Recognize the famous opening lines from the old TV show, “Mr. Ed”? Biologically, it’s a true statement. But look again: there is one huge separator in horsedom, and all horses fall into one category or the other. They are either wild/feral or domestic, and while biology and appearances are the same, the lifestyles are completely different. We’ll refer to American ferals here, though much of their condition is mirrored in the world’s true wild horses.
We, in America, can thank the Spanish of 500 years ago for reintroducing the horse onto this continent after an absence of tens of thousands of years. Columbus brought several dozen domestic horses with him, leaving them on the island of Puerto Rico when he returned to Spain, so they might reproduce and, later, serve future Spaniards in quest of wealth on this continent. Those explorers and gold-seekers used them quite handily. Thus, over time, they found their way to northern South America and Central America, ultimately into Mexico, thriving everywhere on their journey. Of course, there were escapees into wild country, notably into what is now southwestern United States, where the fugitives did what horses do – they organized themselves into bands and continued to thrive, but without aid from humankind. These were the progenitors of the modern feral western mustang. The “training” they had received while in captivity was quickly forgotten, as they gained competence in the free but dangerous lifestyle of American ferals. Learning literally “on the run”, over time these magnificent creatures thrived as a transplanted species, developing into very large herds with distinct social orders.
Then, as fate would have it, the tables turned somewhat as our West gradually became populated. Settlers tapped this now-vast resource for animals that provided transportation as well as labor – and there we were, with domestic horses as part of our lives, but with a twist. Our society lived closely enough with both domestic and feral horses that we could easily recognize their differences in lifestyle and behavior.
Good thing, that; by bringing horses into our families in a very real sense, we are easily able to compare them with their feral counterparts. Very convenient – but by taking him from his natural environment, we also take on the responsibility for his well-being. It’s a huge responsibility, since the Caretaker of the ferals is Mother Nature herself, who can do a much better job of it than we can. Fortunately, when we hit a snag, as we often do, we can look across the way and maybe see how Nature does it.
Many of those snags we hit sort of come with the territory. The life of a feral is rather simple, and the needs are generally rather easily met. For instance, as grazers, food for feral horses consists primarily of growing plants, but stands of growing plants are often scattered in our western wilderness, causing feral herds to move constantly in quest of suitable and sufficient sustenance. It is estimated that ferals typically move 20 or more miles every day as they seek out food. Sounds like a tough life, but that’s what it makes these horses…tough. That’s a lot of exercise, it keeps them healthy and fit, burning the energy coming from the sugars in the grasses. Pretty simple – eating a variety of growing plants, lick at mineral deposits, drink fresh water, and move, move, move. The entire species’ success is based upon that simplicity.
But now consider their brothers, the domestics. Rather than in the freedom of the open range, many live fetlock-deep in relatively lush grass in our pastures, and in addition, we provide hay and grain. So they typically have little problem getting food, and they need do practically no work to get it.
What about shelter? For the feral, it’s whatever and wherever he can find it – a stand of trees, thick brush, a rockpile to act as a windbreak. Now, that’s “roughing it”. The domestic, on the other hand, often has a stable with stalls, or at least a run-in shed
Food and shelter, the basics of life. So it would appear that the advantage goes to the domestics.
But not so fast, there’s a price to pay for those benefits. The combined results of Mother Nature’s nurturing and their own genetics supports the ferals’ ability to survive and prosper in their simple but sometimes harsh reality, and Darwin’s survival of the fittest – natural selection, actually — precept keeps the gene pool healthy. Domestics, however, often live their privileged lives within the confines of a fence. A horse has evolved to move, almost constantly, and with the fenced-in restriction, it’s up to his humans to see that he gets some work – but rarely 20 miles per day!
The less-fortunate domestic finds himself living in the confines of a stall for much if not all of the time – this poor fellow misses not only movement, but also fresh air and sunshine, and, importantly, the ability to keep something in his stomach all the time by grazing. Now, who would think that an empty stomach can lead to an ulcer? Yet that seems to be the case; a stall-bound domestic, unable to feed sometimes for hours, compared to a feral, grazing a little all the time, is much more likely to develop ulcers. It is claimed by some that gastric ulcers are very common in domestics, often going undetected or undiagnosed, to the horse’s detriment.
