This month we will explore the use of digestive aids in horses, in particular probiotic usage. Probiotics are increasingly used in human medicine, production animal species, and of course in horses. More owners are looking for safe and effective alternatives to pharmacological methods for promoting the well-being of their horses. In this article we will discuss what type of organisms fall under the probiotic umbrella, the form in which they may be fed, their effectiveness and when their use might be warranted.
In general, probiotics are live organisms which are fed with the intention of their survival within the gastrointestinal tract. The original concept behind the use of probiotics was to provide a beneficial type of microorganism which can alter the fermentation process in the hindgut, or to shift the microbial population away from more negative types of organisms. Typically these organisms promote digestion and alter the types of volatile fatty acids that are produced. This was typically referred to as a competitive exclusion effect. However, it is becoming more widely understand that probiotics may have farther reaching effects than just simply outnumbering undesirable bacteria. This differs from when organisms are fed for their nutritive value, such as often done with yeasts.
Horse owners have many options when selecting probiotics, including powders, pills, pastes, feeds, live culture yogurt or even innoculations of fecal microflora from healthy horses. The key feature for a probiotic to be effective is that it is able to survive exposure to acid, bile and enzymes in the foregut of the horse and reach the hindgut alive. In addition it must remain viable during processing and storage of the product. Further, microorganisms must be present in sufficient quantities to have an effect. From extrapolations in human studies, it is suggested that foals be provided with a minimum of 10 to 20 billion colony forming units or CFUs with some studies suggesting an increase of 10 fold in adults. Therefore concentrated forms of probiotics are often the most effective, rather than just a feed with added probiotics which may contain insufficient organisms. It is highly recommended that horse owners read product labels carefully in choosing a digestive aid for their horse to ensure the product contains living organisms at sufficient numbers. Unfortunately many commercial products may not actually even contain the amount of microorganisms listed on the label. In a study from 2002, products contained as little as 2% of the CFUs claimed on the label. In addition, some claims may be misleading and actually only contain fermentation products, which are not live cultures and therefore not probiotics.
Beyond viability and amount of probiotics, the type of organism contained in the probiotic is key. The most common classes of probiotics are the lactate utilizing bacteria including lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and enterococci. These bacteria are those that convert lactate to propionate in the gut which may help stabilize colonic pH. Live yeast cultures have also been used, in particular Saccharomyces cervisiae. This differs from the use of yeast products which may be fed in order to supply vitamins or protein from the process of digestion of the yeast itself. When looking for a yeast supplement intended to be a probiotic, be sure that it actually contains live yeast Most species of organisms in probiotics are not typically found inhabiting the gut of the horse. Thus they fail to form permanent stable colonies in the gut, and will no longer be present after administration has been ceased. Therefore continual supplementation may be necessary depending on the desired outcome.
Live yeast and bacteria supplementation may have beneficial effects beyond that of just supplying a different microorganism with fermentative capabilities. Some yeasts may release enzymes which digest the toxic by-products of pathogenic bacteria. It is also believed that yeasts and lactate using bacteria may have immunostimulatory effects, stimulating the gut associated lymphoid tissue. This enhances the immune system of the horse and may make them more capable of handling exposure to pathogens. Other pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella and E coli may bind to the yeasts rather than the epithelial tissue of the gut, thus preventing their colonization. Supplementation of live yeast has also been shown to improve digestibility of fiber and increase the amount of lactobacillus in the hind gut which again may be protective against acidotic conditions in the hindgut.
Probiotics are frequently administered when there is believed to be a disruption in normal gut microflora, such as during bouts of diarrhea, following anti-biotic administration or other gastric upsets. This can include any stressful period for the horse such as travel, new environments, or alteration in diets. Horses supplemented with yeast and subjected to transport had greater biological diversity of bacterial species in the hindgut, and an increase concentration of lactate using bacteria and cellulytic bacteria. Thus these horses maintained a healthier hindgut population compared to non-supplemented controls. Supplementation of live boulardii yeast, a sub species of Saccharomyces cervisiae resulted in a shortened period of diarrhea and a quicker return to normal feces in horses suffering from enterocolitis compared to a placebo group. Horses in this study had a broad range of causative factors for the diarrhea. Thus probiotic administration may be an additional therapeutic tool in managing colitis or diarrhea in horses. Probiotics may also reduce the detrimental effects of a high starch diet on the microbial population. Typically high starch diets promote the growth of amylotic bacteria and decrease the population of cellulytic bacteria, thus suppressing fiber fermentation. In addition, the by-products of amylotic bacteria are responsible for lowering the pH of the hind gut. If probiotics are used in conjunction with higher concentrate diets, the overall health of the gut may be improved.
