Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Field study "cuties" and a great dealer.

Mike Jerina has been posting recently on his visits to California and North Carolina to check up on some farms conducting field trials for us. And while Mike was away in those states, I have been here in the northeast checking up on our field trial farms in CT, NY and NJ.

I am happy to report that all the horses on the trial are doing extremely well and the horse owners and barn managers are excited about this new product we are working on. The top pictures in this blog are of some horses on the trial- looking super.

As part of my trip to NJ, I stopped in at Garoppo's feed and pet supply in Newfield. Not only are they helping us out with this field trial, but they are one of our Purina Certified Expert dealers, and they do a fantastic job. I posted some pictures of the store and they have the cleanest, neatest warehouse I have ever seen! They do a great job of offering feed on the floor in the store and their inventory for all animals is amazing. I certainly couldn't help myself when I was there and spent over $200 on all kinds of items like flyspray, dewormer, a huge pink rubber ball for my yearlings to play with, etc. Come to think of it, I didn't even buy any feed! One great purchase was a Thundershirt for my dog, Emery. It basically snuggles her and makes her feel more secure during thunder storms- and it really works! And it is much easier than the pile of pillows I usually bury her in or the polo wrap that my husband tried. So a big thanks to Pat and Judy Garoppo for assisting us with our trial and having such a great store with a diverse, yet perfectly targeted product offering. I am a happy researcher and customer!

Monday, August 22, 2011

More on water...

I wanted to follow up Dr. Karen Davison's post on water and electrolytes with something I saw in the field lately. In the pictures above, there are two water buckets. These buckets were side by side in a very nice, well kept barn. The top water bucket was offered with electrolytes in the water daily, and the other was "clean" water but had recent bird excrement that had fallen into it.

Which bucket would you rather drink from?

According to one of the barn managers, the horse was not a good drinker and did not like to drink the electrolyte water. Which leaves us the water with the bird poop- that can be a potential health risk to the horse drinking it.

Therefore, in this situation, I would recommend two things. 1) Clean, scrub/disinfect and refill any water buckets with bird excrement in them and try to keep birds out of the barn 2) remove electrolytes from the bucket the horse will not drink out of, and feed electrolyes as outlined in Dr. Davison's article below- as needed and either with feed or syringed to the horse individually.
Keeping horses hydrated during hot weather is very important. Make sure you are not getting in your horse's way and provide fresh, clean water at all times.

Monday, August 15, 2011

You Can Lead A Horse To Water....

With more than 50 days over 100 degrees and record drought here in Texas, water intake and electrolyte balance is a routine question horse owners ask about. I thought I'd post an article with some information on this along with a funny picture I took over the weekend of Homerun, a 4 year-old cutting horse playing in a water sprinkler. This is how you survive a hot, dry Texas summer!!

Water is the main component of the body. In fact, an average 1000 pound horse is roughly 660 pounds (80 gallons) of water. About two-thirds of this water is inside cells, called intracellular fluid, and one-third is outside cells or extracellular fluid. To function normally, the body must keep the amount of water in these areas in balance and relatively constant. This is termed water balance. The water in the body contains dissolved mineral salts called electrolytes, primarily sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium. These dissolved electrolytes exist as ions, which are charged particles that conduct electric currents, thus the name electrolytes. Electrolytes are used to maintain voltages across cell membranes, and are distributed through the body in a highly ordered way. Any disruption of this order can result in severe body dysfunction, including heart and gastrointestinal problems, muscle cramps and impaired brain and nerve function. Sodium and chloride concentrations are normally higher in extracellular fluid, while potassium concentration is higher in intracellular fluid. Electrolyte balance is tied very closely with water balance.

Water and electrolytes are excreted from the body primarily through sweat, urine and fecal output. The body attempts to maintain a balance between dietary intake of electrolytes and excretion rates. Kidneys adjust the volume and concentration of urine based on the water and electrolyte balance in the body through an intricate hormone signaling system. Electrolytes are not stored in the body, so the amount needed daily must be provided in the diet. If dietary electrolyte level is lower than needed, the kidneys will conserve and reabsorb electrolytes. If dietary electrolyte supply is more than needed, the kidneys will flush any excess. This very complex mechanism keeps water and electrolyte balance tightly regulated under normal circumstances. However, when the relationship between intake and output is challenged, normal mechanisms may not maintain the balance.

Hard work, especially in hot and humid conditions will challenge normal water and electrolyte balance mechanisms. Under these conditions, horses can lose as much as four gallons of sweat per hour, which carries with it approximately 10 tablespoons of electrolytes - primarily sodium, chloride and potassium. Human sweat is hypotonic, meaning the concentration of electrolytes in the sweat is lower than the concentration in the blood. As people sweat, sodium concentration in the blood rises. This triggers the thirst response causing the person to want something to drink. Horse sweat is hypertonic, the concentration of electrolytes in the sweat is higher than the concentration in the blood. As the horse sweats, sodium concentration in the blood remains unchanged even though large amounts of sodium are being lost in the sweat. Without the rise in blood concentration of sodium, the thirst response doesn’t kick in. This is why dehydrated horses often show no interest in drinking, which simply makes the situation worse.

Hay and pasture contain high levels of potassium and a normal diet will provide adequate potassium to meet requirements of most horses. Usually, only hard working horses that sweat for prolonged periods need additional potassium supplementation. Most commercial horse feeds contain 0.5 – 1.0% added salt (sodium chloride) which, along with free-choice access to a salt block, will supply adequate sodium and chloride to meet requirements of horses in light activity. Horses being ridden regularly and sweating moderately on a daily basis cannot eat enough salt from a salt block to meet their needs. Providing 2 – 4 tablespoons of loose salt daily in the feed will meet the increased requirements. For horses that are sweating profusely, a mixture of 2/3 sodium chloride and 1/3 potassium chloride (Lite salt), would provide adequate sodium, chloride and potassium to replenish the higher losses. Commercial electrolyte supplements are also available, but should contain sodium chloride as the primary ingredient.

Providing daily electrolyte supplementation beyond what a horse needs to maintain balance can be very counterproductive. The kidneys will become very efficient at flushing the excess electrolytes out of the system and then on a day the horse really needs a higher level, they won’t be available. The current recommendation for electrolyte supplementation is to provide additional electrolytes the day before, the day of and the day after a horse is going to work very hard and sweat a great deal. It is also very important that electrolytes are only given to well hydrated horses. Since you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, dehydrated horses should receive fluids intravenously to be sure water balance is adequately restored.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Checking things out

I have spent the past couple of weeks going between Longview and the work we have progressing there, and the field where we have several tests happening also. Once initial testing is complete at Longview we ask people to help us out by trying the resulting products we come up with on their farms. After they have fed the test diet for an extended period of time we look for feedback on the pros and cons of the new product so that we can understand if there are any more changes that need to be made.

The people that help us out by trying the product are great, their feedback is invaluable in the process of creating a new product! I took a couple of pictures at a farm in California last week that has several horses on one of our prototype diets, the owner is fantastic to work with and she is equally impressed by the new diet she is trying out for us. The beginning of this week I went to three farms in North Carolina to get feedback from them as well. They were also a great group of people to deal with, three very different types of operations, with different types of horses. NC had positive feedback for the same product also, which is always good for us to hear.

Getting positive feedback from the field verifies for us that we have done the correct groundwork and research to develop a new diet that will be successful for it's intended purpose. It really is a rewarding experience to be involved with, when you get to watch the product go from idea all the way to the bag! It takes quite a bit of time to do it that way, but taking your time ensures it is done the right way.