Archive for May 15th, 2014

Tips For Tackling Flies

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Fly season is just around the corner, but you can keep your horses comfortable throughout the tail-swishing season with a few basic strategies. While flies are a nuisance, more importantly they represent a health threat to animals because of the spread of diseases associated with their infestation.

While almost impossible to completely eradicate them, it is worth the time and effort to keep your horses’ environment as fly-free as possible.

First Line of Defense: Stable Management

In the barn there are several things you can do to discourage flies from setting up camp.

  1. Remove manure.  Flies are drawn to horse droppings. This is where they prefer to mate and lay eggs; resulting in larvae feast on the feces. To keep this from happening, clean your horse stalls and pens daily, removing the manure to an off-site location once a week if possible.
  2. Minimize moisture. Several fly species prefer wet areas for breeding as well as drinking. Keep stalls dry; eliminate standing puddles around your horses’ living areas; get rid of inadvertent water receptacles—old tires, no-longer-used buckets and feeders, etc.
  3. Cover feed. Place anything that will attract flies in garbage containers with bug-proof lids; keeping grains, concentrates, and treats securely stored.
  4. Offer shade and good airflow. A breezy, shaded area will help your pastured horses avoid flies. In the stable a barn fan is a great fly-chaser.

The Well-Rounded Attack

Combine one or more of the following methods with good stable management and you’ll keep the bugs around the barn to a minimum.

  1. Barn Spray System. These mechanized systems automatically mist a fast-acting natural insecticide (pyrethrum) throughout your barn several times a day, killing and/or repelling flies. Once installed, these systems are highly effective and hassle-free. Pyrethrum is environment-friendly and biodegrades within 30 minutes of spraying. 
  2. Topicals. Sprays, roll-ons, wipe-ons, and spot-ons provide a contact repellent or vapor barrier to make your horse less attractive to flies. Topicals will help keep your horse comfortable but are not sufficient alone as a prevention program.
  3. Barriers. Masks, sheets, and boots are anti-fly wear and offer good sun protection, especially for horses with exposed pink skin.
  4. Traps. Bait or other attractants lure flies where they perish. To utilize these products effectively you need to know which type of flies you have and select the traps accordingly.

Source: Equisearch, Jennifer Forsberg Meyer

Horse Feeding Pitfalls: Lack of Salt

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

In our continuing series regarding horse feeding pitfalls, we now turn to the need for salt in the equine diet.
Sodium and chloride–the components of table salt–are electrolytes essential to many bodily functions. Both are lost in sweat and must be replaced from the diet. These are also the only essential nutrients that are not naturally present in grasses and grains.
Horses have a natural appetite for salt and consume what they need if given the opportunity. Placing a salt block in your herd’s pasture is the easiest way of providing access to this vital nutrient, but to ensure that all horses get the salt they need, you may decide to put out multiple blocks or even place a small block in each horse’s stall.

If you choose the latter option, be warned, says Crandell: “Some horses kept in stalls a lot will get bored and start overeating salt, and this will make them drink a lot more and then pee a lot more.” For these horses, she suggests offering just a daily portion–one or two ounces of loose salt, or more if it’s hot or the horse has been sweating heavily. “If the diet is balanced, plain white table salt is fine,” she adds. “It doesn’t have to be mineralized.”

If you do offer loose salt, it’s best to keep it in a bucket rather than pouring it over feed. A horse’s need for salt may fluctuate daily. If you give too little, you can create imbalances; too much, and the feed may become unpalatable.

Source: Equisearch, Laurie Bonner

Horse Feeding Pitfalls: Overloading Nutrients

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

“One common mistake is adding supplements to the horse’s diet without first checking to see if the ration is already overloaded with any specific nutrients,” says Crandell. To avoid creating harmful imbalances, calculate the nutrients a horse is getting from his basic feed ration before adding a vitamin or mineral supplement.

Products formulated to support specific body processes, such as joint repair or hoof growth, are less likely to cause nutritional overloads, but be sure to read their labels so you know what you’re getting. Some supplements that contain glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronan or biotin are also enhanced with vitamins and minerals.