So when is a probiotic right for you? Certainly during periods of digestive upsets, probiotics can help return the microbiology of the gut of the horse to a healthier state. They may also assist a horse during times of stress, not only preserving the health of the GI tract, but also the health of the horse itself. Probiotics promote a stable pH in the gut and can assist in fermentation in the gut. There a very few negative indicators for probiotic usage, rather just be sure that you choose an effective product.
Newton, Wisconsin – Omega Fields, Inc. announced it will begin their first ever “Pin It to Win It” contests on the popular social media site Pinterest, beginning in March 2013. Participating in the contest requires no purchase and is very easy to enter. To participate in the contests just make sure to log onto the Omega Fields Pinterest page at; http://pinterest.com/omegafieldss/ and follow our ‘Omega Fields Contest’ board. Please follow our fantastic boards and invite us to be a part of your community boards as well! You’ll find interesting and informative boards related to horse, dog, chicken and goat nutrition, great recipes using flaxseed, educational tips and articles and detailed information about Omega Fields’ products.
Sean F. Moriarty, President of Omega Fields, Inc., said, “We have seen an a great response from our customers through social media and feel it is an effective way of interacting and offering those customers additional value for showing an interest in our products.”
This month I will begin a new series which tries to summarize some of the new information which has been gathered in equine nutrition. I will be grouping similar topics together and trying to summarize how this information might be relevant to you and your horse. We will discuss if this new information means you should change what you have been doing, or you can feel reassured that you are right on track! And remember not all information may be relevant for your horse. There is no need to feed your mature gelding who is trail ridden on the weekend like an endurance horse preparing for a 100 mile ride!
This month we will focus on some new information on protein nutrition in the horse. Certainly this is the time of year when many of us are busy procuring our hay supplies for the upcoming year. Often we want the very best for our horses, and typically look for high quality alfalfa hays. But is that necessary, especially in a year where the weather does not cooperate and hay selection may be more limited? In a study using mature idle geldings, the digestibility and usefulness of protein from a variety of hays was tested. Horses were fed diets of either mixed grass hay alone, the mixed hay with increasing amounts of oats, or alfalfa hay that was either early bloom, mid bloom or late bloom. As the maturity of alfalfa hay increases, typically its protein content decreases. Therefore, many horsemen prefer earlier bloom alfalfa. But is this necessary? In this particular study the horses were also fed at just 1.6% of their body weight as fed, which is typically a little lower than most people feed. Thus these horses might have been fed at a lower rate than the average horseman would feed. As expected, the protein intake of the horses increased as they were fed the alfalfa hay, with increased protein intake the earlier the stage of maturity. The digestibility of the protein in the diet also increased when fed straight alfalfa compared with the mixed hay, and digestibility was greater with less mature alfalfa. That does reconfirm our knowledge that forages of later maturity are indeed less digestible. However, the nitrogen retention between the groups of horses was not different. Nitrogen retention refers to how much nitrogen remains in the horse’s body. So if the horse’s nitrogen intake (which is reflective of protein intake) was higher, but the nitrogen did not remain in the horse’s body, where did it go? The extra nitrogen was actually excreted in the urine. You may remember from our earlier series on protein nutrition that excess protein consumed cannot be stored in the horse’s body. Instead, the nitrogen is removed from the amino acid, and the remainder of it can be used for energy or stored as fat. Overall, for mature idle horses, there is no need to feed these higher “octane” hays, as it all that extra protein just ended up back on the ground! There was no value to the horse in these high protein hays.
However, what if you are not feeding a mature, idle horse, but instead are feeding mares and foals? Their protein requirements are undoubtedly quite higher. But it is not just protein quantity we must consider, but also the amino acid profile of the diet. You may remember from previous articles that equine nutritionists have only described the requirements for lysine in the horse. This is in stark contrast to other species in which the complete amino acid requirements have been well defined for both growth and lactation. In other species, lysine is also known to be the first limiting amino acid, followed by threonine and methionine. It is presumed that this may be true in horses as well. In a study looking at pregnant mares, their subsequent foals and the mare’s themselves during lactation, researchers posed the question if plasma amino acid concentrations would differ after eating. Theoretically, plasma amino acids which increase the least after eating immediately following a fast indicates the limiting amino acids. In the weanlings, the amino acids which increased the least were methionine and lysine, for lactating mares it was methionine and for pregnant mares on this particular diet the amino acid which increased the least was leucine, one of the branched chain amino acids. This study supports the idea that methionine may be the second limiting amino acid for nursing mares and weanlings, but leucine may also need to be considered. However, this study did not provide information on how much of these amino acids may actually be needed in the diet, but stresses the need for additional studies.
