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Timothy and Alfalfa Hay Blog

    Increase Alfalfa Hay and Other Forages, Improve Dairy Cow Health

    Posted on Mar 27, 2013

    Feeding Higher Forage Diets before Calving Improves Dairy Cow Metabolic Health

    Dairy cows are frequently afflicted with metabolic diseases after calving. The high incidence of disease is thought to be related to the prolonged periods of negative energy balance that commonly occur postpartum. The dietary energy requirements of dairy cows are at their highest levels at calving and immediately postpartum and in most cases, a cow cannot physically eat enough feed to meet her energy needs. For an unknown reason, this period is also characterized by a drop in dry matter intake. Therefore, during this time, the cow is in a state of negative energy balance (NEB).

    In an effort to reduce NEB, many dairy producers will feed cows an energy dense diet beginning three weeks before calving. However, this practice may lead to overconsumption of energy, which is subsequently stored as triglycerides (fat stores) in adipose tissue. During times of NEB, triglycerides are broken down into non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) that are used for energy. NEFA are transported in the blood to the liver where they are transformed into ketone bodies. Beta hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is the most common ketone body in dairy cows. While BHB is a highly available energy source, excess levels can lead to subclinical or clinical ketosis. Subclinical ketosis can decrease milk production and affect reproductive performance. In addition, surplus NEFA are repackaged into triglycerides in the liver, which accumulate, and thus, increase the risk of fatty liver. Metritis, retained fetal membranes, mastitis, milk fever, and displaced abomasum have been associated with fatty liver syndrome in dairy cows. Interestingly enough, cows that consume excess energy and are over-conditioned prior to calving tend to experience more extreme NEB postpartum and have higher concentrations of BHB than cows that were fed prepartum diets that met energy requirements.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Quality of Forage, Dairy Cow Milk Production, News

    Quality Hay a Remedy for Pica in Horses

    Posted on Feb 25, 2013

    Some Horses Eat the Strangest Things

    Feeding Adequate Amounts of High-Quality Hay Can Help Alleviate Pica in Horses

    Horses with pica have the propensity to lick, mouth, or even eat unusual substances that have little or no nutritional value. Some of the most common forms of pica in horses include ingestion of feces, sand or dirt, chewing and ingesting wood, and mane and tail chewing.

    Why some horses’ exhibit pica is largely unknown. Underlying health problems may precipitate pica in some horses. Pica is commonly thought to be due to nutritional imbalances, such as mineral or vitamin deficiencies. Unless there is adequate evidence for nutritional inadequacies, pica is many times the result of curiosity or boredom. In any case, pica may cause impactions that can lead to colic, prompt the formation of enteroliths (stone-like masses) in the gastrointestinal tract, or even tissue damage by migrating foreign objects.

    Foals commonly exhibit coprophagy, a form of pica where feces are ingested, within a few days after birth. This practice may help colonize a foal’s intestinal tract with the microbial population that will ultimately allow them to exist on a forage-based diet. While coprophagy is normal in foals and young horses, feces consumption is not normally observed in older horses. Providing an older horse with unlimited access to good-quality hay or pasture may eliminate coprophagic behavior.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Timothy Hay, Quality of Forage, Timothy, Horse Health, Horse Nutrition

    Hay, shelter, vaccinations...is your horse ready for winter?

    Posted on Nov 16, 2012

    Old man winter is knocking on the door. Nights are getting longer, temperatures are dropping, and snow is in the forecast. Are you and your horse ready for winter? You should be prepared to meet your horse’s needs for nutrition, health care, and shelter.

    If you haven’t already, now is the time to purchase your hay and get it stored nearby.  Timothy and alfalfa hay types are both high-quality forages and should provide the foundation of your horse’s winter diet. One should determine how much hay will be needed to make it to eventual pasture turnout in the spring. Forages should be fed at roughly 2% of your horse’s body weight. So, an average 1000-pound horse should be fed 20 pounds of hay each day. At that rate, you will feed an average-sized horse approximately 600 pounds of hay every month. Use these figures to determine how many tons of hay you will need to feed your horses for the winter. Don’t skimp on hay since fermentation of fiber in the hindgut generates heat that will keep your horse warm. More heat is generated from forages than grains during digestion.  For this reason, consider feeding your horse a few extra pounds of hay when temperatures get extremely cold. Additionally, a high-forage diet reduces the chance of starch-induced colic, and feeding high quality hay like timothy and alfalfa can reduce the risk of impaction colic. 

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Timothy Hay, Quality of Forage, Timothy

    High Quality Alfalfa Boosts Milk Production in Dairy Cows

    Posted on Oct 30, 2012

    There is no question that high quality forage generates greater paid premiums for alfalfa hay growers. Superior quality alfalfa hay fed to livestock also promotes maximum returns in milk and meat production. Alfalfa hay quality is directly correlated to age and maturity of a field at harvest because nutrient composition quality declines as the forage matures. Total tonnage yields are highest when hay is fully matured; however, nutritional value and digestibility decrease as the leaf-to-stem ratio increases with plant growth. Crude protein (CP) levels decrease as alfalfa ages, while fibrous components such as neutral and acid detergent fibers increase (Figure 1).