All horses are created, designed and built to eat a variety of growing plants, and thrive on them. Grain never was on his original menu – yet it’s standard for most domestics, largely, some believe, out of habit. When a horse pulled a plow all day, he needed more energy than forage provided, and grain – carbohydrates — filled the bill. But today’s typical domestic, whose biggest workload amounts to carrying a rider from time to time, rarely needs help from extra carbs. And when an overload rushes through his digestive system and into his cecum, he’s in danger of serious complications, like colic, laminitis, founder.
The natural diet of a feral is rather nicely balanced, thanks to the variety of plants he ingests along with the mineral licks he visits for that extra “punch”, and he takes in water untampered by civilization, then tops it off with constant exercise. The result is a naturally healthy horse, rarely afflicted with common ailments of domestics, such as colic, ulcers, laminitis, founder, navicular disease, Cushings, Insulin Resistance, even rain scald, just to scratch the surface of a long list.
Though lacking the benefits of a free lifestyle, domestics can do almost as well as long as they are properly fed and cared for. Grazing the same variety of grass every day, eating the same type of hay, hardly qualifies as a well-balanced diet, resulting in horses “old” before their time.
What can we do about it? It’s not rocket science — feed healthy and well-balanced diets, and ensure as much exercise as we can provide. The exercise part is easy and fun for both ourselves and our horse – riding! — and get him out of his stall and into the field as much as possible. The diet part means back off on the store-bought feed, then take that first, giant step: get his hay analyzed. Armed with that list of nutrients he takes in, we can supplement what’s lacking easily. But be selective, and read the labels carefully. It’s not just what’s in it, how much of each nutrient and how they balance is equally important.
A good general supplement will be rich in Omega-3s, magnesium, zinc and copper, but contain little or no iron (the horse gets all he needs from grazing) – these minerals are often deficient in pasture grasses and hays, but they are vital for good equine health. One of the best such supplements is Omega Fields’ Omega Horseshine®.
There are many laboratories that will analyze your hay. Contact your local Ag Extension for names. One of the best is Dairy One in Ithaca, New York.
There is a great little book you can buy or borrow from your library – it’s entitled, “Beyond the Hay Days”, written by Rex Ewing. It’s an excellent, easy-to-read reference on equine nutrition. It belongs on your shelf for quick reference if you’re serious about feeding your beloved equine companion properly.
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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There is a revolution happening all across the backyards of America; a revolution of hen keeping has found its renaissance. If you are reading this newsletter, then perhaps you are a revolutionary, a patriot of local, sustainable cuisine, a libertarian of food independence, a builder of a new food system, and an independent thinker. If so, you are part of a growing group of people who care about the nutritional value of the food they consume and the impact it has on the environment and society. And maybe, just maybe, you have found that keeping chickens is just outright fun.
Fall is the time of year when leaves turn red, yellow, and orange and fall from the trees. It is also the time of year that our best egg layers drop their feathers and produce the new ones that will protect their bodies all winter long. Feathers are an important part of the chicken — they help shed rain and snow, protect the birds from cool breezes, and trap body heat to help keep the birds warm all winter long. Feathers need to last an entire year, so the value of their durability, flexibility, and quality are much more than cosmetic for the home flock.
So what does it take to produce quality feathers? Don’t commercial feeds contain all the ingredients needed to produce and maintain good feathers? The answer to the second question is “No.” Commercial poultry feed has been developed to supply just the bare minimum of expensive nutrients needed to keep a hen in top laying condition – no extra expense has been considered and no consideration has been made in its formulation for the production of high-quality feathers. As a revolutionary you need to understand that feed formulation has economics as its guiding principle.
Feathers are comprised of many tiny, finger-like fibers, hooked at their ends, that are called barbules. As you might expect, the barbules hook together forming solid webs. It is the quality of these barbules meshing that gives good feather quality. Good feathers require a great deal of quality protein to produce. Vitamins, such as riboflavin, aid in producing durable, flexible feathers. And naturally occurring oils, such as those found in Omega Ultra Egg, are needed to maintain water resistance and sheen, and are used to prevent the feathers from becoming brittle and wearing out before the next molt.
Quality feathers are an essential for pastured poultry as the feathers are the hen’s natural protection from the elements. So it is as the new feathers are growing that we poultrymen (and women) should concern ourselves with feeding to grow better feathers. I suggest to you that this is the best time to feed out supplements like: probiotics, poultry mineral supplements, poultry vitamin supplements, oils as found in Omega Ultra Egg, wheat germ, and codliver oil, and to feed a protein supplement, like fish meal, or feed a breeder quality feed such as game-bird breeder layer crumbles. Omega Ultra Egg has high percentages of protein and calcium to help increase the total amount of those necessary dietary items.