The final study we will look at did try and examine the question of methionine needs in growing horses. In a study which looked at the growth rate and plasma metabolites of weanling horses fed differing amounts of methionine, growth rate did not change with addition of methionine. However, weanlings were only fed the diet for 56 d which way not have been long enough to observe differences. Addition of methionine did result in a decrease in plasma urea nitrogen. But what exactly does that mean? Remember that any extra amino acids must be catabolized and the amine group is removed as urea. The urea is synthesized in the liver, but excreted by the kidney. Urea circulates though the blood prior to its removal. An increase in plasma urea N indicates an increase in amino acid catabolism, which takes place if protein synthesis is limited by the availability of amino acids. If we assume that an increase in methionine in the diet allowed more protein synthesis to occur, this would result in more N retention, and less amino acid catabolism. In this study, the authors did not observe a linear decrease in plasma urea nitrogen as methionine was increased beyond 0 .2% of the concentrate. In this example, the weanlings were fed at a rate of 1.25% of their body weight in concentrate, or about 8.4 g of methionine. You may have noticed that many feed companies now include the levels of methionine in their product. Using this study as an indicator of methionine requirements, at least for weanling horses would indicate that methionine should at least be at the level of .2% of the concentrate if fed in comparable amounts. If less concentrate is fed, than the concentration of methionine should be higher.
To summarize what we can take from these three studies, we have reaffirmed that mature idle horses don’t really need high protein hays. While their protein may be more digestible, those amino acids remain largely wasted. For horses with higher protein needs, it may be time for us to turn our attention to more than just protein quantity, but quality as well. Hopefully soon we will have better knowledge on exact amino acid requirements, but at least we are now somewhat closer to knowing about methionine!
Early fall is the time our chickens change their feathers. As winter approaches, this provides birds with a brand new set to give them the best possible protection from cold, wind, and precipitation (snow, rain, and ice). It is a great advantage for our birds to change their natural “clothing” each year just when they need the most protection.
This annual change of feathers is called a “molt”, and the fact that it coincides with the reduced daylight of fall and winter is no accident. In poultry, light stimulates the pituitary gland, causing hormone production. This in turn causes tissues to elongate and soften, including the ovaries, and results in egg production. As day length shortens, hormone production slows and egg production ceases.
We also have feather moisture at play. When feathers are first growing, the body is able to supply the feather follicles with nutrients – the follicles are soft , moist, and sensitive. As the feathers complete their growth, nutrients are directed toward other bodily activities – such as egg production. During egg production, much of the nutrition consumed is directed into the eggs. After months at peak production, little to no nutrition is available to the feathers, so they begin to dry out. This drying out is enhanced as the body seeks to find enough calcium to form eggs. The result is not only dry feathers, but brittle feathers that begin to wear and even break. As day length lessens, molt begins and the birds have new feathers just in time for cold weather.
In order to grow a good set of feathers, and for those feathers to last as long as possible, our poultry need good nutrition. This starts with a balanced diet having a good level of protein and vitamins. A good supplement can help ensure that adequate levels of oils and nutrients are available when poultry need them the most. Omega Ultra Egg™ offers a host of benefits as a supplement for molting poultry. The natural oils help produce wider, stronger, more weather resistant feathers. It also helps extend the useful life of feathers, these same oils making the feathers less brittle. The calcium and vitamins Omega Ultra Egg™ contains help provide increased levels of those needed nutrients.
So why are oils important? Natural oils help repel water – keeping the body of a chicken warm and dry on damp days. Oils also help maintain flexibility and prevent the feathers from losing moisture as their structures endure use over prolonged periods. Essentially, the internal moisture content of feathers ensures that the feather barbules, the small, hook-like structures that web together to form feathers, are flexible from the inside so that they do not break open. When feather moisture is lost, either from the surface becoming brittle or from the internal feather structure becoming brittle and breaking, the feathers begin to wear more quickly and lose their insulating and protective properties. Brilliant feather sheen is the result of good oils in the diet and of good feather moisture levels.
Calcium and protein also both play a role in feather makeup and quality. Protein is the main building block the body uses to grow and to produce feathers. Some producers find higher quality feathers produced from low protein feeds – causing slower feather growth and thus longer periods for the hens being out of production. My own experience, and that of those I have mentored, has been that better feather quality, and less time out of production, come when feeding higher protein feed (usually 18-22% protein feeds). Feathers contain calcium carbonate, and thus calcium is needed to grow and maintain good feathers. When hens are laying and there is too little or just enough calcium in their diets, feathers become brittle and hens may even peck at each other’s feathers a bit to gain this much needed nutrient. After all, there are no eggs if there is no shell; and we all know egg shells are made of calcium.
Extra nutrition is needed anytime birds undergo stress. Molt and peak production are just two examples of stress. Bad weather or harassment by dogs or small children are two others. The best plan is to have this supplemental nutrition incorporated as a regular part of the poultry diet. In this way, there is no deficiency to overcome or to aggravate a weakened condition.
