Entries in Debbie Odell (3)

Friday
May112012

FEEDING THE LIFE STAGES AT STUD

Stud Horse Mare and Foal

Feeding the Stud Horse...
(Photo : Vuma Horse Feeds)

"The Age Old Stud Horse Debate"

Much noise is suddenly being made about feeding the stud horse and particularly how much to feed mares and foals, to provide a creep feed or not, levels of protein, amounts of roughage and the correct balance of minerals and vitamins.

None of this is new and it is an age old debate but at Vuma we still believe in our original views and formulations. Champion Breeders for the past seven seasons can't be that wrong and Summerhill stats will show you that horses raised on the foundations of Vuma run for longer on average and more often than others. Whichever way you look at it there is no disputing the value of a superior stud feed, formulated to ensure correct growth and lay down strong bone from the very beginning, even while still in utero. While correct limb conformation, good bone and size are a vital pay-off at the sales, even more telling are the results at the race track!

Nutrition is essential in maximizing bone density. Skeletal growth is rapid during the first 12 months and it is at this time that bone, cartilage and tendon are being deposited and strengthened. The benefits of good levels of vitamin A, vitamin E and biotin are irrefutable in stud rations, and there is evidence to suggest that vitamin C is important in the development of healthy collagen and is essential to the production of connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, cartilage).

Skeletal growth occurs faster than weight gain. At 6 months of age bone mineralization is 68% complete. Dietary mineral supplementation along with careful management and training programs will result in improved bone density and in turn, improved skeletal durability. Young horses will stay training longer without the problems that bone injuries can cause.

As consultant nutritionist to Vuma, Debbie Odell, explained back in 2009, a steady growth rate in foals is the optimal goal.

Debbie Odell

CLICK HERE TO READ
DEBBIE ODELL'S ARTICLE ON STUD NUTRITION
.

The regular use of the Kentucky Growth Chart to measure your foals growth, is important to gauge growth rates.

KENTUCKY STANDARD GROWTH DATA (TB)

Month Kentucky STD ADG (kg/day) Body Weight Std (kg) Height Std (mm)
1 1.675 75 1072
2 1.49 115 1160
3 1.25 150 1215
4 1.19 180 1243
5 1.09 210 1290
6 1.0 230 1324
7 0.75 265 1350
8 0.75 280 1376
9 0.7 290 1411
10 0.5 310 1411
11 0.525 320 1430
12 0.3 330 1438
13 0.3 340 1456
14 0.3 355 1468
15 0.425 375 1475
16 0.875 395 1494
17 0.8 415 1513
18 0.625 425 1520
19 0.55

20 0.65

21 0.5

Vuma Vigour, together with Vuma Vitality, forms the backbone of the Vuma stud programme. Vuma Vigour has the correct balance of vitamins and minerals, with superior inclusions to ensure optimal absorption of nutrients, particularly Calcium, at all critical growth stages.

Vuma Vigour Horse Feed

Vuma Vigour

  • 15% Protein whole grain, "muesli feed" with oats, extruded maize, whole sunflower, soya, Lucerne, bran and platinum class vitamin and mineral pack.
  • Biotin and lysine are specified at the higher end of the recommended spectrum to ensure healthy hoof growth and ensure an optimum amino acid profile.
  • Added vitamin C ensures healthy development of collagen and optimal absorption of calcium.
  • Vuma Vigour is recommended for mares in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, weanlings, yearlings and young horses (up to ¾ years) in light medium work.

Vuma Vitality Horse Feed

Vuma Vitality

  • 12% Protein, whole grain "muesli feed" with oats, extruded maize, whole sunflower, soya, Lucerne, bran, and the industry's no. 1 vitamin and mineral pack.
  • Recommended for stud horses, barren mares, mares in 1st and 2nd trimester of pregnancy, and very suitable for spelling horses.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE
VUMA STUD HORSE PRODUCT INFORMATION

vuma horse feed south africa

www.vumafeed.co.za

AFRICA'S FINEST HORSEFEEDS

For more information contact :
Catherine Hartley : 083 640 1155
Email: catherine@vumafeed.co.za

Tuesday
Feb212012

GRAIN OVERLOAD AND THE PERFORMANCE HORSE!

