Friday, March 8, 2013

Timely Nutrition Talks in Belgium, Part II

This blog post is a continuation of the one below titled “Take Home Messages from Timely Nutrition Talks in Belgium, Part I.”  Read that post first to get the full story!

On day two, we had another tag team talk with Al Merritt (Professor Emeritus, University of Florida, retired) and Veronique Juilliand discussing “Equine GI physiology – some species specific features.”  They gave a great overview of the functional aspects of the GI tract, along with data demonstrating the unique and important enteric nervous system.  Overall, it was a timely review of the physiology of the equine GI tract and the importance of each unique component.  As nutritionists, we need to remember how a system works in order to figure out what is wrong with it and how to fix it when things go awry.

Also on the second day, Filip Van Immerseel from the hosting Ghent University gave one of my favorite talks of the conference titled “The microbial pathogenesis of equine colic.”  Filip first gave the disclaimer that he was a “microbe” scientist versus a horse scientist, but I think his in-depth understanding and focus on microbiology is what made this lecture so spectacular.  He was able to further describe what is going on in the equine microbiome and how the hindgut of the horse should be “stable and rich” in species.  He showed data in horses that demonstrated both changes in this stability and richness when they had a GI disturbance.  Take home message: the more we study the microbiology of the horse’s hindgut, the more we can learn and then apply this information to help horses.  Although we don’t have a lot of clear-cut answers at this time, this review of the latest literature provides hope that we will continue to learn and be able to apply this knowledge.

Of course, the information provided by Al Merritt on gastric ulcers was popular and his proceedings paper summed up some dietary recommendations well.  These included:
  •  Providing forage on a free choice basis, including alfalfa if possible. 
  •  Using small-hole hay nets or “nibble nets” to feed this forage to promote continuous eating activity. 
  •  Provide feed higher in fat/fiber and lower in non-structural carbohydrates for the concentrate portion of the ration 
  •  Use turnout/pasture access to your advantage and turn horses out when possible

In addition, there were notable talks on feed technology, types of colic, allergies and how to feed horses recovering from different types of colic.  Again, more information can be found on the Congress website at

On Saturday night, a group of us attended the Flanders Horse Expo and got to experience a CSI** jumper show, a musical type production with horses (which seemed quite odd while we were watching since it was all in Flemish or Dutch, I am not sure which) and a nice trade show.  It was fun to visit all the feed vendors and peruse the piles of tack and clothes for sale.  In the end, my trip across the pond was a worthy experience.  I found the conference informative and I had a wonderful time visiting with colleagues, touring the area, and eating the excellent Belgian food! And for those of you that know me well, I certainly have a thing for chocolate.  There were multiple chocolatiers in town and it was the best chocolate I have ever experienced, hence the picture that begins this post.  

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