November is also the best time to consider internal and external parasites. Both of these can reduce the quality of the feathers and will cause the bird to consume more calories to stay in good shape. There are some good wormers on the market for poultry, but if you don’t have access to these you can use an old method that was once sanctified by the U.S. Army (circa World War II), that of dropping walnuts with husks still on (preferably green husks) into buckets of water and allow to stand overnight. You use one walnut per gallon, though you can put in two or three walnuts and then add one or two more gallons of fresh water when you feed it out. This feedout a few times weekly will rid your poultry of internal parasites. For external parasites, I recommend adding wood ashes to the areas your chickens choose for dust bathing. This should be mixed in the soil a little bit so that it does not blow away. Don’t worry when your chickens eat some of the charcoal in the ashes – it is a natural anti-toxin and helps in the absorption of calcium. Your chicken poop may be black for a few days, but your chickens will be healthy.
Speaking of calcium, the practice of offering oyster shell, or another calcium source, free-choice alongside granite grit, is still an excellent idea for pastured hens. The grit is needed to help digest the choice food the chickens forage and the grains we feed them. The calcium will allow our hens to balance their own diets when their forage does not provide the needed levels. A lack of calcium is also one of the main causes of poor feather condition during summer months and can even lead to feather-pecking and eating (as will low protein levels). Again, Omega Ultra Egg can help increase calcium levels in feed.
So let’s feed our birds for good feathers and make sure they enter winter free of parasites. The result will be lower feed consumption, healthier chickens, and an earlier return to laying. The chickens will be happy and so will we!
Text copyright ã Don Schrider, 2011. All rights reserved.
Don Schrider is a nationally recognized poultry breeder and expert. He has written for publications such as Backyard Poultry, Countryside and Small Stock Journal, Mother Earth News, Poultry Press, and the newsletter and poultry resources of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
In previous articles we have discussed the many benefits of feeding fats to horses. Typically these fats in feeds are vegetable oils, or even occasionally animal fats. We have not yet discussed specifically the type of fat in the diet. However, researchers in human and animal medicine have much information supporting the idea that specific types of fatty acids can provide numerous health benefits. This month we look at the science behind Omega-3 fatty acids and begin the process of understanding the terminology used.
Omega-3 fatty acids
So what makes Omega-3 (or “n-3”) fatty acids so unique? Quite simply, it’s just the location of the double bonds which occur between the carbons in the fatty acid chain. The location of these bonds are what provide these fatty acids with their naming system. Omega-3 fatty acids have the last double bond placed three carbons from the methyl end of the carbon chain, which is the opposite end from the attachment to the glycerol backbone in a triglyceride. Compare this to the Omega-6 fatty acids (or “n-6”), which have their last double bond six carbons in from the methyl end. This simple change in location of a double bond can have tremendous impact on the metabolism of these fats in the body.
Essential fatty acids
Previously we mentioned that horses must ingest certain fatty acids in their diet as they do not have the capability of synthesizing them in great enough quantities. These include linoleic acid and linolenic acid. Both of these fatty acids are 18 carbons long but differ in the number and placement of the double bonds. Linolenic acid has three double bonds with the last one placed three carbons from the methyl end. Thus, it is an Omega-3 fatty acid. Linoleic acid has two double bonds, with the last double bond six carbons from the methyl end and is an Omega-6 fatty acid. These two fatty acids represent the essential fatty acids that horses must consume. These fatty acids do occur in forages and concentrates such as corn and oats, just in smaller quantities than we think about in more fat rich feedstuffs. Typically there will be more Omega-3 fatty acids in forages, especially pasture grasses, while grains will contain more Omega-6 fatty acids.
