we sweat, our sweat is hypotonic, or has less electrolytes in it, than does our blood.  Horses on the other hand, have either isotonic (the same) or hypertonic (more electrolytes) than does their blood. This allows horses to sustain sweating rates longer than we can.  So what does that matter? It is  the increase in tonicity of the blood through fluid loss that drives thirst.  As horse’s blood does not increase in electrolyte concentration with sweat loss, they may not have the natural stimulus for thirst.  Therefore a dehydrated horse may not actually drink when offered water. 

    So when is it important to back off from activity with your horse?  Always think about both the temperature and the humidity.  Adding these two values together provides the heat index.  Horses will cool themselves normally, providing a normal hydration state and avoiding fatigue, if the heat index is below 130.  Conditions above a heat index of 150, such as 90 degrees Fahrenheit with 60% humidity, require more assistance in cooling.  With a heat index above 170, you might want to consider doing something else instead!  These conditions could be dangerous for both your horse and you!  Maybe consider watching a training video instead and give your horse a break.  If you have to ride, consider setting your alarm clock for the early morning hours or late in the evening.  More importantly, if you have to haul a long distance, it may be better to drive at night.  Trailers may often have inadequate ventilation to keep your horse cool.  In addition, the muscular work of balancing puts an additional heat load on the horse.  If you are considering a night trip, make sure that you are capable of driving at night or consider a good audio book to keep you awake.  It is important that everyone arrives at their destination safely.

    Now, let’s say that we are going to ride and there is a heat index of 145.  What can you do to provide assistance to the horse for cooling?  Obviously we need to carefully monitor our horse throughout activity.  But we can help actively cool our horse through the  four ways animals to exchange heat: through the process of radiation, conduction, convection and evaporation.  Sweating obviously employs evaporation as a major way for the horse to dissipate heat.  Clearly a well hydrated horse is necessary to maintain stable sweating rates to dissipate thermal load.  But the environment plays a great role in how effective evaporative cooling may be.  High humidity levels will limit evaporation, which is why paying attention to the heat index is so key.  Water applied to the horse can greatly aid in cooling as it evaporates off the horse’s body.  Applying cool (not cold) water to areas which have large blood vessels near the surface of the body is the most effective.  Blood will cool as it passes through these areas and then return to the trunk of the body to help dissipate the heat load.   These areas include the legs of the horse and the neck of the horse.  The major blood vessels in the horse’s leg lie to the inside, so pay more attention to applying water to these areas. Continual application of cool water will prevent the warming of the water on the surface of the horses’ skin.  Otherwise, use a scraper to remove the warmed water and increase the rate of evaporative cooling.

    Convection is another major way that an animal loses heat.  Convection simply is the heat that is lost due to air movement.  If you think about wind chill factors in the winter you can easily see how effective wind is in cooling!  Supplying fans or keeping the horse in an area with wind flow is ideal.  Misters with fans are often used in dairies in aiding with cow comfort, combining these effective cooling techniques.  If humidity is not high, these are fantastic methods to keep horses cool.  Fans with higher velocities will also provide more effective cooling.  If you live in a hot climate and have access to electricity, putting a fan near the arena will aid in cooling during rest periods.  Always make sure that your horse’s rate and respiration rate have dropped before returning to work.

    We often think of radiation as a way to add heat to a system, but radiation simply means heat transfer through space.  The sun adding heat to the horse is an example of radiant heating.  We can avoid additional heat load by keeping the horse in the shade or riding in shaded areas.  The horse can also transfer its heat through space to any object that is cooler that it is.  While not practical, horses standing next to ice blocks would be radiating heat to the block.  However, standing under trees allows the horse to radiate some heat up to the leaves of the tree which are continually cooled by their own evaporation. 

    Finally, the last method of heat transfer is through conduction, or the direct transfer of heat between objects of differing temperatures.  An example of conductive cooling would be a dog lying on a cooling mat or digging into the cool earth.  Any surface that is cooler than the horse that its body is in direct contact with will aid in cooling.  This is why cool water applied to the horse’s body helps to cool it. Remember the key is that the water is cool, not cold.  Cold water can actually result in vasoconstriction which can limit blood flow to the horse’s skin.  If a continual supply of water isn’t available, placing cool wet towels on the horse’s body would be an example of conductive cooling.  However, continual reapplication of cool towels is necessary as the horse’s body heat is transferred to the towels.

    Next month we will discuss conditioning programs to prepare our horses for work in the heat, as well as dietary adaptations that may keep them cool.

     

     

     

     

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