Fructans in pasture grasses

Pasture grasses produce fructans as a storage carbohydrate. As the horse cannot digest the fructans enzymatically in the small intestine, they are digested by the microbes in the hind-gut, leading to production of volatile fatty acids and lactate. Increased lactate concentration lowers pH and alters the balance between the different strains of gut microbes. High intake of fructans can therefore lead to severe conditions as colic and laminitis in horses.

What are fructans?

Fructans consist of fructose units that are linked together. The chain length can vary from less than 30 to more than 200. Short-chain fructans have a sweet taste while the long-chain fructans have a more neutral taste. Cool season grasses produce fructans as a storage carbohydrate in the same way as other plants produce starch as a storage carbohydrate. The highest concentration of fructan in grasses is found in the lower part of the stem and in the leave sheaths, and lower concentration in the leaves.

Fructans are produced during daytime through photosynthesis, and levels of production are highest on warm sunny days. During night-time, without photosynthesis, the plants use the stored fructans for growth and for energy.

Variations in fructan content.

Different grass species vary in their fructan content. Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) and Perennnial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) are normally higher in fructans, while Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), Timothy (Phleum pratense), Orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) and Meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis) are lower in fructans. There may also be large variations in fructan content between cultivars within some species (Perennial ryegrass and Tall fescue).

During summer, grasses grow and accumulate fructans during the daytime. Grasses can also grow at night, in temperatures higher than 6oC. However, since no photosynthesis is available at night, the grasses uses the stored fructans for energy. Under these conditions, the concentration of fructans builds up during the day, being highest in the afternoon, and is lowest in the morning.

It is also important that pasture grasses have the conditions that stimulate growth. Proper fertilization and adequate supplies of water increase plant growth and hence the utilization of fructans during the night.

In early spring and late fall, temperatures can be low at night and the grasses can stop growing. This means that no fructans are utilized during night-time and fructan content can remain high for the morning.

General recommendations

Horses are subject to digestive upsets associated with the start of the grazing season. To minimize the risk of colic and laminitis, be sure to let them adapt gradually to the pasture grass. It is also recommended to not allow them to graze too hard, as it is the lower parts of the plant stem that have the highest concentration of fructans.

Sensitive horses should be grazed at times when the fructan concentration is lowest. They can also be muzzled to help restrict grass intake. Most normal horses will have few problems with fructans as long as they are allowed sufficient time to adapt to grazing conditions. However, ponies seem to be especially sensitive and grazing, for them, should be restricted. This is not only because of fructans, but also their tendency to grow very fat during summer grazing.

Posted in Pegus News

It’s time to make plans for the upcoming breeding season

It’s time to make plans for the upcoming breeding season.

Now April is here, most owners wanting to breed a horse will have decided what stallion they want to use for their mare.

If your brood mare is pregnant and expecting a foal in the spring, you should inform your chosen insemination centre of your mare’s expected foaling date. Agreement must be reached with the stud owner concerning transport of the mare before foaling and return afterwards with the foal or, if the mare is to foal at home, transporting her from home and back again after the birth of the foal. Remember that there are provisions which apply to the transport of pregnant mares and mares with young foals.

Insemination of the mare at home.

In the case of home insemination you must arrange with the stud owner or artificial insemination centre how you are best to be sent the semen. This is a frozen sample of semen that is collected from the stallion at the insemination centre then packed and shipped to you in the quickest way possible.

A home insemination benefits both mare and newborn foal as they can remain throughout in familiar surroundings. It also reduces the risk of infection and stress that can be caused through transportation and the abrupt introduction of the horse into a new environment.

If you plan to use an artificial insemination, you will have to work together with a veterinarian who is experienced in the insemination of mares and ultrasound examination of the ovaries. The veterinarian will use ultrasound to track ovarian activity and detect the right time for insemination, as well as a microscope to check the quality of the semen.