I use Omega Ultra Egg™ as a supplement all year round. Not only do my birds have healthy feathers, it ensures that my birds have supplemental nutrition from which to pull during times of stress. The fact that the oils in Omega Ultra Egg naturally have the correct balance between Omega 3 and Omega 9 fatty acids, and that the eggs the hens are healthier for me is just icing on the cake.
So as you care for your birds during their time of molt, be sure that they receive everything they need to produce strong, healthy feathers that will last them through the winter until molting season next year. You will have happier hens and more eggs for your efforts.
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. He is the author of the revised edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys, which is due for publication this fall and will be available at bookstores by January, 2013.
Lately I’ve been bombarded with stories of dogs in need, dogs who* need to be rescued before they run out of time. Finding safe places for all of them to go can be a challenge. Here’s one story with a happy ending, a story of how a woman and a dog who were meant to be together were united by a series of circumstances. Sometimes these things work out for the best.
Maximus was tall, dark and handsome — charming with a calm demeanor. But his life hadn’t been easy. He’d had at least three different homes across half of the country and at least two names. He’d roamed the streets and had been picked up. He wasn’t young any more, was settled down, but not quite a senior yet either. He needed a safe place to land, a forever home. He was a gentle spirit, a kind soul, who deserved better than life had offered so far.
Jeanne was lonely, missing her 100 pound shepherd mix who had died after developing debilitating joint problems. After her husband had passed on a few years ago, the dog had been her true companion. He’d been big, solid, and true, a dog she could lean on and count on.
Something happened to bring Maximus to Jeanne, and I’m still not quite sure what made the pieces come together. Perhaps divine intervention and a guardian angel were at work.
Over Memorial weekend, I was in Wisconsin visiting family. My friend Vickie from high school was in town visiting her mom, and they invited me over. I took my dog Chase along. He had recently completed his training to become a Delta Pet Partner, and he loves people. Vickie’s mom Jeanne fell in love with Chase and told me how much she missed her old dog. Chase loved her too and sat by her for much of the evening, enjoying being petted and eying her ready stash of dog treats. Jeanne told me how much she wanted to find another large dog who would be a good companion, but she needed a dog who wasn’t high energy. She used to walk her old dog around the block, take him to the dog park, and hire the neighbor boys to take him for longer walks. In spite of our concern about Jeanne handling a large dog, she was confident that she could still do it. She wanted to keep Chase, but of course, I couldn’t let him go! Instead, I promised to look for a dog for Jeanne.
Back in Minnesota, a local rescue that I had helped support was closing and they needed to find safe places for the dogs in their care. I had met some of the dogs and had seen others posted on the website. With Jeanne in mind, I looked at the website again, but didn’t find a dog that seemed to be a good match. Most were young, high energy dogs who would need more activity than Jeanne could provide and might just pull her off her feet. I commented to my friends who had volunteered at the rescue and they both said, “What about Maximus, the shepherd mix?” Then I learned his story.
They told me how big and gentle Maximus is, and how concerned they were that he might not find a good home before the rescue had to close. There didn’t seem to be a single reason why Maximus had not found a good forever home. It always seemed to be a problem with his person not being able to keep him, but nothing that was his fault. Probably being large doesn’t help a dog sometimes.
I inquired at the rescue, met Maximus, asked a lot of questions, and sent his information and pictures to Jeanne. She was very interested and wanted to know when she could meet him. So in mid-June we arranged to meet halfway, in a small town in west-central Wisconsin, under a statue of an orange moose. A friend who had helped care for Maximus at the rescue volunteered to ride along with me. She wanted to see Max land his new home that day! Max fit in the back seat of my truck, but I didn’t have a crate large enough to hold him. I didn’t know how he would ride in the car, so it was nice to have someone else ride along.
Max settled in just fine and after driving through western Wisconsin, we arrived under the orange moose. Just after we pulled in, Jeanne drove up in her bright yellow car, like clockwork. We let Maximus take a potty break and stretch his legs. He walked over to Jeanne’s car and hopped right into the back seat like he’d been with Jeanne for his entire life. It was love at first sight for both. Jeanne had decided to adopt Max and was anxious to get going on the road back home, to get him settled into his new life. She had already told the whole neighborhood about Max, and people were awaiting their arrival!
That morning when I had picked Maximus up from the rescue, I had told him where we were going and what we would be doing that day. I had told him all about Jeanne and how excited she was to meet him. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he jumped into her car like he’d been doing it for his entire life. He’d apparently understood what I’d told him and was just as excited to get on with the next chapter of their lives as Jeanne was. The rescue had already approved Jeanne to adopt and she had obviously already fallen in love with Max… so off they went!
