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CARBOHYDRATES

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

In order to understand carbohydrate digestion, it is important to know that there are two broad categories of carbohydrates, which are digested differently within the horses body.

Structural Carbohydrates- Consists of plant fibre (cellulose & hemicellulose), which is fermented by the resident (good) bacteria in the horses hindgut (cecum & colon). Volatile fatty acids are created during the fermentation process, which are used as an energy source by the horse.

Non Structural Carbohydrates-  Consists of starch and simple sugars, which are broken down in the small intestine by enzymes and absorbed into the blood stream as glucose.

Non structural carbohydrates can easily overload the small intestine as there limited enzymes present. High levels of starch is found in cereal grains, so when excessive amounts of grain is consumed excess starch will escape digestion and overflow into the hindgut where it is rapidly fermented into lactic acid. The build up of lactic acid causes hindgut acidosis, predisposing the horse to metabolic conditions and digestive upsets such as colic, diarrhoea and laminitis. 

It is imperative horses owners provide plenty of fibre (structural carbohydrates) in their horses diet to ensure the digestive tract can function properly. When insufficient fibre is fed and excessive amounts of non structural carbohydrates (NSC's) are consumed, it can have detrimental effects on your horses health. Just remember, not all carbohydrates are the same, fibre (structural carbohydrates) and grain (non structural carbohydrates) are digested and metabolised differently! 

IMPORTANCE OF DENTAL CARE

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Since digestion begins in the mouth, regular dental care is important when ensuring optimum feed utilisation, health and performance. Remember, if the food is not chewed properly, it will not be digested properly! Dental problems/ abnormalities can cause a variety of problems such as choke, weight loss, poor performance and nutritional deficiencies. My question to you is- does your horse have routine dental checks?? 

Clinical signs associated with dental problems:

  • Weight loss 
  • Quidding 
  • Head tossing 
  • Laceration of tongue, lips or gums 
  • Drooling 
  • Poor performance 
  • Bad odour in mouth 
  • Tilting head whilst chewing 
  • Large particles of undigested food in droppings 

Image obtained from: http://www.texasequinedentist.com/blog/2013/06/equine-skull-anatomy-interesting-facts/


Common dental problems:
* Sharp enamel points 
* Ramps 
* Wave mouth
* Rostral & caudal hooks 
* Uneven bite planes 
        * Periodontal disease
* Retained deciduous teeth  * Congenital abnormalities 


 The image to the left shows some common dental problems seen in the horse.

Image obtained from: http://www.equinedentistuk.com/page/equine_dentistry

What the horse eats and where he eats it (i.e. at ground level or off an elevated rack) will affect how your horses teeth wear. The type of job your horse has (broodmare or performance horse) will also affect the frequency with which your horse may require dental care (Arnott, American Assocation of Equine Practitioners 2008).

Remember, good dental health is paramount! In order for horses to efficiently digest their food, they need to be able to effectively grind it into small particles. The condition of a horses teeth will determine how well they can do this. Routine dental examinations will detect any abnormalities and correct the problem early before it effects your horse's welfare and performance. 

Happy Riding! 



HENDRA VIRUS

Thursday, June 27, 2013

With another horse contracting the deadly virus in the Brisbane Valley on Monday and winter being the high risk period, I felt it was important to share information obtained from the DPI, Australian Veterinary Association and the QLD Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry (websites are listed below) to help ensure horse owners are fully aware and informed about the deadly virus. 

For those who are not 100% familiar with Hendra Virus, it is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transferred from animals to people. It occurs in flying fox populations and it is thought to be transferred to horses through contaminated urine, faeces or birth fluids. Humans and other animals can then become infected through close contact with an infected horse. 

The high risk period for Hendra Virus is generally between June and September, however the disease can occur at any time of the year where flying fox colonies are present. Horse owners should take extra caution where flying foxes congregate and move their horses, feed and water away from contaminated areas. 