“I’ve seen vitamin A toxicity in horses who were given multiple supplements that all contained similar ingredients,” Ralston says. Selenium, an important mineral, is also toxic in high quantities and may be an ingredient in different supplements as well as commercial feeds. “If you’re already using a good vitamin supplement, you probably don’t need vitamins in your joint supplement, too,” says Crandell.

Of course, nutritional supplements are often beneficial and sometimes essential. Horses whose hay is grown in selenium-poor soils need supplemental selenium.

Likewise, horses who receive hay but have little access to pasture may benefit from supplements containing vitamins A and E, because levels of these nutrients begin to deteriorate once grass is cut.

Also, elderly horses, growing youngsters, broodmares and others with special nutritional needs are likely to benefit from vitamin supplements, as are horses in strenuous sports. Vitamin E, in particular, is often given to elite athletes to help them recover from exertion.

Source: Equisearch

Horse Feeding Pitfalls: Wrong Feed

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Horse feeds are formulated to provide the exact amount of calories and nutrition those animals need, and giving the wrong feed to the wrong horse can result in imbalances that can be harmful. “The biggest consequence is that adult rations don’t have the mineral levels young horses need,” says Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, associate professor at Rutgers University. “The result can be abnormal growth and developmental orthopedic disease.”

Also, once you’ve determined the amount of concentrates your horse needs for extra calories, be sure to choose a feed that provides the optimum nutrition in that serving size. “The most common mistake I see is feeding below rate,” says Crandell–that is, feeding a horse less than the recommended serving size. “When formulating feed, you can’t make it work for every horse,” she explains. “You can’t balance the vitamins and minerals for a horse getting one pound of feed without poisoning the horse getting 10 pounds.” Conversely, if the recommended serving size is five pounds, the horse who is getting only one pound is getting only a fifth of the added vitamins and minerals.

“If the minimum serving is too much, it’s not the right feed for your horse,” Crandell says.

If you uncertain what the best feed is for your horse, consult this Nutritional Solutions Guide by Purina. You may also find this Feeding Calculator helpful as you determine daily rations.

 

Sources: Equisearch, Purina Mills Horse Health

Horse Feeding Pitfalls: Feed Amounts

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Usually, the consequences of less-than-optimal feeding regimens are relatively minor, costing us extra money perhaps but doing no real harm. But the worst feeding mistakes can have serious consequences: Some deficiencies or excesses pose an actual health threat; others may subtly rob a horse of vitality. Nutrition and calorie intake is an important factor in equine health. If you are feeding by volume rather than weight you may be over or under feeding.

If you hold a coffee can filled with corn in one hand and one containing oats in the other hand, you will notice a significant difference in weight–corn is heavier, and it’s also higher in calories than other feeds. Of course, we’re all used to scooping out a uniform portion of feed at mealtime, but when it comes to calculating nutrition, it is the weight that matters, not the volume–something to keep in mind whenever you change feeds.

Even pelleted and sweet feeds can vary in density and volume. “Two different manufacturers can make feeds that seem similar on the tag in fat, fiber and protein but the density could be very different,” Crandell says. “I have weighed a number of different feeds in a large coffee can and found that some were close to one pound different in weight but equal in volume.”

So, when you’re planning to change or adjust your feeds, be sure to read the bag for the nutritional content per pound, and then use a kitchen scale to determine how much a pound really is.

Source: Equisearch

Horse Feeding Pitfalls: Forage

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Ideally, the average horse’s ration is primarily hay and pasture grass, with modest amounts of concentrates, such as grain, pelleted or sweet feed. But frequently, little emphasis is placed on the quality of forage offered, says Kathleen Crandell, PhD, an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research in Lexington. “Too many people think that hay is just busywork for the horse and do not realize that it is a major calorie source that can vary greatly with quality. If you’ve tried everything to get a horse’s weight up but are still feeding stemmy, old timothy hay, switching to a leafy grass hay that’s not overly mature is a very safe way to get more calories.”

Besides providing more nutrients, better-quality hay is also more economical. For one thing, poor-quality hay contains less digestible fiber so horses have to eat much more to derive the same amount of nutritional value, yet because it is less palatable, horses tend to leave more of it uneaten. In contrast, good-quality hay rarely goes to waste: Horses are likely to devour every last leaf and stem.

