Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rising Feed Prices

We found an article from KER about rising feed prices we hope everyone will find interesting.

Horse Feed PricesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · October 27, 2008

If you've paid careful attention to your receipts from the feed store over the past few years, you certainly have noticed that the price of horse feed has crept up to unheard-of levels. And while it might be tempting to assign blame to your local feed manufacturer, larger forces are at work. There are five key factors that account for skyrocketing grain prices: biofuel production, extreme weather patterns across the globe, high oil prices, currency fluctuations, and a surge in global food demand.

There are five key factors that account for skyrocketing grain prices.

Biofuel production Ethanol is the most popular renewable biofuel today. Used as an alternative automotive fuel, ethanol is made in a multistep process. First, the starch portion of the corn kernel is converted to sugar. The sugar is then subjected to fermentation, and finally the mix is distilled to yield ethanol.

The United States grows approximately one half of the world's corn, equivalent to about 307 million metric tons (MMT). In 2008, nearly one-third of the harvest, about 105 MMT, is expected to be used for the production of ethanol. This has increased dramatically since 2000, when only about 15 MMT were tagged for ethanol production. Because of the demand for ethanol, corn prices have risen significantly. Farmers have chosen to cultivate corn instead of other crops because corn has become more profitable.

Overproduction of corn, however, has diminished the acreage available for other crops, causing them to become scarcer and thus more costly to feed manufacturers. Some agricultural economists believe the ethanol boom is slowing down. With corn prices soaring, ethanol producers are faced with higher input costs and are therefore not realizing the profits they once did.

Extreme weather patterns Despite the advances made in cultivating crops over the last several decades, little can be achieved without the cooperation of the weather. A series of unfortunate weather occurrences has been a factor in rising feed costs. For instance, drought-stricken Australia exported considerably less wheat in 2007 than in previous years, down more than 20%. As one of the world's biggest wheat producers, such a shortfall affects the entire global outlook. Southern Africa has been affected by a prolonged drought as well. Recent flooding in China has destroyed 5.5 million hectares of wheat and rapeseed.

In addition to this, an abnormally dry growing season across northern Europe threatens grain yields. Smaller crops have been reported in Canada and the United States as well.

High oil prices The recent spike in oil prices has a direct effect on rising feed costs. Foremost, oil prices impact the cost of planting, cultivating, and harvesting crops. In addition, oil prices also affect freight costs as grains are shipped from place to place, sometimes overseas. And finally, high oil prices drive up feed manufacturing costs.

Currency fluctuations Most internationally exchanged grains are traded in dollars. In recent years, the value of the U.S. dollar has plummeted. This is completely inverse to what is happening in other parts of the world. The values of other currencies such as the Euro, British pound, Australian dollar, and Canadian dollar have increased steadily in recent years.

Some economists postulate that about one-third of the recent rise in corn price is a reflection of the weak United States dollar.

Surge in global food demand Billions of people are buying more food than ever before, especially in flourishing China and India. People in these countries have the wherewithal to purchase food rather than growing their own. Increasing meat consumption in these countries, for example, has helped boost the demand for grain. In China, beef consumption has increased by 26% since 2000, and pork, which was already a popular food item, rose by 19%. In India, chicken consumption has almost doubled in eight years. More grain is necessary to feed animals intended for human consumption.

Other countries are also prospering. Since 2002, the combined gross domestic product of the 24 largest emerging markets has doubled, and per capita income has risen nearly 14% a year.

Economists theorize that increased grain prices can be attributed equally among three factors: (1) Biofuel, weather incidents, and oil prices; (2) currency fluctuations; and (3) wealth in emerging markets.

For Horse Owners
Horse owners should accept the inevitable increases that have occurred recently in feed prices. Some of the factors that caused the recent upsurge might not be so detrimental in the future (weather may be conducive for high yields, for example), and consumers may realize a slight relaxation in prices. By taking a few minutes to closely examine your management schemes, you might be able to find ways to cut costs. Here are a few examples.

Take a critical look at body condition Certainly, some owners like to see their horses fleshier than need be. Optimal body condition occurs when the ribs cannot be seen but can be felt on gentle palpation. Overweight horses are often a strain on the horse owner's budget because they consume too much concentrate. Horses that maintain their weight on forage-only diets do not usually require any concentrate. A well-formulated balancer pellet will ensure that vitamin and mineral needs are being met.

Maximize forage use Horses have evolved on diets composed entirely of forage. Therefore, forage should be the primary component of a horse's diet. While all forage offered to horses should be free of dust, mold, weeds and foreign debris, the quality of the forage can vary depending on the type of horses being fed. Weanlings and yearlings, for instance, will likely fare better on an alfalfa mix as it contains more energy and nutrients for growth, but the same hay might be completely inappropriate for a group of idle geldings. Work with an equine nutritionist to ensure that you are using appropriate forage for the horses you are feeding. Likewise, contact an agronomist or a pasture specialist to be sure you are getting the most out of your grazing acreage.

Be suspicious of feed manufacturers that have not raised their prices Historically, when one feed ingredient became too pricey to include in horse feeds, an alternate was available. Not so today. The price of all feed ingredients has increased. Corn, wheat, oats, and soybean prices have reached all-time highs. Add in the increased costs of other ingredients such as vitamins and minerals, and feed prices are bound to rise. To maintain the quality of feed, manufacturers must ask consumers to help shoulder the financial burden.

If a feed manufacturer does not increase prices, there is a possibility that premium-quality grains are being replaced by inexpensive ones, which invariably lowers the nutritional content of the feed.