Image obtained from: http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/article/2012/11/01/354106_news.html

There is currently no treatment for Hendra Virus, however a vaccine is now available to help reduce the risk of infection. Veterinarians strongly recommend vaccinating horses in high risk areas as it will provide a more robust barrier to the virus. If owners do vaccinate there horse, it is still important to remember that strict hygiene and paddock management is vital when reducing the risk of infection. 

If you are concerned about your horse, it is advisable to consult your veterinarian, isolate the sick horse and ensure strict hygiene is practiced. For more information on the deadly virus please refer to the following sites.

Websites:




GASTRIC ULCERS - THE CAUSES, SIGNS & PREVENTION!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Is your horse not 100% - Poor performance, weight loss, dull coat and change in demeanour? Did you ever consider the possibility of gastric ulcers? Gastric Ulcers are much more prevalent then many horse owners realise. Scientific studies have revealed that up to 90% of race horses and 60% of foals and performance horses have gastric ulcers!! Intermittent feeding, high grain diet, insufficient roughage intake, stress, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and intense exercise are all factors associated with the development of gastric ulcers. 

Clinical Sings:

  • Poor performance 
  • Poor appetite 
  • Dull coat 
  • Weight loss 
  • Attitude change 
  • Wind sucking 
  • Acute/ recurrent colic 
  • Loose feces
  • Teeth grinding                                                                                                   (Images obtained from: http://www.mobileequinediagnostics.com/?page_id=132)                         Please note that endoscopic examination by a qualified veterinarian is needed for ulcer conformation

If your horse is acting out of character and you suspect that gastric ulcers may be the cause, seek veterinary advice! Your vet will be able to determine the severity of the ulcers and use the appropriate treatment. 

Prevention is always better then treatment. Here are a few tips to help reduce the incidence of gastric ulcers:

  • Allow free choice access to grass or hay 
  • Limit stressful situations 
  • Feed frequently - little and often!
  • Reduce grain consumption 
  • Decrease the use of non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs 
Remember, the horse constantly produces gastric acid and needs a continuous supply of saliva and digesta to buffer the stomach and protect it from ulceration!!

Happy Riding!

FEEDING THE UNDERWEIGHT HORSE

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Some horses have a fast metabolism and are just hard keepers, whilst others have underlying conditions/ health issues preventing them from gaining weight. When a horse is loosing weight or is failing to maintain weight, it is important to determine possible reasons and select the appropriate treatment and/or diet that will help get your horse back in optimum condition. 

Reasons for weight loss include:

  • Insufficient calorie intake 
  • Parasite burden 
  • Dental abnormalities 
  • Gastric Ulcers
  • Unbalanced diet 
  • Neglect 
  • Poor quality feed 
  • Pain 
  • Stress 
  • Herd dynamics 
  • Age
  • Illness/disease 
  • Stereotypical behaviour
Before I go any further, it is important to note that if you are feeding an emaciated horse that has a history of prolonged feed deprivation, it must be done with extreme care and it is important to have a veterinarian evaluate and examine the horse. The recommended approach for the initial refeeding of a starved horse is to feed small amounts of quality alfalfa frequently. The amount fed should be slowly increased and the frequency of feeding should be gradually decreased over 10 days.                                    
For underweight horses that do not have a history of prolonged feed deprivation, weight gain can be as simple as feeding a well balanced high calorie diet, using effective parasite control or having routine dental checks. In the more difficult cases, a health check by a veterinarian will be necessary in order to determine if the horse has any underlying health conditions such as gastric ulcers, infection, illness and disease. 

Maximising quality forage intake is essential when trying to achieve weight gain. Free choice access to forage is recommended as it is a safe way of increasing the horses calorie intake.  A commercially made fibrous feed that contains a balanced blend of vitamins and minerals such as No-Grain Gold is also a great way of providing fibre in your horses diet whilst meeting nutritional requirements. 