The horse, as well as humans, must consume these fatty acids as we both lack the necessary enzymes to build these structures on our own. However, we do possess the enzymes needed to elongate these fatty acids to more complex fatty acid structures. These elongation enzymes are shared by both linoleic and linolenic acid in their metabolic pathway. Their products in turn can be used to synthesize a whole host of biologically active compounds. Linolenic acid can be elongated to eicosapentanoic acid or EPA, a twenty carbon fatty acid with five double bonds, and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA, a 22 carbon fatty acid with 6 double bonds, as well as others. Both EPA and DHA are Omega-3 fatty acids, due to their origin from an Omega-3 fatty acid. Linoleic acid is elongated to arachidonic acid, a twenty carbon fatty acid chain with four double bonds which is, of course, an n-6 fatty acid. These fatty acids can be used to synthesize eicosanoids, which are biologically active lipids.
Eicosanoids have hormone-like activity which is typically mediated locally within a tissue. These include prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes. These compounds differ by their structure and perform a host of activities within the body. All of these compounds are necessary for normal bodily function, but an imbalance can contribute to a disease state. Prostaglandins can effect smooth muscle contraction, vasodilation, inflammation, pain, and fever, as well as gastric acid and mucus secretion. Leukotrienes are released during the inflammatory process and can contribute to inflammation and bronchoconstriction. While their role may be to aid in healing the damaged tissue, overproduction of leukotrienes can contribute to asthma or allergic reactions. Finally, thromboxanes cause the aggregation of platelets and constriction of blood vessels. Again, all of these compounds are part of normal bodily function, but their potent effects can contribute to the diseased state.
So how do Omega-3 fatty acids fit into this story of thromboxanes and leukotrienes? When animals ingest greater quantities of Omega-3 fatty acids, these fatty acids can displace arachadonic acid in the cell membrane. Thus, there is less arachadonic acid available to be released and formed into eicosanoids. Increased linolenic acid also decreases the amount of linoleic acid which is elongated simply due to a competition for the same enzymes. The elongation products of linolenic acid and subsequently EPA may also directly counter act some of the inflammatory products of arachadonic acid metabolism. Thus increased consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids may aid in decreasing inflammation in the diseased state.
Feeding Omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful for horses which may have chronic pain or inflammation. Traditionally horsemen have used NSAIDS, or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory DrugS, to manage pain and inflammation. When we provide NSAIDS these compounds act by blocking the activity of enzymes which cause the release of inflammatory agents. However, NSAIDS are not specific and block the activity of both cox-1 and cox-2. These enzymes are essential in the conversion of arachidonic acid to progstaglandins. Cyclo-oxygenase 1 unfortunately is also intimately involved with the formation of thromboxane in platelets and in gastromucosal integrity. It is the inhibition of cox-1 which leads to the formation of ulcers in horses which have long term NSAID administration. However, many specific cox-2 inhibitors have been produced (Celebrex® and Vioxx®).
Sources of Omega-3s for horses
Compared to humans, it may be harder to increase the consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids in horses, but not impossible. Typically the greatest concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids is found in marine fish. Certainly fish oils have been fed to horses, but there may be limits in the acceptability of fish oil by the horse. Flaxseed, however, is also an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, has a slightly sweet, nutty, whole-grain flavor and aroma, and is readily accepted by horses. Many flax products are now offered to the horse owner. Increasing consumption of fresh grass will also boost the Omega-3s in your horses’ diet.
Next month we continue to look at Omega-3 fatty acids in the horse’s diet and examine some of the available literature concerning their effects in the horse.
Is flaxseed the new wonder food? Preliminary studies show that flaxseed may help fight everything from heart disease and diabetes to even breast cancer.
Flaxseed may be on everyone’s lips — and in everyone’s cereal — but this new darling of the plant world has been around for more than 4,000 years, known even in the days of Hippocrates for its healthful benefits.
Flaxseed has been a part of human and animal diets for thousands of years in Asia, Europe, and Africa, and more recently in North America and Australia, says Kaye Effertz, executive director of AmeriFlax, a trade promotion group representing U.S. flaxseed producers. As flax gained popularity for its industrial uses, however, its popularity as a food product waned, but it never lost its nutritional value. “Today flax is experiencing a renaissance among nutritionists, the health conscious public, food processors, and chefs alike,” says Effertz.
The reason for the increasing interest in flaxseed is its apparent benefits for a host of medical conditions, says Roberta Lee, MD, medical director of the Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in New York.
Flaxseed is very high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, Lee explains. It’s the omega 3s — “good” fats — that researchers are looking at in terms of their possible effects on lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, lowering the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers, and reducing the inflammation of arthritis, as well as the inflammation that accompanies certain illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and asthma.
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