Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Feed Fit for a King - Purina and the Budweiser Clydesdales

Ok, I admit it.  Even after a year of working with the Budweiser Clydesdales, I am still the worst stereotype of a horse-crazy tourist—taking pictures with my phone of the horses, the dogs, the wagons, me with the horses, and the dogs, and the horses again, etc.  Lucky for me, the folks who work with the Clydesdales are some of the nicest, most patient people I’ve met.  And the horses are absolutely magnificent!  How can you not be awestruck when you’re standing next to Big Jake, and can barely reach his withers standing on tiptoes?  And the yearlings are as big as my own full-grown horses! To top it off, the horses are really as great as I ever dreamed they would be—sweet, kind, and endlessly tolerant of their admirers. To me, spending time with the Budweiser Clydesdales is pretty much as good as it gets.

So what is Purina doing with the Clydesdales?  About a year ago, we started working with the horses at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis, and with the horses on the traveling teams. The folks in charge of the horses were looking for a consistent feed program, and while various Purina® feed products have been fed to the Clydes for quite a few years, this was the first time that the Purina equine technical and research teams put together an organized feeding program and started collecting data on the growing and mature horses.  Mike Jerina (manager of our Equine Research Unit), Tim Maxey from Straatmann Feed, Tod Wideman (Purina local sales specialist) and I have been meeting with Dave Hennen of Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale Operations and his team monthly for the past year to weigh, measure and determine body condition scores of the young Clydes at Grant’s Farm, and make sure that they are on the best feeding program to support growth.  I can’t speak for Mike and the others, but it has been a great learning experience for me!

One of the early issues that emerged from our monthly meetings is that even though the horses are so much larger and heavier than the light horse breeds, many of them are VERY easy keepers and require very little feed to maintain appropriate body weight and condition, especially since they are fed high quality hay and have free access to pasture during much of the year.  This was even true for some of the young growing horses, so we had to make adjustments to the original plan.  We started with Ultium® Growth Horse Formula for the youngsters, but switched to Enrich Plus™ ration balancing feed for several of the easiest keepers to keep them from gaining too much weight. Like all growing horses, it is extremely important to provide essential nutrients in correct balance with calories to support optimal growth.

The Clydesdales on the hitches are a mixed batch.  Since they are working horses, we are feeding a combination of Omolene® horse feed, some Amplify® High-Fat Supplement, and some Enrich Plus™ feed along with high quality grass hay.  A few of the hitch horses are again such easy keepers that Enrich Plus™ feed and hay is enough to maintain body weight and condition.  Of course, it is very important to everyone involved that the horses always look their best, are happy and healthy, and receive the highest quality nutrition possible.

An especially memorable experience took place on January 16 of this year, when Mike and I traveled to Warm Springs Ranch in Booneville, Mo., the Budweiser Clydesdales breeding farm.  We arrived about 5 hours after the birth of the first filly of the year, and enjoyed taking pictures and watching her figure out where to find breakfast (Mama’s elbow was not very rewarding for the little girl).  Little did we know that we were in the presence of a future TV star – the baby was Hope, the star of the Budweiser commercial for the Big Game!

One aspect of our relationship with the Budweiser Clydesdales that struck home with me is the similarities between our companies. Both brands share a history that is rooted in St. Louis, Missouri, and is based on a tradition of quality, integrity and innovation.  In talking and interacting with the people who work with the Clydesdales, it is very quickly apparent that they take great pride in their company and its heritage, and are dedicated to the care and welfare of their horses.  At Purina Animal Nutrition, we certainly share the passion for our animals, as well as the pride in our company and its history.  It seems like a perfect partnership for our two companies to work together, and I look forward to a long and mutually rewarding relationship with the fabulous, beautiful, enormous(!) Budweiser Clydesdales.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Beating the Heat During the Dog Days of Summer: Ideas for decreasing heat stress in horses

As summer drags on the heat can become a serious problem for many horses.  The primary way in which horses cool themselves is through sweating.  While the exact mechanisms for inducing sweat production in horses are not yet fully understood, some experts believe that prolonged, consistently high sweat rates can lead to a kind of “exhaustion” of the sweat glands in horses which may result in anhidrosis (the inability to produce sweat adequately).  Recommendations to help address anhidrosis center on finding ways to keep horses cooler, decreasing the need for sweat production.  Here are a few ideas you may want to try to keep your horses cooler this summer.

1.  Feeding management. At rest, body heat is produced primarily by microbes in the hindgut digesting the forage a horse eats.  Try providing the bulk of the horses’ daily ration overnight.  Ration out smaller quantities of hay during the day and give them the largest portion for overnight consumption. Feed concentrates later in the evening and early in the morning as well.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Feeding Program for Orphan Foals

A mare’s death is a tragedy that will be compounded if her foal isn’t quickly placed on an effective feeding and care program.  However, with proper nutrition and veterinary support, orphaned foals can be managed and successfully developed into healthy adults.  To help orphans through the tough early stages of life, an emergency feeding program was developed at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center.

Starting at birth, here are the steps in an orphan foal feeding program:
  • Day 1: The first and most important step is getting colostrum into newborn foals within the first 2 hours of life. This “first milk” gives foals the antibodies they need to temporarily build up their immune systems to fight disease, but after 18-24 hours they can no longer absorb these antibodies. Check with your veterinarian right away to see if foals should receive medication of any kind and if they have achieved proper immunoglobulin levels.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Congratulations Dr. Kelly Vineyard on your book chapter!

Equine Applied and Clinical Nutrition is a brand new text book available from Elsevier Publishing. It is an up-to-date, in-depth resource for equine nutritionists, veterinarians and nutrition buffs; written by experts in their individual fields. Dr. Warren (University of Florida) and Dr. Vineyard are authorities on the utilization and supplementation of fat in horses. I have enjoyed paging through the text and appreciate all the time and diligence that goes into such an undertaking. Writing a book chapter is a labor of love and the rewards include a personal sense of accomplishment and service instead of payment and great accolades. So congrats Dr. Vineyard on your contribution to Equine Applied and Clinical Nutrition, we are happy to have a “fat expert” in the house!