Fat supplementation is also an ideal and safe way of enhancing body weight. A high calorie feed such as WeightGain is the ultimate supplement for horses of any age needing to increase body weight and overall condition. It is a highly digestible and well balanced supplement that will not only increase body weight but will provide amino acids for muscle growth and development. 

It is common for many people to simply increase the grain content of the ration in order to increase the overall calorie intake, however you need to be careful as excessive amounts of grain in the diet can negatively effect your horses health. Remember, horses have evolved on fibrous feed and have a limited ability to efficiently digest large amounts of grain due to limited enzymes present in the small intestine!

So in summary, there are a number of reasons as to why horses may be underweight. Regular dental checks, effective parasite control, and proper nutrition is paramount when managing the under weight horse. Obviously, some horses will have underlying conditions that will prevent it from gaining weight, so veterinary advice/ treatment should be sought. Lastly, condition scoring is a great way to monitor and evaluate the amount of fat on your horses body.

Happy Riding!




FEEDING PONIES

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

As we all know, many ponies tend to be 'good doers' or 'easy keepers' and I am sure many pony owners have a Jenny Craig paddock for those ponies that just love to gorge themselves! Although these ponies need their calorie intake restricted, it is important you still provide them with a balanced diet to satisfy their nutrient requirements. It is also important to note that when ponies need to loose weight, they should NEVER be starved as hyperlipaemia can occur when there is a sudden decrease in feed intake. 

Why are some pony breeds 'good doers'?

Most pony breeds have evolved in harsh conditions and have the ability to withstand extreme conditions, which means that ponies typically have a slow metabolic rate and are able to maintain weight easily.

Ponies are susceptible to metabolic conditions because they are often overfed and under worked, which leads to obesity. An overweight pony is predisposed to developing a number of conditions including laminitis, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Be aware that there are a number of potential causes of laminitis, however obesity and the over consumption of non structural carbohydrates are common causes. 

The appropriate feed selected for your pony will depend on your horse current level of activity, its body condition/weight, age and health status. The main component of the diet should be based on fibre (by now you should all know how important fibre is!). Because there is such a high incidence of metabolic conditions among ponies, feeds high in non structural carbohydrates (NSC's) should be avoided. Ponies who have, or are susceptible to these conditions need to be fed a diet very low in starch and sugar, as large amounts of starch and sugar can trigger or worsen metabolic conditions. 

So what is an ideal feed for a pony that is obese, laminitic, insulin resistant or has metabolic syndrome? PonyPlus of course! It is a nutritious and filling feed that will provide your pony with quality protein, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and bulk without oversupplying calories, starch or sugars. With less then 1% starch, and 4.3% sugar, it really is the ideal feed for ponies! The fibre base formula will also keep your pony feeling fuller for longer. 

Because PonyPlus is a low energy feed, it is ideal for the 'easy keeper'. Few ponies require high energy rations (unless of course they are in heavy work) so they do not need to be fed a high energy diet as excess energy that isn't used by the horse will be converted into fat. So for all the 'good doers' out there, a low energy diet is necessary! 

So to sum up this weeks blog, calorie restriction, increased physical activity and strict control of NSC's should be part of the management/ prevention of the common metabolic conditions seen in many pony breeds.

Happy Riding!

 



FEEDING HORSES IN DRY CONDITIONS

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

With many areas in Australia experiencing very dry conditions, horses owners need to make sure they feed their horses appropriately in order to maintain an ideal body weight. One of the major problems faced with dry conditions is the lack of forage available to horses. If you have been following my weekly blogs, you will know just how important fibre (forage) is!

When pasture is limited or non existent, horses will need supplementary feeding to meet their nutritional requirements. Hay alone may not be sufficient for some horses and selecting the appropriate feed for your horse can be challenging, however here at Omega Feeds we have been working hard to scientifically formulate a range of palatable fibre based feeds to meet the nutritional requirements of different horses. 