Horses Grazing

A Case for Vuma Strike R8

Debbie Odell MSc Agric, Pr. Sci. Nat. Consultant nutritionist for Vuma Horse Feed.

debbie odell - equine nutrition cosultantDebbie OdellFeeding performance horses is somewhat of an art that evades perfection even after hundreds of years of concerted effort. One commonality in the feeding of performance horses is the need to supply high energy diets to facilitate the required workload. These diets are commonly grain based, with more emphasis, lately, being placed on fats and oils as an energy source. As we have discovered from bitter experience, we walk a fine line between supplying energy needs for effective training and performance, and breaking down the horse through grain overload. The digestive anatomy of the horse gives us practical clues as to how we should be feeding.

Digestive anatomy of the Horse

The horse is classified as a hind-gut fermenter. In simple terms, this means that the "front end" of the digestive system is similar to any other monogastric animal (e.g. man, chicken, pig etc), and that digestion takes place in the classical manner, by enzymatic breakdown and absorption of the end-products through the gut wall. The "back end" of the digestive system is housed within an enlarged colon and caecum, and breakdown of nutrients here is accomplished almost exclusively by microbial fermentation (similar to the processes in the rumen of a cow). The foregut (stomach and small intestine) has a small capacity (about 38% of the total) relative to the capacity of the hind gut. This would suggest that the horse is not well suited to large single meals, but rather to continuous intake of a high fibre diet. The hind gut contains a "microbial soup" - a host of different microbes which break down and utilize the substrate provided by the diet. Any feed that passes through the stomach and small intestine undigested, will be subjected to microbial fermentation in the hind gut. The end-products of the fermentation process are mainly volatile fatty acids, heat and gas.

However, horses need high energy diets in order to perform, and grains form the mainstay of such diets. The problem with high grain diets results from the disruption of the sensitive pH balance in the hind gut. The hind gut microbial population is not static, but changes depending upon the substrate provided. A diet high in carbohydrate and low in fibre will favour the microbial population with the capabilities of utilizing these substrates, to the detriment of others. The health of this microbial population is essential to the health of the horse. Sudden changes in diet will cause a radical die-off of segments of the microbial population that are not able to survive the new gut conditions. These dying microbes produce toxins which cause damage to the gut lining and may in turn enter the bloodstream, causing colic, and laminitis in acute cases.

High Grain Diets

Any excess of grain, over and above the capacity of the foregut to digest, enters the hindgut and is presented to the microbes for fermentation. The microbial population will change in order to accommodate the change in substrate. The microbes that are suited to fermentation of carbohydrate will proliferate, at the expense of others who will find the gut environment no longer suitable to their needs and will die. The end products of carbohydrate fermentation include volatile fatty acids and lactic acid, the presence of which will cause a reduction in the pH (i.e. a more acidic environment) in the hind gut, causing the gut lining to undergo degenerative changes and the hind gut to become "leaky" allowing toxins produced by the rapid die-off of microbes to enter the bloodstream.

Laminitis, Colic and Liver Function

Grain overload and resultant intestinal disease, are the most common cause of laminitis in horses. Toxins produced by the rapidly dying microbes that find access to the bloodstream through a compromised intestinal wall have been implicated in the development of laminitis. Studies in the USA have shown that over 45% of racehorses in training suffer from subclinical laminitis. Although not detectable at the trot, discomfort at the gallop where the pressure on the foot can exceed 1 ton per square inch, will reduce speed and result in "unexplained" poor performance.