 

Keep your vet well informed about your plans and when you expect it to be appropriate to perform the insemination. This means you need to know approximately when the mare will foal and whether you are looking to inseminate during the first ovulation, about 9 days after foaling or if you choose to wait for the monthly oestrus about 30 days after foaling.

If the mare is inseminated in the first ovulation and becomes pregnant, the foal will arrive approximately 1 month earlier in next year compared to the present year. This is particularly relevant for a mare that will foal later in the year than wanted. If the mare is inseminated during its monthly oestrus and becomes pregnant, the foal will arrive about the same time next year as this year.

If the mare is bred during its first ovulation, conditions must be optimised. The mare must be sound and healthy and foaling must have gone without any complications. The veterinarian who will perform the insemination will be able to advise you whether it is best for your mare to breed during the very first oestrus, or wait until the next. There should be no pressure to inseminate early if the vet thinks it is best for the mare to wait.

Now that the mare is in the latter part of gestation the need for effective nutrition increases significantly. The fetus is now growing more and more rapidly as the time of foaling approaches and you must respond and follow this up with appropriate feeding. This means that it is important to pay close attention to the bodyweight and condition of the brood mare. It can grow thin very quickly if appropriate action is not taken now.

Feel the ribs. You should feel some fat between your hand and the ribs.

To maintain good appetite throughout parturition and on into lactation, the mare should be eating the diet you expect to use after foaling. This means that you must use a feed mixture that is specifically designed for pregnant and lactating mares.

In the Pegus  PC-Horse program, the food needs of brood mares automatically change as the pregnancy proceeds. The program knows when the mare became pregnant (you already added the date of conception) and also knows the current date (taken from your Pegus PC every time the program is opened and run). Thus the nutritional needs of the mare are calculated on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis.

You should therefore check the brood mare’s ration weekly during this last period of gestation.

Posted in Pegus News

Group feeding of horses during winter

Group feeding of horses during winter

Many horses are kept outdoors and fed as a group during winter. For this, we have to take into account extra challenges presented by cold weather conditions. Horses are very adaptable to cold weather, but factors such as age, body condition, breed, acclimatization and feeding will all influence the tolerance of cold in each individual’s case. A good management and feeding regime is therefore especially important during winter.
Temperature oC Wind m/sec Effective temperature Definition of wind
group horses

What determines the cold tolerance?
How well will horses tolerate cold weather conditions? This can be defined as the Lower Critical Temperature (LCT) for each individual. The LCT is the temperature at which the horse has to physiologically increase its production of heat so as to maintain a normal body temperature. Large, heavy horses will tolerate cold better than thoroughbreds, and adult horses will have a lower LCT (thus tolerating cold better) than horses younger than one year. Well fed horses in good body condition will also tolerate cold better (and have a lower LCT) than thin, underfed horses. Poor teeth, parasites and disease can further decrease the individual’s tolerance of cold.

The horse’s response to cold
The immediate response of horses to the sudden onset of cold conditions is to change their behavior. They will seek shelter, huddle together and stand with their tail against the cold and wind, snow and rain. The temperature of the legs, ears and muzzle decreases as blood is shunted from the extremities to reduce heat loss.
The LCT of winter-adapted, well fed adult horses is -11 to -15oC. For yearlings, LCT is in the range 0 to -5oC. In addition to the temperature itself, wind, and precipitation (snow or wet conditions) increase the heat loss from the body. It is common to use the term “effective temperature” to denote the combined effects of temperature and wind. The wind speed determines the wind chill, and even moderate winds may lower the effective temperature down to the LTC, ie. to temperatures where the horse has to increase its heat production to maintain normal body temperature.

 

 

Legislation
For horses kept outdoors during winter, there are various national regulations that have to be met.
In Scandinavia, horses should have access to a shed with 3 walls and a dry space to lie down.
Water should be available at all times, as insufficient water supply may lead to intestinal constipation and colic.