The product best suited to your horse will depend on the following factors- age, growth, activity and health. Obviously, some horses will have higher nutritional requirements then others, so it is important to select the right feed best suited to your horse. With many people looking for an affordable product that will meet the requirements of resting or lightly worked horses, our No-Grain Gold is certainly an option worth considering. No-Grain Gold is an ideal maintenance feed that will meet the requirements of lightly worked hoses whilst providing the all important bulk in diet, keeping the horse feeling fuller for longer!

Regularly monitoring the condition score of your horse is something all horse owners should be doing as it will give you an indication of whether your horse is maintaining, loosing or gaining weight. If your horse is maintaing an ideal body weight  then you know that your current diet is suitable. If your horse is loosing or gaining weight, you will need to adjust your diet. As Huntington, Myers & Owners (2004)  wrote in their book 'Horse Sense', correct feeding is both a science and an art; the science is knowing what to feed to satisfy the requirements of the horse, and the art is knowing how to get the best results!

Happy Riding!




NON PELLETED Vs PELLETED FEED

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Pelleted feeds are certainly common in the Equine Industry, but have you ever stopped to think of the disadvantages associated with pellets? If your looking at purchasing a pelleted feed for your horse, there are a few things worth considering before you make the purchase! Pelleted feeds have perceived advantages, however they certainly have many drawbacks! For all those familiar with the Omega Feeds range, you will know that we do not pellet any of our feeds and I bet many of you often wonder why!

The major reason as to why we don't pellet our feeds is because they are based on fibrous sources, and horses spend more time chewing the feed when it is not pelleted. Chewing stimulates saliva production, and as you may or may not know saliva is needed to buffer the stomach and protect it from ulceration. It is also important to remember that horses are herbivores and their teeth are designed to grab and grind forage (fibre). Normally a horse would chew in a circular motion which naturally wears the teeth evenly, however when the horse consumes grain and pelleted feed this chewing motion is reduced, causing uneven wear patterns and dental problems.

Another important benefit of feeding non pelleted feeds is that the owner can assess the quality of the feed and determine the exact ingredients present in the product. This is a significant point as people need to feed their horses the best quality feed to reduce the risk of colic!  So now you are aware for the major reasons as to why we do not pellet our feeds, you will be wanting to know what the major disadvantages of pellets are. 

The problems with pellets:

*Cannot determine the nutritional make up/ quality of the feed- All ingredients are finely ground then   smashed together into a pellet shape. It is very hard to determine the quality of each ingredient and low quality ingredients are easily disguised. 

*Rapid ingestion and decreased saliva production-  Predisposes the horse to gastric ulcers, behavioural  problems, choke and cribbing.

* In pellets containing grain, the grains will either be listed by name or as 'grain products', 'selection of the following grains' or anything along those lines, which means the owner doesn't know what grains are actually present in the bag they have purchased. You could be feeding a different mix every time you purchase a new bag! Not only would this suggest a poor quality feed, the nutritional analysis and energy content of that particular product will vary and health problems can occur if manufactures are suddenly changing ingredients. 

* Dental problems (uneven surfaces) as horses are spending less time chewing.

So when it comes to making feed decisions, keep in mind the pros and cons of each feed. There are so many different feeds on the market, so it can be hard choosing the right feed for your horse. Just remember, horses have evolved of roughage (fibre) spending the majority of their time grazing, so it is important you select an appropriate feed that will meet the nutritional requirements of your horse without compromising its health and wellbeing. 

Happy Riding!


FEEDING THE POLOCROSSE HORSE

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

After our sales rep attended a polocrosse carnival and spoke to many competitors, it seems like many horses are pumped full of grain and horses are regularly tying up. In order to enhance the performance of these horses and reduce the incidence of tying up, people need to ensure they are correctly feeding their horses, as nutrition along with training will directly impact on how your horse performs. A correct balance of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, protein and energy is essential to support intense exercise needed when competing in a carnival. 