Jeanne reported in July that Maximus is now called “Sam”. He didn’t respond to “Maximus”, but responded enthusiastically when she called him “Sam”, so Sam it is! Their veterinarian decided that Sam is part German shepherd and part Great Dane. Now that I think about it, I do see Marmaduke in him! The road for Jeanne and Sam hasn’t been without its bumps. Sam wants to chase bunnies, and there are many wild bunnies in their neighborhood this summer. True to our concerns, Jeanne has fallen a couple of times. But she’s a committed dog mom, and is working to make their life together go smoothly. She consulted with a trainer to learn how to handle Sam better on walks, and hired the neighbor boys to take him for long walks every day. They love him too. Jeanne assured me that Sam has found his forever home. I visited in August to see that they’re doing well together. I wish that a wonderful person like Jeanne would appear for every dog.
Now Jeanne and Sam seem to belong together, but how did this come to be? I happened to see Jeanne in May when I got together with her daughter. I didn’t find Sam on the rescue website and hadn’t known about him until two different people had both said, “What about Maximus”? Something led me to mention Jeanne to these people, and something led them to mention Sam to me.
And here’s the rest of the story… When I was in high school, my family moved out to the country. I loved living in the country and being with my animals. But sometimes living far away meant that I missed extracurricular activities at school. My friend Vickie lived close to our high school. She was an only child and her family was very social. They hosted me overnight many times, allowing me to attend high school activities that I would have missed. Her family was much more social and politically active than mine. They had interesting parties, exposing me to new and different people and viewpoints, even introducing me to activists, which I have now also become! They opened up a whole new world for me.
When I think about that time in my life, I realize now how generous Jeanne was to invite me into their home. As a teenager, I probably took too much for granted. I never really thanked her properly for her generosity and for all the doors she opened for me. I can’t think of a better way to thank her than by bringing Sam into her life. What better gift is there than a noble dog? Although I feel as though Sam was sent, and I was just one of the vehicles that brought him to Jeanne, I like to think that, after all these years, her kindness has been repaid. And we have reconnected, not surprisingly over a dog!
I sent a pouch of Omega Canine Shine® and some Omega Nuggets™ home with Jeanne and Sam, for good nutrition to help Sam get off to a great start in his new home.
*Note: I often use “who” when referring to a dog. Although the spell checker doesn’t like this and it may not be grammatically correct, I know that dogs are sentient beings and I do it anyway.
This summer of 2012 has turned hot and we on the east coast have been hit hard with storms that have taken the power out for many days at a time. The chickens are surviving this handsomely, needing no electricity as long as they have food, shelter, and water.
As I try to sleep, windows open, a faint breeze stirring the hot, humid air, I reflect on just how well my chickens are taking the heat. My pens are airy, letting the air move and whisking away body heat. The roosts have plenty of airspace all around them. My chickens live in a wooded part of the yard; they love the shade the trees provide. My hanging feeders are under roof, protecting them from the rains, and holding enough food for a few days. I use plenty of water containers, providing a three or more day supply – which proved very advantageous once the power went out and the well pump had no electricity with which to operate.
Each morning I am awakened by a chorus of crowing – each rooster being sure he is the first to sing in the new day. The chickens begin their day scratching around in search of some breakfast. The majority of the day is spent satisfying both their hunger and their curiosity – exploring, scratching, running to see what another chicken has found. The hens quietly withdraw to the privacy of their nest, and then publicly announce, with a loud BAH-KA, that they have laid an egg. During the middle of the day, even in this heat, some of the chickens take the time to sunbathe. They lay on their sides, with one leg and one wing stretched out, basking in the warm golden sunlight. As I arrive to collect eggs and feed treats, they follow me around and hungrily peck up the corn and leftovers I provide for them. As dusk arrives they begin to take their individual places upon the roosts, settling in for the night.
Even without electricity my chickens are safe. I use a solar charger to power their electronet fence. I have a solar light in their yard to discourage predators. And my partner, Roxy, my chicken guard dog, patrols the property day and night driving away such dangerous creatures as deer, neighbors, hawks, and sneaky nighttime visitors like raccoons and possums.
For the chickens, nothing has changed. The loss of power goes unnoticed. Life is as enjoyable today as it was yesterday. This is due to the fact that electricity is not a large part of their experience and care, and to the fact that both pens and food and water systems are designed to be safe, comfortable, and to provide days of nutrition without the need for power.
Now is a good time for you to take a look at your pens and the care you are giving your chickens this summer. Do they have shade? And is the shaded area large enough for all the birds? Is it open enough to allow breezes to blow through. Do you have multiple waterers set out so that every chicken get a drink without being driven away by a bossy hen or rooster? Are the waterers large enough to provide several days of water if needed? Are the roosts roomy? Do you have plenty of feed stored in airtight containers? Is your fence strong and in good repair?
Are you feeding a diet with extra vitamins and a good level of nutrition? Remember, chickens eat less in the heat, so be sure you are using a good quality feed and supplement with Omega Ultra Egg – its vitamins and nutrition helping to ensure both good eggs and healthy chickens during the summer heat.