In addition the lactic acid produced by fermentation of carbohydrates causes a generalized hind gut acidosis with a concomitant increase in blood lactate levels. Colic is often associated with elevated blood lactate levels. The liver of the horse will attempt to mop up the toxins entering the bloodstream, and will in the process also be compromised, contributing to elevated liver enzyme levels on blood tests.

Lighten Up!

The most classic cases of grain overload appear in horses which remain thin no matter how much is fed. The normal reaction to a horse that lightens up considerably is to "up the feed". In some cases though, the horse may not respond, or will respond by lightening up more. At this point the call to the feed manufacturer is made! The classic symptoms in these cases are soft and sour droppings, an indicator of gastric acidosis, and providing further concentrate will only exacerbate the condition. Although counter-intuitive, the correct way to deal with the condition would be to reduce the concentrates and increase the roughage portion of the diet. It is important to realize that this is a chronic condition and it is often remarkable how well these cases will respond to a period of spelling at grass.

"Tying Up"

Exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER or "tying up") is another condition commonly associated with continued feeding of high grain diets combined with a resumption of heavy workload after a short rest. In simplified terms, during short rest phases when the feeding level is maintained, glycogen is stored in the muscles. During hard work, insufficient oxygen may reach the muscles to utilize this glycogen aerobically. Anaerobic conditions will then prevail causing inflammation from cell damage and the release of cell constituents into the bloodstream. This results in elevated blood creatine kinase levels and the distinctive discolouration of the urine caused by the presence of myoglobin. The onset of ER may have other trigger factors as well, but the common denominator in most cases is the feeding of a high grain diet.

High Grain Diets
Relationship between High Grain Diets and Incidence of Laminitis and Tying Up.

A note on Ulcers

High fibre diets necessitate thorough chewing. High concentrate diets require much less chewing than high fibre diets. It seems more than pure coincidence that horses on high concentrate diets are more prone to development of gastric ulcers. Part of the reason for this is because chewing induces saliva production - the more chewing, the more saliva. When horses chew hay, they produce twice the amount of saliva per kilogram, of dry matter than they do when they chew concentrates. This saliva accompanies the feed into the stomach when it is swallowed. Saliva is rich in buffers and these buffers help to moderate the acid response in the stomach and prevent acid build-up and thereby reduce the incidence and severity of gastric ulcers. Pelleted concentrates also appear to predispose horses towards gastric ulceration, possibly because of the necessity to grind the ingredients quite finely in order to bind the pellets, enabling them to be consumed faster with less saliva production.

Effects on Behaviour

Horses fed a high grain diet are by virtue of physical gut capacity, deprived of adequate levels of roughage. Low fibre levels in horse's diets have been associated with a number of behavioural anomalies including an increased incidence of wood chewing and coprophagy, wind-sucking, crib-biting, weaving, stall walking, variable appetite and sour attitude particularly evident at mealtimes. Certainly some of these vices may become habitual in the long term, but all potentially have their roots in the attempts to ease some of the physical and physiological distress caused by feeding high grain diets and inadequate roughage supply. Some studies suggest that horses alter their feeding habits to accommodate a high grain diet, by slowing down their consumption rate seemingly in an effort to reduce the amount of carbohydrate that reaches the hind gut where fermentation will take place. They therefore act to ameliorate a drop in hind gut pH that will result from carbohydrate fermentation, indicating a degree of nutritional wisdom.

Strategies to minimize negative effects

Diets high in grain are necessary to the supply of energy requirements to performance horses but there are strategies that can be employed to minimize the effects of grain overload in performance horses.

First and foremost one should work with the physical attributes of the horse. The capacity of the horses stomach is approximately 9 - 15 litres in total but it is rarely full as gastric emptying usually occurs when the stomach is two thirds full. Large meals will therefore increase the rate of gastric emptying, and in turn increase the rate of passage through the small intestine. It stands to reason then that a higher proportion of undigested grain will reach the hind gut for fermentation if large grain meals are fed. If meals are smaller, the rate of passage will be slower and the digestion process in the foregut will be more complete. It is a widely recommended rule of thumb that horses should be fed no more than 2 kg of grain at any one feed. If more concentrate is required rather increase the number of feeds per day than the amount of concentrate per meal. Processing of some grains will improve their digestibility in the small intestine.