Common problems faced in Polocrosse:

*Tying Up

* Poor appetite over the duration of a carnival 

* Riders want the energy level without the fizz 

Tying up is a muscle disorder that can be caused from a number of factors, however today I will be focusing on tying up caused by a high grain diet. Although my focus for this blog is on the problems with grain, it is also important to remember that your horse needs to be conditioned, fit and prepared for your upcoming carnival as exercise in excess of their training level will predispose a horse to tying up!

Because the polocrosse horse requires bursts of intense speeds, they need adequate energy in their diet. In order to boost the energy content of a ration, some horse owners just increase the grain content given each day. Although this does significantly increase the energy content, it also predisposes the horse to a number metabolic conditions such as tying up and colic. 

Fibrous 'cool' feeds such as No-Grain Platinum, is ideal for horses that display fizzy behaviour or have a tendency to tie up when fed grain based feeds. Horses have evolved on fibre based feeds and have a limited ability to efficiently digest the large amounts of starch present in grain. When excessive amounts of grain is fed, it predisposes the horse to episodes of tying up. By simply reducing or removing the grain content in the ration and replacing or supplementing it with No-Grain Platinum we can greatly reduce the incidence of tying up and other conditions!

Fat supplementation is also a great way of increasing the energy content of a ration whilst reducing the risk of metabolic conditions. Scientific research has shown that a fat supplement such as MaxiCoat will provide 2.25 x more energy then carbohydrates. This means you can increase the energy density of the ration whilst reducing the amount of grain necessary to provide a specified amount of energy. Fat supplementation also enhances muscle glycogen stores, delays fatigue, and reduces excitability and nervousness. 

Horses on a high grain diet that are in heavy work or under stress can often loose their appetite, as inadequate fibre and excess grain consumption increases the production of lactic acid in the hindgut, which suppresses appetite and increases the risk of undesirable behaviours.  Adding fibre to the diet of horses that are consuming large amounts of grain can help avoid hindgut acidity and gastric ulcers that may reduce appetite. 

So in summary, reducing or removing the grain in the ration and supplementing adequate fibre and fat sources, we can reduce the incidence of tying up, colic and behavioural problems. Remember, nutrition along with training will impact on how a horse performs. 

Happy Riding!




FEEDING THE 'HOT' HORSE

Monday, April 22, 2013

As a a rider and competitor, there is one thing I see a lot and that is the number of 'hot' horses present at different equestrian events that need working down prior to getting on. Wouldn't you love to just be able to get on and go and not have to worry about calming your horse down?? If you answered yes to this, then here is a bit of information that may help!

Horses can display 'fizzy' or 'hyperactive' behaviour for a number of reasons and although it is well recognised that some breeds of horses have a tendency to become more hyperactive then others, feeding practices are often responsible for altering a horses behaviour. What you feed and how much you feed your horse can impact on how your horse performs, so it is important to match your horses feed intake to the amount of exercise it is currently getting. 

Behavioural problems have been linked to certain feeding practices, most notably a high grain and/or a low fibre diet. Grain is a high energy feedstuff that is often responsible for causing fizzy and hot behaviour. Many horse owners tend to feed grain based diets and underwork their horses, resulting in hyperactive behaviour. By simply reducing or removing the grain content of the ration, and feeding plenty of fibrous feeds, a horses behaviour will often improve.

If your horse is currently in intense work and needs a high energy diet, fat supplementation is a safe way to increase the overall energy content of the ration. Fat supplementation has become a popular way of providing a highly digestible and dense energy source for horses. By supplementing fat in the diet and reducing the grain content, we can reduce the risk of digestive disorders associated with grain intake.

Behavioural problems can also arise when the diet is deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B1 and magnesium. A vitamin B deficiency is often caused by a lack of fibre in the diet, so it crucial to provide your horse with plenty of fibre, as the fermentation of fibre produces B vitamins! 

It is important to realise that not all equine behaviour problems are related to nutrition, other causative factors can include breed, education and pain. Always keep in mind that what you feed and how much you feed your horse can impact on how your horse performs! Feeding well balanced cool feeds such as Omega Feeds will help keep your horse cool, calm and collected. 

Happy Riding!