This summer is also a time for miracles. Each year I like to let a hen or two sit and hatch out a clutch of eggs. This year I had a Light Brown Leghorn sit on a small clutch of her own eggs – four to be exact. Twenty-one days later, she brought off a clutch of three healthy chicks. One of the interesting things about this, is that momma retained most of the redness of her comb during her broody stage. This can be credited to the extra nutrition she received from supplementing her laying mash with Omega Ultra Egg.
Momma hen is fiercely protective of her clutch and an all around attentive mother. She clucks to her chicks, drawing them to tasty food morsels. She warms them, letting them nuzzle under her breast feathers. Sometimes a bold chick decides to leap up on momma’s back to get a better view of the world. And woe betide the foolish human that picks one of her chicks up – momma is there in an instant, attacking with wings, beak, and feet, then retreating, spinning, and returning to attack again. A broody hen seems to have the courage of an army; even roosters avoid a hen when she is protecting her young.
If you decide to brood your own chicks, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Once a hen begins to go broody, she will spend most of the day on the nest. She will cluck and raise her feathers as she walks or if you disturb her nesting. You will notice she is missing many feathers on her breast, allowing the warmth of her body to warm the eggs, and later the chicks. She will begin to spend nights on the nesting box once she is fully committed.
Other hens will want to join her on the nest to lay their eggs. This will cause many eggs to be broken. It will also mean that the eggs she is sitting on will be at unequal stages of growth. For best results, move the hen to a secluded nesting site at night. Take care to disturb her as little as possible. Make sure the new site is secure, can contain day-old chicks, and preferably a little dark and private. Provide momma with good food and water, even though she will consume little of each. And after twenty-one days she will turn a batch of fertile eggs into a brood of healthy chicks.
Hens differ in their mothering ability. Some young hens will not sit the full three weeks it takes to hatch a clutch. Some hens make poor mothers – caring little for their chicks, even killing some or all of them. A fair number of hens can tell their chicks from those of other hens and may do harm to strange chicks. I have even had a hen that knew the chicks she hatched were the wrong color (were another breed) and refused them. Most hens are good to excellent mothers. A few are great mothers and will raise any chick offered to them. For the few that are bad mothers, often you can remove the chicks and raise them in a brooder.
I like to keep the hen alone with her chicks for the first few days. Often I will decide to integrate them with the flock after a week or so. I do this by placing them in a wire pen, within the yard of the flock – so that the other hens and rooster can get used to seeing them. After about two weeks, I will let momma and brood run out in the yard with the other hens while I am around to watch – a few little squabbles may happen as momma decides another hen has gotten too close to the babies. But if everything goes well, on the second day I will let the brood join the flock.
As the chicks grow and feather out, they will first join mom on the roost. Later, momma will decide that they no longer need her protection and they are abandoned to care for themselves as members of the flock.
With some good planning and proper nutrition, like that found in Omega Ultra Egg, your chickens can survive summer and power outages and can even raise a brood on chicks.
With proper care, today’s horse owner can expect to have their equine companion for 20 to 30 years. Advances in veterinary care, parasite management and nutrition, allow us to sustain horses much longer than what would be observed in the wild. With proper attention to their nutritional needs, even the body weight and the condition of the horse can be maintained in a very good state. So what types of changes in the diet of the older horse should you address?
First of all, when should you begin treating your horse as an “old horse”? Typically horses older than 20 years are considered to be aged, but this may vary from horse to horse. Visual signs of aging include a loss of body weight, a loss of muscle mass over the top line of the horse, graying around the eyes and muzzle, and stiffening of the joints.
However, one of the most fundamental changes in the older horse is an alteration in its teeth and its ability to masticate its feed properly. Horses’ permanent teeth begin quite long, (4-5 inches), with only a portion of the crown visible in the oral cavity. The teeth continue to erupt throughout the horse’s life as the crown of the tooth is wore down by grinding against the opposing teeth and the forage the horse consumes. As a horse ages, continual grinding of its feed wears down the surface of the horse’s tooth. Eventually as this process of tooth eruption and wearing away of the crown continues, an old horse will essentially “run out” of teeth. Examination of the molars and premolars of elderly horses may show a very short molar in comparison to a younger horse. The root of the tooth may become less stable, resulting in a loss of teeth. Teeth remaining in the jaw which are unopposed grow into the remaining space and can press directly against the gums.
An older horse’s mouth may not only be less functional but quite painful as well. Attention by a veterinarian or equine dentist is imperative to insure that any such problems are addressed. However, no veterinarian or dentist will be able replace a horse’s lost teeth. In that case, the diet of the horse must be altered.
