Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Conference

Last week, I traveled to the Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Conference in Timonium, MD. It was great to see a lot of my colleagues in the horse nutrition world and they had a wonderful line-up of speakers.

The joke of the day was that many talks seemingly revolved around trying to "kill" horses! The topics were as follows:

Laminitis- presented by Dr. Teresa Burns from The Ohio State University Vet School

Ionophore Toxicity in Horses- by Dr. Ken Marcella

Mycotoxins in Horses - by Dr. Lon Whitlow from North Carolina State University

Fescue Toxicity in Horses- by Dr. Rhonda Hoffman of Middle Tennessee State University

Toxic Plants- by Dr. Anthony Knight- Colorado State University

Young Horse Nutrition and Overfeeding- by Dr. Josie Coverdale from Texas A&M

Nutrient Management Update- by Ann Swinker from Penn State University

So, as you can see, a lot of discussion about what is bad for horses, complications of feeding horses wrong or bad things and what to do about it. The most fascinating talk for me was the Toxic Plants talk by Dr. Anthony Knight. We also ate lunch together and it was great to be able to ask him questions about poisonous plants and which ones pose more of a risk than others. His take home message was two-fold: 1) Dose Matters! There can be a big difference in a horse eating a little bit of a toxic plant versus a whole pasture full of something poisonous 2) Water hemlock is THE MOST POISONOUS plant to horses. It only takes 6-8 oz of the root to kill a 1000 lb horse. Scary.... I had read Dr. Knight's books on poisonous plants, but it was wonderful to see his talk in person and get a refresher course. We specifically chatted about creeping indigo, as it is native to south Florida and I've seen my horse grab mouthfuls of this toxic plant at horse shows before I could steer him away. Good to know this is one of the lesser toxic legumes and my horse isn't about to go into convulsions!

If I were to give you one take-home message from each of the other talks, it would be this:

1) Laminitis- Remains devastating to the horse community, but cryotherapy (ice therapy) is very helpful in the acute stages for decreasing the inflammatory response. Its not always easy to implement, but get those hooves on ice as soon as possible and keep it up as your vet recommends.

2) Ionophore toxicity in horses- make sure your feed is manufactured in an ionophore free manufacturing system/plant such as our Feed Guard Model follows. To us at Purina, it is not worth the risk to our horses to make feed in a plant that has ionophores. Also, don't feed cattle feed to horses, as this is a common way horses get poisoned with ionophores.

3) Mycotoxins- again, you need to be informed on what you are feeding your horses and make sure the feed ingredients are tested for mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring molds that can be tested for. Every load of corn that goes into a Purina plant is tested for mycotoxins- if its not clean, it gets rejected. Again, Feed Guard helps to protect your horse from mycotoxin exposure.

4) Fescue Toxicity- this is not a new topic to horse owners, but important as a reminder all the same. Broodmares should not be maintained on endophyte positive fescue pasture, and if its unavoidable, the dopamine inhibitor Domperidone given during the last 20 days of gestation can help. If possible, only use endophyte free fescue in horse pastures.

5) Young Horse Nutrition/Overfeeding- rapid growth does not appear to increase the risk of OCD; it is the overall plane of nutrition and other factors of genetics and management that play contributory roles. Resist the temptation to rapidly decrease nutrient planes on young horses with OCD problems- they still require a BALANCED ration for growth.

6) Equine nutrient management- For those of you in the mid-atlantic states of MD, PA, NJ, etc. the regulations on manure management for large and small farms are in place and need to be learned about. Best management practices (BMPs) to minimize nutrient and sediment will need to be employed and it can be confusing figuring out where your farm fits in and what you need to do. Work closely with your ag-extension agent in your area for help.

Overall, it was a very educational day and good to spend time with colleagues and friends. If you would like more information and/or a copy of the proceedings from this conference, please visit: http://www.manc.umd.edu/ Have a great day!!

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