Keeping horses at pasture day 2

A group of horses owners gathered in August 2019 to learn more about pasture management and horses with Helena Warren from Cadfor Equestrian and Murray Greys.

Feed rations

The quote of the day was ‘feed to work’. Would it surprise you to learn that some pleasure horses are overfed? Helena explained how to calculate a ration for a horse based on condition score, growth stage, level of work, pasture availability and feed types.

You can create a feed budget for your horse using the links below. Having a feed budget can save you time and money and you can tailor the ration to what feeds are available. Please note that these are general guides and the condition of individual horses should be monitored to ensure animal welfare requirements are met.

Feed requirements of horses – for working out what to feed

FeedXL on line – application (fees apply) for working out feed requirements.

Parasitic worms

Worm testing and rotational grazing are critical elements in an effective worm management program. Some horses have high worm burdens, while others have developed natural resistance. The only way to find out if your horse needs a drench is by doing a faecal worm egg test. You can get testing kits from Local Land Services or many rural suppliers.

Faecal worm egg testing allows you to choose the appropriate type of drench to use. It is important to not routinely drench using the same active ingredient as this increases the likelihood of developing worms with drench resistance.
More resources:
Integrated pest management for horse farms
Primefacts – Worm Control in Horses

Soils

According to Helena the best time to take soil samples is in October when the soil is depleted during the pasture growing season. Further advice about soil sampling and fertilising pastures can be found in the Fertilisers for Pastures booklet. Some benchmarks for healthy soils can be found here.

During the field day we looked at the soil test results from the property. The test results indicated that the soil pH was probably too low and the Aluminium too high. You can read more about soils in our recent blog post From the Ground Up.

Harrowing horse paddocks and using rotational grazing can help increase organic matter in the soil and reduce fertiliser costs. Soil testing and working out a nutrient budget can help you decide if additional fertilisers are required. Fertilisers for Pastures contains a guide to working out a nutrient budget for a horse property.

Other online resources include
Farmers guide to increasing soil carbon under pasture
Helena Warren – Keeping Horses at Pasture day 1 (insert)
Healthy Horse Healthy Land Workshop Summary
Horse Property Planning Key Points

This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program

Keeping horses at pasture Day 1

Horsewoman Helena Warren from Cadfor Equestrian and Murray Greys Pty shared her expertise with a group of participants over a two-day workshop in 2019. Day 1 of the workshop included pastures for horses, stringhalt and laminitis.

Pastures for horses

  • When planning your horse property, think about ways to minmise runoff and nutrient loss. This can include locating horse infrastructure away from water courses, fencing along contours, rotational grazing, using windbreaks and installing vegetation buffers. A two-metre fenced wind break can provide adequate ground cover to prevent significant erosion and water loss.
  • According to Helena, reseeding a pasture from scratch is a three year process that takes a lot of planning including soil testing, managing weeds, planting a break crop and final seeding. Refer to the DPI Primefact on Pastures for Horses for more information. When the cost of pasture establishment is compared to the ongoing cost of supplementary feeding, fertilising and maintaining pasture becomes financially viable.
  • Being able to assess your horses condition score and weight is a useful tool for feeding management and worming. The amount of feed a horse requires depends on their weight, activity, growth stage and body condition. The NSW DPI Primefact 928 Estimating a horses condition and weight gives a step by step guide on how to do this.
  • For optimum feed production, perennial grasses should be rested (ideally at the flowering stage) to allow them to develop their basal buds and roots. This will maintain the vigour of the grasses. Allowing native pastures to seed in autumn will also encourage the spread of these grasses in a pasture.
  • Helena described the optimum resting of pastures in a rotational grazing system as the ‘three leaf rule’. The three leaf rule allows the grass roots enough time to recover to maintain good production and for the grass to have the optimum sugar level for horses. The leaf stage of optimum grazing will depend on the species of grass. The Grazing Management Tool provides advice on how to grow more pasture and influence the species mix in your pasture.

NSW Local Land Services runs Prograze courses that can help property owners develop skills in managing their pasture. Contact your local office.

Stringhalt

Stringhalt is a plant poisoning syndrome that affects horses and is caused by the ingestion of flatweed. At the workshop over one third of the participants had horses that were affected by stringhalt. Helena recommended the Investigations into the Australian Causes of Stringhalt in Horses publication for managing horses with stringhalt.

Laminitis

After colic, laminitis is the second largest killer of horses in Australia. Laminitis is caused by overconsumption of grasses or feeds high in sugar, but it is often associated with some other stress factor. The critical point to remember when feeding a horse with a high risk of foundering is to keep the structural carbohydrates low. The availability of sugars in grasses is impacted by a number of factors including the species of grass, moisture stress, time of day and amount of shade in a paddock. The production rate of sugar in grasses is linked to photosynthesis.

Perennial pastures require resting to maintain their leaf production and to be safe for horses at risk of laminitis to graze. Continually grazed grasses at the 1 leaf stage are high in sugar and can increase laminitis risk. More mature grasses in the three leaf stage of production have lower sugar levels. Native pasture grasses are lower in sugars than introduced pasture grasses. The types of grasses suitable for horses are different to those suitable for ruminants. Cattle and sheep digest sugars in grass in the rumen to feed the microbes in the stomach. In horses sugar is digested in the hindgut, from here the sugar enters the bloodstream which can cause metabolic syndromes such as laminitis.