Feeding
One of the most critical factors determining development of cold tolerance in horses is energy intake. Enough good-quality feed is needed to supply increasing energy requirements. Horses are well able to increase voluntary feed intake when it is needed. Therefore, feeding high quality hay or haylage free-choice is the easiest and most suitable way of supplying additional energy.

Group dynamics
Grouped horses typically have a pecking order and timid individuals can become thin, even when feed is available and plentiful. In mixed groups, the younger the horses, the lower the rank. To ensure that all the horses in any particular group get enough to eat, sufficient individual feeding space is necessary. If not, dominant individuals will not allow lower ranking ones to eat sufficient amounts, even when there is plenty of feed available.
Adult horses not in training may well be able to cover their energy requirements when fed good-quality hay or haylage free-choice, with the addition of a mineral/vitamin supplement. Young growing horses, mares in late pregnancy and horses in training will need supplementing via concentrates. This requires facilities for individual feeding, as group feeding of concentrates cannot be recommended.

Keeping horses outdoors in groups requires that each individual is carefully observed to ensure welfare, normal development, body condition and health. After exercise, horses that are wet from sweating should be allowed to dry before being brought back into the group. The need for the use of rugs must be considered for each individual, but for many horses, this will not be necessary except under very harsh conditions.

Pegus PC-Horse and group feeding
When using  Pegus PC-Horse for calculating rations for horses that are kept outdoors in groups, you can tick the option “Active horse”. This will increase the calculated energy requirement by 10%. PC-Horse cannot take into account actual prevailing weather conditions. The easiest and best way to secure a well balanced ration and sufficient energy intake for each individual horse, is to calculate a ration with PC-Horse as usual, and feeding good-quality hay or haylage free-choice so the horses can increase their voluntary feed intake when needed. Hay or haylage should be analyzed to ensure a high enough quality. As the individual intake of roughage cannot be controlled, but has to be estimated, each horse has to be observed carefully, especially during winter.

 

Contact Pegus Horse Feed for free feeding advice

Posted in Pegus News

How we define the level of exercise for your horse?

How we define the level of exercise for your horse?

The energy requirement of exercising horses is mainly depending on the horse’s body weight and the amount of exercise. However, many find it difficult to define the average amount of exercise over a given period, eg over one or two weeks.

10154450_10152327303283930_6990219276403140936_nscotty 510499398_10152187047546433_2310120369057358817_omike ryan

When using Pegus PC-Horse to set up rations for exercised horses, you will have to provide information about the average level of exercise or training. You can select the pre-defined levels by double-clicking on the blue text or moving the slider along the scale (see figure). Initially it is recommended to select the pre-defined level you think fits your horse. You can later adjust the training level as you gain experience with the program.

For a given horse, you can inspect the training level by doing the following: Define the horse in the PC-Horse program. If the horse is maintaining a steady body condition on it’s present ration, we can assume that the energy content of the ration is close to the actual requirement. Enter the present ration into PC-Horse and go to the training window (see picture). Here you see how much energy the present ration provides. Then you can use the blue slider and adjust the level of training until the Energy requirement (upper blue arrow) is equal to the energy that the ration provides (lower blue arrow).

It is important to closely monitor any changes in the horse’s body condition. If the horse puts on weight, the training level is set too high. If the horse looses weight, the training level has to be increased. Then the rations have to be adjusted according to the new training levels.

The logic behind this is:

When the training level is set too high, Pegus PC-Horse calculates a high energy requirement, higher than the horse needs, and the ration will provide too much energy. The result is that the horse grow fat.

If the training level is set too low, Pegus  PC-Horse calculates the energy requirement to be too low, and the ration calculated gives to little energy, and the horse looses weight.

training

 

Some general advice:

Maintenance (0): No training.

Light training: Energy requirement increased by 25%. Recreational riding or driving. Beginning of training programs.

Moderate training: Energy requirement increased by 50%. More active recreational riding or driving. Dressage and show jumping, distance riding. Lower eventing  and other activities.with higher intensity.