Hay made from different grass species varies somewhat in appearance, but in general the good stuff has several distinguishing characteristics:

  • Leafiness: The leaves contain about 90 percent of a plant’s protein, so ideally, you want bales with fewer stems and large seed heads.
  • Color: The hue of good hay can vary but is generally some shade of light to medium green for grass hays and darker green for alfalfa. Some yellowing is natural if the hay was sun-bleached, but too much yellow likely indicates that the grass was overmature when cut and contains less digestible fiber.
  • Aroma: Good hay smells fresh and slightly sweet. Pungent, acrid or musty odors are signs of mold or other quality deficits.
  • Texture: If you squeeze a handful, good hay feels soft and pliable while poorer hays have coarser stems that will stab your skin.
  • Weight: Good-quality bales are lightweight and springy; if you drop one on its end it ought to bounce.
  • Purity: Good hays contain few weeds and no foreign material, such as sticks, wire or dead insects or animals. 

Source: Equisearch, Laurie Bonner

Poultry Feeding By Stages

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

For more than 100 years Purina Mills has been helping people raise poultry. In fact, poultry feeds were among the very first products we sold. For fresh eggs to farm-raised chickens, you can count on Purina to provide products that will help ensure the health and well-being of your flock.

Purina has a poultry feed that’s perfect for each stage of development. See the chart below for recommended guidelines:

FeedingLayenaChart

Source: Purina Poultry

Trouble in the Hen House

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Henhouse_SherylWestleighThere are two major behavioral problems that poultry owners must tackle at the first appearance. Both can be caused and cured.

Egg-eating:

Egg-eating generally occurs when a hen finds a broken egg, tastes it, likes it, and begins searching for broken eggs. Then she learns to break them herself. Broken eggs occur more often when there is inadequate litter to cushion them, inadequate nutrition (either via improper feeding or heavy parasite or disease challenges) that results in weak egg shells, and infrequent gathering. The longer an egg lays in the hen house, the greater the chance it will be broken. So frequent gathering is your primary weapon against egg-eating. Broody hens can increase the likelihood of broken eggs because they constantly occupy a nest and they cause increased traffic in the other nests. Bright lights in the nesting area are a stressor that can increase nervousness and picking behavior. Scaring hens out of nests can also result in broken eggs. Always approach hens quietly and encourage gentle movement.

Finally, if eggs are being broken, you must find the perpetrator and get rid of her. Hens that learn to eat eggs must be culled, as they will never give up the habit and they will teach it to other hens. However, before culling, make sure the culprit is, indeed, a hen. Egg-eating hens will usually have dried yolk on their beaks and heads. If your hens are clean, suspect another culprit. Snakes, rats, weasels, even domestic pets all enjoy eggs. Be sure your hen house is well-barricaded against predators and unwelcome visitors.

Cannibalism:

Cannibalism is a vicious habit that is upsetting and costly. It can occur in fowl of any age, breed, strain, or gender. It is almost always caused by stress related to poor management. Once stressed, birds begin picking at the feathers, vent, comb or toes of another bird. Once blood is tasted, this terrible habit can spread like wildfire through the entire flock. Unless you eliminate this problem immediately, it rapidly gets out of control.

Stressors that can cause cannibalism include:

  • Overcrowding  
  • Excessive heat
    Be sure to adjust heat lamps and brooder temperatures as chicks mature, and keep all buildings well-ventilated, especially during the hot summer.
  • Bright light
    Very bright light or lengthy periods of bright light induce hostility in birds. Use dim lights to calm and comfort birds. 40watt bulbs provide plenty of light, and 25watt bulbs can be calming. Heat lamps should be red or infra-red, as this helps maintain a dimly lit environment.
  • Absence or shortage of feed and/or water
    Hunger, thirst and the need to fight for food induce aggression. Keep ample food and water available, with plenty of feeder space for the number of birds present.
  • Unbalanced diets
    Very high energy, low fiber diets increase activity and aggression levels. Lack of protein or specific amino acids can encourage feather-picking. Feed a high-quality feed, and minimize the role of table scraps. Scratch grains scattered about can give the birds something to do, but they should not constitute more than 10% of the birds‘ diet.
  • Mixing birds
    Combining birds, especially those of different ages or with different traits (such as crested and non-crested fowl) disrupts the pecking order and can cause pecking due to curiosity.
  • Abrupt changes in environment or management procedures
    Always make changes as gradually as possible. If changing feeder types, be sure to leave the old equipment in the pen for a few days. Gradually adapt birds to new diets, new feeding times, new lighting schedules, etc.
  • Remove all crippled, injured, slow-feathering, and dead birds from the flock
    Birds will naturally pick on defenseless companions due to curiosity and social order. Slow-feathering birds have young, tender feathers exposed for a longer period of time and are therefore susceptible to pecking.
  • There are some things you can do to keep your flock busy and happy.
    Having an enclosed run to encourage exercise is beneficial. Providing fiber via clover, grass or weeds helps increase contentment. Aggressive game birds can be fitted with a variety of “peepers”, small plastic “blinders” that attach harmlessly to the beak and limit forward vision, thus limiting the tendency to fight.