Adequate roughage, usually supplied in the form of hay in performance yards, needs to be supplied. Horses should never stand without hay, including overnight. If the night allocation is finished by the morning check, then more should be supplied until there is some left over in the morning. Horses will eat periodically through the night and it is important that they have access to roughage. A period of starvation can increase the incidence of gastric ulcers, and can also affect blood results should samples be taken before a morning feed.

Feeding "to the manger" is a strategy often used, with the assumption that horses will eat what they need and leave the rest. Concentrate quantities are therefore increased gradually until the point where the horse leaves feed, and then that level becomes their daily allocation. Nutritional wisdom is sometimes overestimated and horses may over-eat concentrate at the expense of roughage, especially where roughage supply is erratic. With "old fashioned" diets which included higher quantities of fibre this method may have passed as acceptable, however most modern performance feeds are nutrient dense and contain very little fibre as their focus is on energy supply. It is most important that when feeding these diets one sticks to the manufacturers' recommendations in terms of daily allocation, and ensures intake and availability of good quality roughage at all times. It is also cheaper to feed this way, as not only is hay generally much less costly than concentrates, but the penalties paid for overfeeding concentrates in terms of veterinary fees and poor performance often go unrecognized.

Supplements

Feed supplements like Strike R8™ can be provided to help reduce the effects of high grain diets on the body. Strike R8™ contains acid buffers that modify the acid response in the stomach, helping to prevent the formation of gastric ulcers related to high gain or finely ground diets. Citrate salts help buffer blood lactate and gut specific selective anti-microbials effectively modify hind gut microbial populations, reducing the drop in hind gut pH caused by high grain diets. These products have proved highly effective in the control of acidosis induced laminitis. In addition, Strike R8™ contains vitamins, minerals and electrolytes that assist in the prevention of nutrition induced tying up.

Conclusion

We walk a fine line between optimum performance and nutritional breakdown when feeding sporting and performance horses. The art of feeding is to stay on the optimum performance side of the line. Feed management is critical to this and factors that must be addressed on a daily basis include meal times and the size of each meal, provision of sufficient roughage, physical form of feed, increased utilization of fats and oils as a feed source to reduce the carbohydrate load, balanced vitamins, minerals and trace elements, and provision of effective feed supplements.

Friday
Sep042009

STUD NUTRITION WITH DEBBIE ODELL

healthy weanling

Stud Nutrition
Debbie Odell MSc Agric, Pr. Sci. Nat
Consultant Nutritionist – Vuma Feeds

 

debbie odellDebbie OdellAlthough feeding horses well has often been considered an art, budget and technology are important determinants of the viability of any stud farming operation. Sometimes there may be trade-offs to be made in terms of costs of feed, and the carrying capacity of land etc. In most cases though, where proper nutrition is neglected for the sake of short term cash flow considerations, one ends up more than compensating over the longer term. Prudent use of modern knowledge can go a long way to optimizing the profitability of a stud operation.

Feeding Broodmares

Broodmares are the lifeblood of a breeding operation and optimum nutrition ensures optimum production, in relation to longevity, fertility, and viability of the foal crop. Short cuts taken in feeding of broodmares, particularly in the last trimester of pregnancy, can have significant ramifications on the average sale price of young stock. For many studs it’s a numbers game, and Rands saved on cheaper feed may translate into Rands lost due to increased percentages of mare and foal mortality, difficult births, leg deformities, barren mares and developmental problems. Because of the time lag between conception and sale, the connection between mare nutrition and problems in young stock is often not made.

