Important Advise for Equines Feeding Program During Great Barometric Changes

Friday, September 8, 2017
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For those of you whose horse are in the path of Hurricane Irma, and for any major barometric changes, please read this valuable information from Dr Jim Wright DVM.

The great barometric changes, especially in storms like Irma, from my experience, seems to greatly increase colic problems. I can attest after not being able to travel in Andrew, so your veterinarian may not be able to get to you. I recommend withholding grain for at least 36 hours before and 48-72 hours after a hurricane BUT give the plenty of hay to help maintain good GI function and to browse on as a pacifier.

Additional comments added

Kelly Vineyard, PhD
Equine Nutritionist and Florida horse owner

For those of you in Hurricane Irma's path and who are caring for horses, we can expect that they are going to experience some level of stress over the next several days (not to mention their owners)! Changing routines and deteriorating weather conditions are sure to increase the risk of colic and gastric ulcers.

Here are some feeding tips to help reduce your horses' chances of gastric disturbance:

1) Increase water intake any way you can. Add water to the normal concentrate ration (as much water as they will tolerate). Add apple juice or other flavoring agent (preferably one they are familiar with) to extra water buckets to encourage intake (still offer plain water too). You can also soak their hay and/or feed soaked hay cubes, if they will eat it (some horses can be picky about wet hay, so watch for that).

2) DON'T abruptly start feeding large amounts of bran mash or soaked beet pulp if they aren't already eating it. A small amount (>1/2 lb) is OK to help soak up more water, but the last thing you want to do is to abruptly introduce a new substrate to the hindgut. This can upset the microbial balance and increase fermentation, leading to excess gas production. It's better to add water to whatever feed they are already acclimated to eating.

3) Decrease the daily concentrate ration (but don't completely eliminate, as that can be stressful too), especially if the horse consumes > 4 lbs per day and will be confined for an extended period of time.

4) Keep hay in front of horses at all times. If horses are weathering the storm outdoors, try to determine where they prefer to stand and give them a pile of hay to munch on (if they will actually do it). They likely won't be out grazing during the worst of the weather, but trying to keeping their gut functioning properly with plenty of forage is a good thing.

5) Protect your feed and hay supply. It will likely get wet from blowing rain even if stored in a covered area, so wrap some in a tarp/plastic bags and store in watertight trash cans to keep it from getting too wet. Also, move some to higher ground if in an area at risk of flooding.

Above all, be prepared and stay safe! This storm looks to impact the entire state of Florida and beyond, and we'll likely be dealing with the aftermath for a long time.