Heavy training: Energy requirement increased by 75%. For trotters, show jumpers, distance riding  3 Day Eventing and for other types of horses that are trained heavily several times per week.

Very heavy training: Energy requirement increased by 100%. For thoroughbred race horses and heavily trained standardbred trotters.

Posted in Pegus News

Fructans in pasture grasses

Fructans in pasture grasses

Pasture grasses produce fructans as a storage carbohydrate. As the horse cannot digest the fructans enzymatically in the small intestine, they are digested by the microbes in the hind-gut, leading to production of volatile fatty acids and lactate. Increased lactate concentration lowers pH and alters the balance between the different strains of gut microbes. High intake of fructans can therefore lead to severe conditions as colic and laminitis in horses.

grazing-in-pair

What are fructans?

Fructans consist of fructose units that are linked together. The chain length can vary from less than 30 to more than 200. Short-chain fructans have a sweet taste while the long-chain fructans have a more neutral taste. Cool season grasses produce fructans as a storage carbohydrate in the same way as other plants produce starch as a storage carbohydrate. The highest concentration of fructan in grasses is found in the lower part of the stem and in the leave sheaths, and lower concentration in the leaves.

grassplantfruktanmolekyl

Fructans are produced during daytime through photosynthesis, and levels of production are highest on warm sunny days. During night-time, without photosynthesis, the plants use the stored fructans for growth and for energy.

Variations in fructan content.

Different grass species vary in their fructan content. Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) and Perennnial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) are normally higher in fructans, while Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), Timothy (Phleum pratense), Orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) and Meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis) are lower in fructans. There may also be large variations in fructan content between cultivars within some species (Perennial ryegrass and Tall fescue).

During summer, grasses grow and accumulate fructans during the daytime. Grasses can also grow at night, in temperatures higher than 6oC. However, since no photosynthesis is available at night, the grasses uses the stored fructans for energy. Under these conditions, the concentration of fructans builds up during the day, being highest in the afternoon, and is lowest in the morning.

It is also important that pasture grasses have the conditions that stimulate growth. Proper fertilization and adequate supplies of water increase plant growth and hence the utilization of fructans during the night.

In early spring and late fall, temperatures can be low at night and the grasses can stop growing. This means that no fructans are utilized during night-time and fructan content can remain high for the morning.

General recommendations

Horses are subject to digestive upsets associated with the start of the grazing season. To minimize the risk of colic and laminitis, be sure to let them adapt gradually to the pasture grass. It is also recommended to not allow them to graze too hard, as it is the lower parts of the plant stem that have the highest concentration of fructans.

Sensitive horses should be grazed at times when the fructan concentration is lowest. They can also be muzzled to help restrict grass intake. Most normal horses will have few problems with fructans as long as they are allowed sufficient time to adapt to grazing conditions. However, ponies seem to be especially sensitive and grazing, for them, should be restricted. This is not only because of fructans, but also their tendency to grow very fat during summer grazing.

 

For more information on your horses diet please contact Pegus Horse Feed .

Free Phone Helpline

R.O.I.= 1800-378463 UK = 0800 011 4182

 

