Is your horse being fed the right stuff?
THE Gympie-based family owned Ag-Solutions, well known for its production of bio-activated mineral fertilisers and animal supplements, has recently branched out into two specialised horse feed supplements.
Speaking at a horse nutrition evening workshop, company CEO Julie Williams said that since the company was established 28 years ago, regular instructional events have been conducted.
"As a company we work closely with rural people and listen to what they say is needed,” she said.
"Horses for work, hobby, recreation or competition are booming in the region and we could see the need for improved nutrition for those animals.”
Two products, an equine enhancer and a bighead bone defender have been released onto the market after extensive trial work on local, regional and interstate properties.
Keynote speaker for an educational evening was world-renowned horse nutrition consultant Dr Nerida Richards, who also acted as consultant in developing the new products.
"Most horses in this area undertaking moderate work are not being fed the correct diet,” she said.
"Pastures may only provide enough nutrition for a short period of the year, after that a horse will be in deficit for some nutritional needs.
"Some of these requirements can be metabolised from body reserves, but others need to be supplemented.”
Dr Richards said while a horse can be regarded as a pretty big animal, it has only a small stomach and it has evolved to keep that as full as possible at all times.
"That means grazing for long periods because the digestive system gets forage out of the stomach quickly,” Dr Richards said.
"Acids are secreted into the stomach continuously, and if there is no forage there to buffer the acid, damage to the lining can occur.”
Dr Richards said if you are going to ride a horse stabled overnight early in the morning, make sure it has access to hay overnight so it has a full stomach before riding 'sloshes' the acid around.
Saliva generated during the chewing process helps to buffer the stomach acids. Incorporating lucerne in the diet is reputed to have a buffering effect as well.
Each stage of the digestive process extracts a different range of nutrients from the food.
Food passes rapidly through the small intestine, and protein and fats are digested and continue into the hindgut where zillions of bacteria ferment the fibre producing, among other things, soluble fatty acids used by the animal for energy.
Dr Richards said the horse's digestive system is not geared to handling raw cereal grains.
Forage means pastures, hay, chaff, and the role they play is vital, not only as a feed source, but also to provide mental and physical stimulation for an animal - ie it gives it something to do and prevents boredom and addictive habits.