Proper chewing is imperative to allow a horse to digest its feed. Because the base of the horse’s diet is forage, mastication is necessary to disrupt the tough cell wall of the plants. Without proper chewing, enzymatic digestion of the feed in the small intestine will also be limited. With the horse unable to digest its feed to the same extent, the amount of feed that used to be able to support a horses’ energy needs is no longer enough — much of the energy content of the feed is actually lost in the feces. The type of feed offered to the horse must now be much more digestible with less work by the horse!
Most major feed companies manufacture diets designed for aged horses. These feeds are typically pelleted or extruded, which eliminates the need of the horse to perform much chewing. Horse owners can make their senior citizens’ job even easier by wetting the feed to create a meal of mash-like consistency. Often these feeds can represent the sole component of the horse’s diet as they contain forage/ roughage, but in a form that is ground or finely chopped. They also contain feedstuffs that are highly digestible and calorically dense.
Fats provide a great deal of energy (2.25 x more so than carbohydrates), are highly digestible and are palatable to the horse. You may also see different types of fiber sources added that are also easily digestible such as beet pulp, citrus pulp, rice bran, etc. These fiber sources are rapidly fermented by the horse and are safer to feed than providing your horse a large amount of starches and sugars. Molasses added to feed does serve the purpose of increasing palatability and, thus, intake in horses. If your older horse has a history of insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, avoid feeds which contain a substantial amount of molasses. It may be necessary to try several feeds to determine which your horse finds most acceptable and will readily eat.
Hay cubes can also provide a form of forage that an older horse can readily consume. Again, if your horse has trouble chewing the hay cubes, they can be moistened for easier consumption. If you are feeding horses this way in the winter, be sure to not offer the horse more feed than he can consume before it freezes. In addition, broken teeth may be more sensitive to cold and make him further reluctant to consume his feed!
Beyond an older horse’s lack of teeth, there may be some evidence that they simply do not digest feed in their intestines as efficiently as younger horses. It is even more important that these horses receive a balanced diet that can meet their energy, amino acid, mineral and vitamin requirements. However, don’t go overboard and begin to randomly supplement your horse indiscriminately.
If he is housed with other horses, he may lose status in the social hierarchy as he ages. This could greatly affect his access to feed and should be carefully monitored.
Older horses frequently suffer from arthritis as well. Certainly, if your horse is uncomfortable or in pain he will be less likely to have a good appetite. While long term administration of NSAIDs may help to eliminate your horse’s pain, it may also cause an increased risk of ulcer formation. This will only further discourage the horse from eating. Alternatively, omega-3 fatty acids have been reported to decrease lameness scores and inflammation. Thus, feeding a source of n-3 fatty acids may keep your older horse more pain free with less gastric disturbances.
Finally older horses may be at an increased risk of disease transmission due to an age-related decrease in their immune system. It is important to provide an environment that is as stress free as possible for your horse to maintain good health.
Following these tips, as well as regular vaccinations and deworming schedules will help your horse have a good chance of reaching its 30s!
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).
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 https://www.omegafields.com/product-category/dog/.
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 sources
Omega-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.
Based 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.
To 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!
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Equine disorders related to carbohydrate consumption have received much attention by owners and researchers alike, as of late. This has resulted in almost a mistrust or fear of feeding horses carbohydrates. But in reality, almost all of the horse’s calories come from carbohydrates – there is no way to avoid them in the horse’s diet. What one must do is understand all of the forms in which CHO (carbohydrates) are found, identify horses at risk for CHO disorders and select the appropriate feeds to keep them healthy.
To begin, carbodydrates are simply molecules composed of carbon, hydrogen and water. Monosaccharides are single units of sugars which vary slightly in their structure. Common monosccahrides in the horse’s diet consist of glucose, galactose, fructose, mannose, arbinose and xylose. While these monosaccharides are not normally found in their single form in plants, they are joined together to make longer polysaccharides. However, monosaccharides are produced through enzymatic digestion by the horse. Disaccahrides, then, are just two sugar units linked together. Common disaccharides include lactose (found in mare’s milk and is formed by glucose and galactose linked together) and maltose (two glucose units linked together).
Figure 1. Glucose and galactose. The two structures only differ by the location of the hydroxyl group on the left side of the structure.