Posted in Pegus News

April 2017 – Cobalt

Cobalt in the Horses Diet

In addition to being a naturally occurring trace mineral in horse rations, cobalt has also been associated with the doping of racehorses around the world. So, what are the functions of cobalt in the body? What is the recommended requirement for cobalt, and what are safe amounts to feed in rations for racehorses?
cobalthorse
Function of cobalt (Co) in the body
Cobalt is an essential trace mineral used by microorganisms in the horse’s caecum and colon in the synthesis of vitamin B12. Cobalt in the form of vitamin B12 is needed, together with iron and copper, in the formation of red blood cells (erythropoiesis).
Requirement
The NRC 2007 requirement for cobalt is set to 0.05 mg per kg dry matter in the ration. This means that an adult horse, weighing 500 kg, will need 0,5 – 0,7 mg per day. A cobalt deficiency would be expected to result in a vitamin B12 deficiency. However, cobalt or vitamin B12 deficiency has not been reported in horses, and is difficult or impossible to induce experimentally. This implies that under normal conditions horses receive enough cobalt to sustain the intestinal microbes in their synthesis of vitamin B12.
Sources of cobalt in horse rations
Cobalt is found in natural horse feeds in minute amounts. Typical concentrations in forage will be 0.04-0.08 mg per kg dry matter, and lower for grains. However, these values may vary between areas and countries based on their local soils.
Compound feeds for horses typically contain 0.3-0.9 mg per kg and mineral supplements from 5-20 mg per kg, depending on the daily amounts recommended by the producer (normally less than 100 grams/d).
Cobalt and the doping of race horses
Recently, reports have appeared about horse trainers who have supplemented horses with much higher amounts of cobalt than recommended, presumably believing that high intakes can increase the production of red blood cells. Whether it works or not is not known. One of the big concerns is the negative side effects of overdosing horses with cobalt. In humans, overdoses have reportedly led to organ damage, impaired thyroid activity and even to death.
Some studies showed that after oral administration of high doses of cobalt (more than 200 mg/d) to racehorses, no positive effects on red blood cells were found. Instead of physiological changes that could help a horse to run faster or endure more sustained levels of activity, the opposite was observed: profuse sweating, muscle trembling, restless circling, horses dropping to their knees, and brief periods of collapse.
Feeding cobalt in the recommended daily amounts leads to blood levels of 0.5 – 3 micrograms per litre. When it comes to doping regulations, an upper threshold for cobalt in the blood plasma of racehorses has been set at 25 micrograms per litre and in urine at 100 micrograms per litre. To obtain such levels of cobalt in blood or in urine you would have to feed cobalt in amounts far above the recommended amounts, or to inject the element directly into the blood stream.
Pegus PC-Horse and cobalt
Pegus can  calculates the cobalt requirement for all types of horses, and also calculates the total amount of cobalt in each ration. By using PC-Horse when composing your rations, you will always know what the requirement of each individual horse is and how much cobalt each ration contains.

Free Phone Helpline R.O.I.= 1800-378463 UK = 0800 011 4182

 

Posted in Pegus News

Adjusting rations for mares in late pregnancy

 

Adjusting rations for the mares in late pregnancy 

At this time of year, many pregnant mares are in their last months of pregnancy. The foetus now increases its growth rate and demands more nutrients to support that growth. The mare has to deliver these nutrients to her foetus and her ration will have to be adjusted accordingly

mare in foal

Foetal growth
In the first 7 months of pregnancy, the foetus grows moderately and only reaches about 20% of its final birth weight. This means that the mare’s nutrient requirements in this period changes little compared to maintenance requirements. However, during the last 3-4 months of pregnancy, foetal growth accelerates. During the very last month before foaling, the foetus gains about 30% of it’s final birth weight. The body weight of a normal new-born foal is approximately 10% of the mare’s normal body weight, which means that a foal is relatively large at bir

Nutrient requirements for pregnancy
All the nutrients needed to produce a foal (muscles, skeleton, hooves, hair etc) have to be delivered to the foetus from the mare’s blood stream. Understandably, this represents a considerable challenge. To avoid depletion of the mare’s own body reserves, we have to offer a ration that covers the increased nutrient demands of the foetus. The body of a new-born foal is composed to a large extent of protein (muscle), minerals (skeleton) and water. In the last month of pregnancy, relative to maintenance, the mare’s requirements are increased 30% for energy, 75% for protein and 80% to 85% for calcium and phosphorous.
mare in foal graph

Quality control
Normally, rations for pregnant mares are composed of more than 2/3rds roughage. This means that knowing the nutrient content of your roughage is of major importance. Having your horse’s roughage analysed for at least energy (MJ), crude protein, calcium and phosphorous should be seen as part of quality controlling your horse breeding. Roughages vary a lot, particularly in relation to protein and calcium content, and it is not possible to estimate the content of these nutrients by visual inspection alone. We need roughage that is well analysed, and to use those analysed values when composing the rations.
Once roughage has been analysed, Pegus Horse Feed can be of great help. The analysed values can be entered into the  Pegus PC-Horse feed list and used directly when composing rations.