If you experience a cannibalism outbreak, closely review all your management and environmental circumstances. Darken your facilities with red or low-wattage light bulbs, remove injured birds, lower the pen temperature if possible, and apply “anti-peck” ointment or pine tar to damaged birds. Identify and remove overly aggressive birds. Do not return to normal lighting, etc., until serenity has returned to the flock, and then do so gradually!

 

Source: Purina Poultry

Preventing Diseases In Your Chickens

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Almost every flock will experience an outbreak of disease or parasitism at some time, but good management and biosecurity measures can go a long way to protecting your flock and minimizing problems. The first thing every bird owner should do is find a veterinarian familiar with poultry and work with that person to establish a strong flock health program. Your veterinarian will know which vaccinations may be needed in the area where you live and can assist you with a vaccination program appropriate for your flock. Many small flock owners never vaccinate because they think their birds will not be affected. However, anyone attending shows, working with 4-H members and their birds, or bringing in outside birds should vaccinate. Many diseases are very easily transferred by other humans, and birds that appear to be the picture of health can be carriers that constantly shed viruses. Some diseases, such as Marek‘s disease, can never be thoroughly gotten rid of – once your premises are contaminated, they are considered to be contaminated forever.

VacinnatingChickens

Always get a veterinarian‘s recommendation first, as vaccinating for one disease may cause another to become worse. Symptoms of some diseases may be confused with other conditions, so a serology test is needed for confirmation. Some diseases affect all poultry, others only some. Again, work with a veterinarian to establish a solid flock health program.

 

Source: Purina Poultry

When Will My Pullet Start to Lay Eggs?

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Creative Commons_HenOnNest_Ben_KetaroSummer is near and your spring chicks will be approaching puberty. Assuming they’ve enjoyed good food and care, the young hens, called pullets, begin laying sometime between their 16th and 24th week of age.

You can anticipate the arrival of eggs soon! Discovering a hen’s first egg from your own hand-raised chicks is a thrill. Pullet eggs are tiny and look like gems in the nest.

If your pullets are over 16 weeks of age, now is the time to switch them to a Nutrena® layer feed, as laying hens need special nutrition. Producing eggs places great nutritional strain on a hen’s body. Just think of the calcium she is giving up each time she lays an egg! Nutrena® brand layer feeds have the minerals, vitamins, protein and other nutrients needed to help keep your birds healthy and productive. Now would also be a good time to supplement calcium by putting oyster shell out or sprinkling it on the coop floor for hens to discover and eat.

Are your pullets ready to lay eggs? Here’s how to tell:

  • Chickens will be between 16-24 weeks old
  • Pullets look full grown with clean, new feathers
  • Combs and wattles have swollen and are a deep, red color
  • Bones in the hen’s pelvis will begin to separate.

To check if the hen’s pelvis bones have begun to separate, cradle the hen between your side and arm with the hen facing your back so you see its rear end. Carefully hold the bird’s feet so it can’t kick. Place your other hand gently on the hen’s rear end. If three prominent bones are close together, don’t expect eggs for a few more weeks, but if the bones have separated, expect eggs soon!

Pullets like to lay eggs in privacy, and it’s important to have nest boxes in place before the first egg arrives. These can be purchased or made of lumber and should be approximately 10-12 inches square and about 18-inches deep. Install one nest box for every two hens and place them from one to three feet above the floor. Line the nests with straw, dried grass, wood chips or even shredded paper to help keep the eggs clean.

 

Source: Nutrena Poultry Knowledge Center

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