Non-lactating mares in early pregnancy can initially be treated as for barren mares, as their requirements do not increase significantly until the last trimester of pregnancy. This is not to say though that they can be thrown out and ignored – neither barren nor in-foal mares. This is where the art of feeding and the horseman’s eye become important. These mares should be kept reasonably covered, not thin but not excessively fat. Energy balance is the most important factor at this time, with protein, vitamin and mineral requirements remaining in steady state. Changes in body condition can be made purely by altering the energy supply. Good quality roughage and/pasture can be supplemented with a relatively low protein commercial stud feed to control body condition.  It may be useful to employ some form of body condition scoring system.

The last trimester of pregnancy accounts for about 65% of the foal’s birth weight. This is when the foal is developing rapidly in terms of body weight, and it is a critical time for skeletal development. It becomes essential to increase the mare’s supply of protein, energy, vitamins and minerals during the last trimester, to allow for optimum foetal growth and development. Nutrient deprivation at this time has been implicated in various problems including leg and bone abnormalities in foals, as well as low birth weights. Low birth weights significantly affect the viability of the foal and of course bone abnormalities affect the achievable sales price. At this stage, pasture and roughage should be supplemented with a concentrate specifically formulated for broodmares. It is also important that mares do not foal too fat, as overly fat mares may also contribute to skeletal abnormalities in foals at birth.

After foaling, the mare continues to provide for most of the foal’s nourishment by means of milk production. Lactation is a metabolically expensive process and nutrients must be supplied to accommodate this. A broodmare concentrate should sufficiently provide these requirements with amounts fed being determined largely by mare condition. After foaling, mares will usually (temporarily) go into an energy deficient state, meaning that the energy they require to produce milk is more than what they can extract from their diet. In these cases, mares may lose weight. It is the task of the stud man to ensure that the mare is on an increasing plane of nutrition at this time, to ensure that milk production is not affected by the negative energy balance, that the mare has the capacity to re-conceive, and that she gains back the weight lost before the last trimester of her next pregnancy. It is well-accepted that mares on a low or decreasing plane of nutrition have lower conception rates than those on an increasing plane of nutrition.

Feeding Young Stock

Whether or not to provide a creep feed for foals may be contentious and largely depends on the preference of the stud manager. However, if one is supplied, it should contain a relatively high level of quality protein, as well as optimum vitamin and mineral levels. Growth is rapid during the first year of life and it is at this time that bone, cartilage and tendon are being deposited and strengthened. Protein is never as important to the horse as it is at this time, and ironically, this is the time when many stud managers are reluctant to supply it. A horse, at any stage, has no requirement for a “percentage” of protein, but rather a certain mass of protein per day. The percentage protein feed supplied should be calculated by the requirement in grams divided by the amount of feed to be supplied. Since the intake of young horses is low, it follows that the “percentage” protein of young stock feeds will be relatively high.

In addition, quality of protein is important. Although much work still needs to be done on the composition of the “ideal protein” in horses, it is generally accepted that lysine is the first-limiting amino acid, followed by methionine and perhaps threonine. It follows then that a diet containing sufficient total protein but which is low in lysine, will make the balance of the protein unavailable for effective utilization. To use the Leibig’s Barrel analogy, you can only fill a barrel to the level of the shortest segment. Any protein supplied in excess of the first limiting amino acid is effectively wasted. Also remember, especially when analyzing feeds and pastures, the “crude protein” is actually a measure of the amount of nitrogen in the feed and the assumption is made that that nitrogen is all assimilated into protein. The measure gives no indication of the amino acid profile of the feed, and in relation to highly fertilized pastures, it gives no indication of the levels of nitrogen which are not incorporated into protein – the so-called non-protein nitrogen fraction or NPN. This NPN is of greater value to ruminant animals as it can be utilized by the rumen microbes to make microbial protein. Microbes in the hind gut of the horse may do the same thing, but digestion of microbial protein by horses is minimal due to the hind gut fermentation site in the horse.