Condition at foaling
It is vital that the mare is in good condition at foaling. This will not only affect milk production after foaling, but also fertility. Mares are normally covered during the “foal heat”, about 9-11 days after foaling, or in the next heat occurring about 30 days after foaling. To optimize the chances for a new pregnancy, the mare should be in good condition and well-balanced nutritionally.

 

For further help in arranging your feed plan for your mare , contact Pegus directly for  free advice and diet planning.

Free Phone Helpline R.O.I.= 1800-378463    UK = 0800 011 4182

 

 

Posted in Pegus News

Potassium (K)

Potassium (K) is the mineral (ion) found in highest concentration in all cells in the bodies of humans and animals, as well as in the cells of plants. In blood and in the fluid surrounding cells, sodium (Na) dominates, and the concentration of potassium is low. Potassium and sodium are both positive ions, and in a complicated cooperation, the two cations ensure that nerves and muscles function normally. Potassium from feed is rapidly absorbed through the gut wall and transported by the blood stream to the cells. About 75% of the potassium in the body is in skeletal muscle.
potassium

Dietary sources
Plant cells have a comparatively high potassium content, and the common grasses, silages and hays used in horse rations are therefore good sources of potassium. These forages typically contain 10 to 20 grams of potassium per kg dry matter. Cereal grains, on the other hand, contain only 2-5 grams per kg dry matter. This means that horses on rations with recommended amounts of forage, around 1,5 kg dry matter per 100 kg body weight, will receive sufficient potassium to fulfill requirements by a good margin.

Potassium requirements
For idle horses and pregnant mares, the requirement is about 5 grams per 100 kg BW. For mares in the first 3-4 months of lactation, the requirement is almost twice this amount. For young growing horses, about 5.5 grams should be given per 100 kg of BW. Exercise increases potassium requirement because of losses incurred through sweat and increased urinary excretion. For intensively exercised horses, the requirement is about twice the maintenance requirement, 10 g per 100 kg BW.
In forage-based rations, the amount of potassium will be higher than the nutrient requirement of most horses. For a 500 kg horse, this means that a ration with just 5 kg forage dry matter will provide enough potassium (50-100 grams), even when the horse is in hard use during the racing season.

Too little potassium
A potassium deficit may lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, lethargy, exercise intolerance, and decreased water and food intake. In healthy horses on rations with sufficient forage intake, signs of potassium deficiency are rarely seen.

Too much potassium
A high intake of potassium is not harmful, as the kidneys will regulate the excretion in the urine to maintain potassium balance. When potassium intake is high, it is of vital importance that the horse has free access to water at all times.

Pegus Balancing Diets 
Pegus Horse Feed  provide calculations for potassium requirement, as well as dietary intake and potassium balances. PC-Horse will give a warning when forage dry matter in the ration is below the recommended amount, and will, by providing guidance to the balancing of forage intake, usually also normalise potassium intake
Free Phone Helpline R.O.I.= 1800-378463 UK = 0800 011 4182

 

 

Posted in Pegus News

Good Food Guide

  • Always ensure access to fresh water at all times
  • Feed by Weight, not Volume
  • Try and ensure feeding is regular and consistent
  • Adjust quantities of feed as necessary
  • Introduce changes to the horses diet slowly, as to reduce the incident of digestive upset
  • Ensure a good worming regime is in place
  • Check teeth regularly
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Sara Ennis
    

 

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"At Pegus they know about horses and about feeding them".