Weeds in hay

Helena recommends that you monitor your feed sources, especially hay, for weed contamination. Some pasture grass hay can be contaminated with undesirable pasture species and weeds.  If hay you are buying is cheap this is usually for a reason. If you are unsure of a grass species advertised you can look up the NSW DPI Weed Wise website and NSW Plant Net website.

More informaton:
Pasture Management and Laminitis Risk
Horse Property Planning Key Points
Healthy Horse Healthy Land Workshop Summary
Diagnosing and treating gastric ulcers in horses
How to discourage your horse from eating sand
Poisonous plants of horses field guide
Strategic planning for horse properties

This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program

War on Worms workshop summary

Managing worms in livestock is a tricky business for people on small farms. There are many variables to understand and manage including animal factors (breed, age, sex, pregnancy status and nutrition), grazing options and climactic conditions. This workshop was an opportunity for participants to learn about management tools that reduce the need for drenching and maximise the efficiency of drenches when they are used.

Jane Morrison leading the practical demonstration.

Dr Jane Morrison from Coopers Animal Health and Dr Alexandra Stephens from South East Local Land Services spent the day with our participants guiding through the theory of worms and the practical aspects of worm management. Our hosts Suzie and Catherine showed participants how to do DIY faecal egg counts using a microscope.


The following points were the highlights of the workshop for Tracey, one of the participants.

  1. Learning about the life cycle of the different worms in sheep and cattle was really important. I now understand how the worm life cycle can help inform strategic grazing decisions and the class of animal that you might graze on a particular paddock. I found out that temperature and rainfall impact on the survival of worm eggs and larvae on the pasture. There are two main life cycles of worms direct and indirect. Direct life cycles involve only one host, for example round worms and indirect life cycles involve two different types of hosts.

Round worm life cycle

Liver fluke life cycle – an example of an indirect worm life cycle.

  1. Using faecal egg count tests can help inform decision making about drenching livestock and potentially save me time and money. The demonstration of how faecal egg counting is done helped me understand that using worm testing is a good management tool that can enable targeted use of drenches when needed.

Drench decision guide for sheep

  1. Overall, the main benefit of the workshop for me is that I now realise how much detail there is in controlling worms in animals and that improving my knowledge about worms and their management can make a big difference to their health.

Five key components of a worm management strategy

  • Grazing management is the most important factor in controlling worms. Grazing management can include spelling paddocks and choosing the best clean paddocks for the classes of stock that have the highest nutritional demands and susceptibility to worms (weaners and pregnant or lactating ewes). Control worms without drench by using good grazing management including ‘smart grazing’, cross grazing with other species, rotational grazing and the use of fodder crops.

Grazing management and worms

  • Breed and feed for worm resistance. Older animals in good condition have higher immunity to worms than young or poorer animals. Adult cattle and sheep are good at developing worm immunity, except when they are lambing/calving and lactating. Aim for a condition score of 2.5 or above for more resilient animals with stronger immunity. Rams and breeding ewes can be selected for worm resistance – some breeds may have higher immunity to worms including Corriedale and Border Leicester sheep.
  • Use strategic drenching and good drenching principles. Dose correctly to the heaviest animals, calibrate the drench gun, use faecal egg counting to check drench efficiency, choose combination drenches with 2 plus additives. Use long acting drenches judiciously as they can accelerate resistance in worms. Always use a quarantine drench when you purchase new stock even if you have been told that the animals have been drenched. There are special drench combinations that should be used for quarantine drenching. Drench lambs/calves at weaning as they are highly susceptible to worms and are usually being weaned during high worm risk weather. Seek further advice form a vet if you need help.
  • Tactical drenching – these are drenches that are used when a faecal egg count test shows a high result or the animals show clinical signs of worm infestation.

The difference between tactical and strategic drenches – WormBoss

  • Manage worm resistance by informing yourself about the causes and what you can do to help prevent it. Get advice about interpreting faecal egg count tests and managing worms in livestock. Drenching may not be necessary if egg counts are low.

Managing drench resistance

You can contact your Local Land Services office for guidance on managing worms in livestock. Kits for faecal egg count tests are available free from Local Land Services offices and many rural suppliers.

The WormBoss website provides a comprehensive toolkit for managing worms.

 More information and links

Worm Control in Cattle – the Basics – NSW DPI Fact Sheet

Cattle parasite atlas – Meat and Livestock Australia – a comprehensive guide to managing cattle parasites in the different regions of Australia.

South East Local Land Services Animal Health Update – this update includes information on Barbers Pole Worm and Bioworma.

Worm Boss Canberra Region Drench Program

Worm Control in Horses – it’s all changed – Dr Petrea Wait (scroll down to the Animal Health Update February 2018)

DIY worm egg counting

Worm test for livestock and guide to egg counts

Barbervax

Liver Fluke guide from WormBoss

Demonstrating how to drench a sheep

Healthy Land, Healthy Horse Summary

Hosts from Manna Park Geoff and Mark with Stuart Myers and Brad (on the pony)
Hosts from Manna Park Agistment Centre Geoff and Mark with Stuart Myers and Brad (on the pony)

The Healthy Land, Healthy Horse Field Day was a fascinating day packed with information for horse owners.  Geoff and Mark from Manna Park Agistment Center in Bywong provided a beautiful setting for Stuart Myers from Equiculture to share the Equiculture system of horse management. A range of topics were discussed from horse biology to the importance of maintaining a diversity of plant species on farm for grazing. Continue reading “Healthy Land, Healthy Horse Summary”