Ideally, a steady growth rate is desirable in foals. This is often difficult as seasonal variations in pastures in terms of both energy and protein can account for sudden growth spurts, and some accompanying problems. As far as possible, these seasonal variations should be counter-balanced by judicious supplementation. Vitamin and mineral supply are also vital during this time as certain of these nutrients have been implicated in developmental problems in foals. As with all nutrients, it is the balance that is important, as too much of one nutrient may be counterproductive with another. Mineral nutrition in particular is a complex subject, as a multitude of interactions may occur and these may not yet be fully understood. The advice and products of a reliable feed company or nutritionist will be invaluable at this stage.

Sales Preparation

The current market dictates that the objective behind preparing a yearling for sale must be to produce a well grown, athletic looking horse with good, but not excessive cover. This entails a judicious feeding routine combined with an element of exercise. Walking of young stock is helpful for muscle development, and a mechanical walker must surely ease the labour burden. Sales prep should commence at least 3 months prior to the sale date. The amount of concentrate that needs to be fed depends largely on forage quality and availability. It should be remembered that the yearling is still growing and its requirements for protein and energy still need to be met. The balance needs to be achieved between supplying enough energy to put on the necessary cover, without compromising bone growth. As the bones are still immature, and because the introduction of exercise initiates significant bone remodeling, the diet protein and mineral content is critical.

The importance of individual assessment cannot be overemphasized. Fillies tend to fatten quicker than colts, and late foals may be at a disadvantage as they will have to be pushed that little bit harder to reach the desired result on time. Oil can be a useful ingredient for sales preparation. The energy in oil is about two-and-a-half times that in the equivalent weight of grain, so it can be used where feed intakes cannot be increased. Oils with a significant Omega 3 fatty acid component can be helpful due to their tendency to mitigate inflammatory responses which may occur with the onset of exercise. 

Feed components

Roughage

Good quality roughage remains the backbone of any feeding regime. The more roughage is ignored, the more problems are encountered. In the ideal world, the stud farm should produce the majority of the fodder required for horses, with the balance being supplied by a relatively small amount of concentrate. This is not always possible though, depending on land area available and stocking densities. Fodder production also varies seasonally, and some roughage may need to be strategically purchased. Ideally though, for optimum gut health, the average horse’s diet should consist of roughly 30% concentrate and 70% roughage. At strategic stages in the horse’s life, it may not be possible to meet all the horse’s needs on this regime and the amount of concentrate will need to be increased. The ratio of concentrate to roughage at certain times may need to be up to 70:30, however once this ratio is increased, the likelihood of problems such as colic, acidosis and laminitis increases considerably. 

Horses are grazers and trickle feeders which means for optimum health they should have constant access to feed. There is no replacement for good quality pasture, however, allowances must be made for the composition of certain common grasses. One of the most common grasses used as pasture for horses is kikuyu grass. Kikuyu needs particular care as, not only does it have an inverse calcium: phosphorus ratio (P > Ca), it also tends to accumulate oxalates which may be present in the soil. These oxalates bind with the calcium forming an insoluble, indigestible complex, further reducing the amount of calcium available. This is of particular interest to the stud breeder, as the two most important times for calcium supply are in growing horses and in lactating mares. This inverted Ca:P ratio, over a period of some months, will cause a condition known as nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (NSH), more commonly known as “big head” or “bran disease”. The most observed symptoms are changes in the facial bone structure, sometimes accompanied by intermittent lameness. This needs to be managed in a stud herd by the use of a reliable stud feed, and supplementation with suitable calcium-based products.