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Quality of Forage, News

    Forage needs of Mares and Foals

    Posted on Oct 8, 2012

    Foals meet most of their nutritional requirements during their first two months of life from mare’s milk. Immediately after birth, foals consume colostrum, which is rich in energy, enzymes, hormones, growth factors, immunoglobulins, and other components that are important for immunity and resistance to disease. In general, mare colostrum contains 25% total solids, 3% fat, 16% protein, and 4.5% lactose on an as-fed basis. Colostrum is produced for a short time period, usually the first 12 hours after foaling. Thereafter, total solids, fat, and protein decrease while lactose increases in mare’s milk.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Quality of Forage

    Nitrates and Hay

    Posted on Oct 4, 2012

    Nitrate levels in feedstuffs may be toxic to livestock. Nitrate poisoning is a serious and often fatal condition that occurs after livestock ingest feedstuffs that contain high levels of nitrate. Some plants amass more nitrate than others. Alfalfa, barley, corn, oats, and wheat are examples of field crops that are nitrate accumulators. Weeds like bindweed, bull thistle, Canadian thistle, and lambsquarter may also have high levels of nitrate. While soil conditions affect nitrate accumulation in plants, weather conditions are the primary influence. During optimal growing conditions, nitrates are easily transformed by plants into proteins and amino acids, resulting in low nitrate levels. In contrast, nitrate concentrations build up in plants when they are stressed during periods of high temperatures, low moisture, and low relative humidity. Overfertilization may also lead to high levels of nitrate in forages and other crops.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Timothy Hay, Quality of Forage

    Alfalfa Hay and Blister Beetles

    Posted on Sep 21, 2012

    What are Blister Beetles?

    Blister beetles are a danger that may be lurking in your alfalfa hay.  These beetles produce cantharidin, a toxic chemical that protects them from predation. Cantharidin from crushed beetle bodies causes burns after contact with skin. These lesions are easily treated and heal on their own. In contrast, ingestion of blister beetles can be fatal. Horses and other livestock accidently consume blister beetle bodies that are present in infected hay. Death may occur after consumption of only a few hundred beetles, but toxicity depends upon the species as well as gender.  Signs of blister beetle poisoning in horses include blisters in the mouth, restlessness, abnormal vital signs, pawing, colic, frequent urination, and dehydration.

    There are more than 300 species of blister beetles in the United States. They have long, narrow bodies (½ to 1 ½ inches). The broad head is fully exposed, wing lengths vary but are soft and flexible, and antennae are nearly 1/3 the length of their bodies. Blister beetles can be black, brown, gray, bright green, or turquoise in color, and may be striped or spotted.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Quality of Forage

    Dietary and Feed Management Considerations for the Older Horse

    Posted on Aug 29, 2012

    The number of horses aged 16 – 20 years has increased in the United States.  Most of these older horses lead healthy and useful lives.  However, horse owners may notice that the nutritional needs of their aged horses appear to have changed as it becomes more difficult to maintain adequate body weight.  Actually, low body condition is a common problem in geriatric horses and can be caused by bad teeth, kidney or liver disease, or pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID or equine Cushing’s disease).  Disease and reduced feed digestibility are frequent causes of poor body condition in older horses; however, alterations in diet and feeding management may be all that is necessary to correct weight loss in the aged horse.

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    Topics: Alfalfa Hay, Hay for Horses, Timothy Hay, Quality of Forage

    Soaking Hay in Water Reduces Water-Soluble Carbohydrates

    Posted on Aug 10, 2012

    Managing the diet of laminitis-prone horses can be challenging. In an earlier blog article, we briefly discussed that these types of horses should be fed diets that are low in non-structural carbohydrates (NSC). They should never be fed high-starch concentrates such as oats, dry COB, or COB with molasses.  Instead, laminitis-prone horses should be fed hay that contains a low level of NSC or water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC). A feed analysis may not specifically list NSC. However, NSC is the sum of WSC and starch, both of which should be provided on a feed analysis report. Water-soluble carbohydrates include fructans and the simple sugars; glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Current research indicates that overconsumption of hays and pasture grasses that contain high levels of fructans and fructose (which is a major component of fructan), can lead to bouts of painful laminitis, especially in horses that are predisposed to the disorder.

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    Topics: Hay for Horses, Quality of Forage, Timothy

    Water is the Most Essential Nutrient in Horse Diets

    Posted on Jul 27, 2012

     

    Forages provide the bulk of a horse’s diet. Obviously, a horse should be given free access to clean, palatable water.  But, how much water does a mature horse really need?  Generally speaking, an average-sized, resting horse in a moderate climate will consume between four and nine gallons of water per day (2).  This requirement, however, is affected by many factors, including diet composition, climate, exercise intensity, physiological state, and health/illness. Water isn’t added to feeds, but it is the most essential nutrient for all horses.  More than 65% of a horse’s body contains water.  Maintaining this body fluid composition is a delicate balance between intake and loss.  Insufficient water intake will result in decreased feed intake and lethargy, which negatively affect performance, dehydration, and ultimately, death if not resolved.  Horses gain body fluids by drinking water, grazing moisture-rich pasture grasses, and through the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates, and fats (1).  Meanwhile, body fluids are lost through urine, feces, sweat, and respiration (1,2). 

    Diet composition is a major factor in determining a horse’s water requirement.  Normally, water consumption will rise as the diet dry matter content increases. For example, horses that are primarily grazing pasture, which contains 60 – 80% moisture, will consume less water than horses that are eating primarily hay, which contains approximately 10 – 20% moisture. 

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    Topics: Hay for Horses, Quality of Forage