Oligosaccharides are longer chains of a variety of monosaccharides linked together, typically between three and ten sugar units. The primary oligosaccharides in the horse’s diet are stachyose, raffinose and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS). FOS have received attention in animal nutrition as a way to supply pre-biotics to the animal. Pre-biotics are often oligosaccharides which are resistant to digestion in the foregut of the horse but are digested by bacteria in the hindgut. These supply a source of nutrition which supports the growth of beneficial bacteria and perhaps reduces the population of disease causing – or “pathogenic” – bacteria. In fact they are looked at as an alternative to feeding antibiotics in livestock. FOS are believed to alter the pH of the colon to a more favorable environment for the most productive bacteria. Mannose specific oligosaccharides are also thought to reduce the adherence of pathogenic bacteria to the epithelium of the gut wall. In yearling horses, feeding FOS reduced fecal pH and increased the production of volatile fatty acids from the hind gut. FOS supplementation also decreased the incidence of diarrhea when fed to foals. It has also been shown to have a protective effect on the development of foal diarrhea when fed to their dams. However, it is not known if that was an indirect effect passed through the milk, or if the foals simply ingested some of their dams’ feed containing the supplement. While feeding oligosaccharides does not appear to have an immune boosting effect that has been suggested in other species, it does appear to have beneficial effects on gut health in the equine. Horses receiving FOS and challenged with a large barley meal had less lactobacilli in their colon compared to controls. Thus FOS may help prevent GI disturbances due to diet changes or CHO overload.
Fructooligosaccharides also belong to the category of carbohydrates labeled as fructans. Fructans are polysaccharides which have multiple fructose units. Inulin is also classified as a fructan. Many horse owners have heard of fructans as a risk factor for pasture associated laminitis. A sudden increase in fructans in the diet can alter the microbial population in the hindgut which may then subsequently lead to the development of laminitis. Fructan concentrations in grasses vary with both season and time of day. Fructans and other starch concentrations are highest in the spring, lowest in the summer and intermediate in the fall. During the day, the process of photosynthesis results in the highest concentrations of fructans in the afternoon with sometimes half or less in the morning or evening hours.
Other CHO include longer chains of sugar units and are known as polysaccharides. Most commonly we think of starches and fibers as the common polysaccharides in the equine diet. Starch occurs in either linear form known as amylose or branched form, amylopectin. It is composed of only glucose linked by bonds that can be enzymatically digested by the horse. In contrast, cellulose is also a straight chain of glucose but is linked by a different type of bond , a beta bond, which must be broken by microbes. Fermentation of this fiber fraction results in formation of volatile fatty acids which are metabolized by the horse to produce energy. Pectin and hemicelluloses are also common polysaccharides found in the equine diet.
Figure 2. Amylose is a chain of glucose units linked by alpha bond.
Figure 3. Cellulose is a similar chain of glucose units, but linked by beta bonds instead, making it indigestible by mammals.
Those CHO linked with alpha bonds can be digested in the foregut, allowing the monosaccharides to be absorbed intact. In contrast, cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectin, raffinose and stachyose, which contain beta bonds, will all need to undergo microbial fermentation to provide energy to the horse. Hemicellulose, compared to cellulose, is a mixture of arabinose, xylose, glucose , mannose and galactose. Pectin is made up of beta linked galacturonic acid, arabinose and galactose. Pectin and hemi-cellolose are more rapidly fermented than cellulose and increase the digestibility of the feed if present in a greater proportion.
Now that we know what different types of carbohydrates exist in the horse’s diet, let’s look more closely at some differences that occur in forages. Typically, forages should always make up the bulk of the horse’s diet. They are made up of structural CHO which make up the cell wall as well as some indigestible lignin. The plant cell wall is made of cellulose, hemicelluloses and pectin. Forages also have non-structural CHO or NSC in the cell content, though certainly not as much as concentrates. The NSC is a mixture of monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, etc.) and disaccharides as well as starch and fructans.
If we compare common forages, cool season grasses are made up of primarily cellulose, then hemi-celluose and the fairly small amounts of pectin. Cool season grasses include Kentucky Bluegrass, orchard grass, fescues and ryegrass. Legumes, which are typically high in digestible energy are relatively higher in pectin. Legumes would include alfalfa, clover, lespedeza and peanuts. Warm season grasses grow and mature more rapidly and have much more cell wall/kg DM and thus much more fiber. Warm season grasses include Bermuda grass, switchgrasses, and bluestem. Therefore warm season grasses at a later stage of maturity may be ideal for horses with carbohydrate sensitivities. In general, there is a higher proportion of cell content in a younger, or more immature plant. This makes grasses or hays harvested at an earlier stage more digestible.
Interestingly, the storage form of CHO in legumes and warm season grasses is primarily starch, while cool season grasses prefer to store energy in the form of fructans with much less starch. There is also a limit to how much starch the chloroplasts of warm season grasses and legumes can contain, yet there is no limit to fructan accumulation. Fructan also accumulates more to the base of the plant and more so in the stem than in the leaf. Cool temperatures and droughts (which typically don’t go together) may also increase the fructan production by the plant. Anything that promotes photosynthesis but retards growth ends up increasing NSC (lots of light with cool temperatures). Therefore, be especially careful to observe growing conditions, especially if the horses are consuming cool season grasses and have carbohydrate sensitivities.
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Let us help keep the promise you made to your horse when they became a part of your life. Give the First Promise program a try. Omega Fields…Of One Heart.
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