Concentrates

Concentrates need to be added over and above the roughage fraction to supply those nutrients not supplied by the roughage. Concentrates can be situationally formulated, or a commercial product may be used. Feed companies will be able to supply recommendations as to how best to use their products. The feed will be of a specified protein value and proteins may be of animal, marine or vegetable origin. Protein sources which are animal in origin may be of value for their amino acid profile, but their use is frowned upon in horse feeds, and is illegal for use in ruminant feeds. Protein sources which are vegetable in origin are widely used in horse feeds and include soya, sunflower, lupin and maize gluten products to name a few. These are valuable sources of amino acids but synthetic amino acids may be strategically utilized to make up for raw material shortfalls

Of equal importance in the formulation of a concentrate is the energy level. The declaration of energy levels is not required on our local feed labels, for a number of reasons, however, it is important to know at least where the feed sits on the energy scale. Although two feeds may have the same protein level, the energy levels may be vastly different, so be sure to choose a concentrate with the desired energy level for the purpose intended.

Fibre is also an element of a concentrate diet, and as a rule of thumb, the higher the crude fibre content, the lower will be the digestible energy (DE) value of the feed. The newest buzz word is the so-called “super fibres”. These include beet pulp and soya hulls. They do not include common husk byproducts of the milling industry.

Vitamins and Minerals

Since vitamins and mineral levels need to be balanced for feed intake, it is not unusual for commercial hacking meals, where the expected feeding rate is low, to have a denser vitamin and mineral pack than a racing feed, where expected intake is high. The vitamin and mineral packs in commercial feeds are really the difference between a good feed and a great one. Quality of the individual nutrients included in the pack is important, as is the assurance that the pack is free of undesirable substances, such as ionophores, which are commonly used in ruminant and poultry rations but are deadly to horses. Balance is all important in the stud operation and vitamin and mineral levels are crucial for so many aspects of the operation. Traditional inorganic minerals are commonly used; however there are organic versions of certain of these minerals, which have higher absorption efficiency. Here is perhaps another opportunity for a trade-off between cost of these organic forms and the benefit of increased absorption.  Vitamins are also an expensive part of the ration, but the benefits of good levels of vitamin A, vitamin E and biotin are irrefutable in stud rations, and there is evidence to suggest that vitamin C is useful in laying a good foundation for bone development.

Formulation Practices

Some commercial operations make use of the traditional least cost formulation practice. This method is useful when feed companies are diversified and may make use of pockets of raw materials that become available from time to time. Under these circumstances, one batch of feed may differ significantly from the next in terms of ingredient usage, even though they meet specifications. When feed is in meal form, these changes may be visible to the naked eye, and may manifest in feed inconsistency between purchases. However, when the feed is in pellet form, the formulation changes are difficult to notice but they may contribute to digestive upsets, particularly in horses receiving a high proportion of concentrates in their diet. Pelleted diets have also been implicated in the incidence of ulcers.

More consistent feeds are available where optimum cost formulation is applied and stricter parameters insofar as ingredient inclusions are imposed. These feeds are generally more expensive, as ingredient inclusions cannot be changed on the whim of the market. Ascertain your feed supplier’s philosophy on formulation techniques, and ensure that it coincides with your own, before making the decision purchase.

It goes without saying that the feed company bears a responsibility to ensure that the raw materials they employ are of suitable quality and are free from harmful substances. However, the raw materials used are the product of farming operations, and it is another important step in the chain that ingredients are sourced from suppliers who can guarantee good and sustainable farming practices.

In summary, nutrition is the backbone of the stud operation, and accounts for a large part of the operational costs. Optimal nutrition is the goal, and there is no substitute for the eye of the horseman employed alongside the modern science of nutrition. There may be cost trade-offs to be evaluated from time to time, but nutritional shortfalls usually come at a price in the longer term. Reputations are built with consistent effort over a period of time, but the market is unforgiving, and shortcuts can be the most effective method of eliciting a new reputation overnight. Good quality fibre is a critical factor, with concentrates to be used where and when necessary. Concentrate: roughage ratio is important in optimizing gut health while supplying the nutritional needs and eliminating feed related medical emergencies. Commercial feed companies can provide suitably formulated feeds, or these can be mixed on the farm. Either way, it is important that the ingredients used are of the best quality available and free of harmful substances, including moulds and mycotoxins.

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