Buy high-quality horse feed Certain horses require fortified concentrates to grow and work because they cannot consume sufficient calories through forages to grow to their genetic potential or to maintain optimal body condition. When concentrates are necessary, be sure you are feeding high-quality, fully fortified feeds. Low-end brands often do not contain sufficient fortification to adequately support growth or exercise. Though the price may be slightly higher at the counter, there is no comparison as to nutritional value.

Hope everyone found this article interesting. Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's That Time of Year Again!!

Just a friendly reminder that with the weather temperatures changing, we need to keep an eye on our horses’ behavior for signs of colic.  Although colic is common, in the spring and fall we are always hearing episodes of colic than any other time of year.  Anytime their routines or diet change it is important to do it very gradually, especially this time of year or wait until the weather is more consistent.
            -We had a horse back in the spring die from severe colic. His diet and routine had been as consistent as it gets. Fed in evening, no signs, he ate like he always did, had poop in his stall and acted like always and turned everyone out as we always do.  At feeding time the next morning we found immediately he had colic symptoms and did everything you would do for colic. The colic went on too long during the night and his intestines had twisted.  
If you are able to catch colic early it will make a difference in how the outcome will be.  Early signs of colic are hard dry stool, no bowel movement, no gut sounds, lying down and getting up over and over, kicking/nipping at belly or pawing, not wanting his feed. If you notice any unusual behavior it’s best to call your vet immediately!
Colic Prevention –
            Always be consistent and maintain your horse’s routine and diet! If any changes need to be made, take care and do it gradually. Of course never feed him moldy hay or feed, always keep him fresh clean water at all times and maybe add some warm water in his cold water in the winter. It is important that they are drinking water! Don’t let a hot horse drink too much water after exercising without cooling him first, being infested with worms can cause colic so keep him on a de-worming program, and don’t let him ingest sand, this can lead to sand colic.
We hope this will be helpful information and good luck!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Is Your Horse Losing Weight?

At South Ridge Farms Inc one of the most common problems that we encounter from our customers is their horses losing weight. We decided to investigate this problem and found a great article on The following is a summation of the article written by Sarah Christie who interviewed James Kerr, DVM, who has an equine practice in Santa Rosa, Calif., where he specializes in performance horses. In addition to his practice, Dr. Kerr is also active with the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) both as a competitor and a ride veterinarian. We hope this information can offer some solutions on increasing and maintaining your horse’s weight.
Most underweight horses get that way because of poor management, not a finicky metabolism. So before cutting out the alfalfa hay or breaking out the beet pulp, it helps to understand why your horse has weight issues. Genetics definitely play a role in regulating equine body mass and metabolic rates, but the environment, exercise and overall health also contribute significantly to whether your horse is ribby or rotund.

If your horse is underweight, it’s essential to eliminate any hidden health concerns that may be contributing to your horse’s condition. Illness, parasites, dental problems, gastric ulcers and stress can all contribute to weight loss. Veterinary exams can help rule out diseases that lead to weight loss. Sticking to a regular deworming program will help safeguard against internal parasites. Scheduling an annual dental exam will ensure that your horse is actually eating all the food you serve up, instead of dribbling it out onto the ground or passing it through undigested.
 Stress can also contribute to weight loss. If your horse is a chronic stall walker, weaver or fence runner, he is burning calories needlessly, all day long. Simple management changes, such as daily turnout or the addition of a stall buddy, can alleviate these behaviors. Rigorous training schedules also cause residual stress after the workout is over, and can lead to gastric ulcers that put horses off their feed. Don’t forget horses need vacations too. If your horse is getting mentally strained from intensive training, consider giving him a month or two off to relax and regroup. If he acts hungry but doesn’t clean up his feed, or exhibits frequent, mild colic symptoms, you may want to ask your veterinarian to perform a gastric endoscopy to determine whether a stomach ulcer is present.
One feed requirement all horses have in common is the need for high-quality forage. In a natural setting, horses will graze up to 22 hours per day. So try to keep something in front of them to munch on all day long, or else they will start to eat the fence posts, the barn and the trees
Feeding for Weight Gain

Alfalfa hay is often recommended for weight gain. Alfalfa cut at the beginning or end of the growing season is appropriate for horses because of its protein levels. Even when weight gain is the goal, avoid feeding alfalfa hay cut at the height of the growing season because of its high protein levels. (Dr. Kerr suggests not exceeding a 14 percent protein level.)
Complete Feeds
"Complete feeds" refer to any highly digestible processed feed product made from a combination of chopped forage, grain, vitamins and minerals. Underweight horses can often benefit from the addition of a complete feed to the diet.
A good complete feed will be high in fiber and include trace minerals, fats and vitamins. Although billed as nutritionally "complete”, It is recommended to include at least a low-protein grass hay to give horses something to munch on, thus reducing the risk of colic by keeping the gut active.
Senior feeds are a specialized type of complete feed formulated for older horses. They are typically heat extruded milled grain products, some with higher forage contents than others. They are designed to be more digestible and easier to chew. Because older equines often have trouble holding their weight, particularly in cold winter weather, senior feeds usually have a higher percentage of fats, with a combination of grains, forage, rice bran or stabilized oils.
Fabulous Fats
If after adjusting feed amounts, formulations and exercise your horse still doesn’t achieve the desired weight gain, it may be time to consider a weight-gain supplement. The quickest route to increased weight gain without risky side effects is by adding fat in the form of a top dressing.
"Horses utilize fat much more efficiently than human beings do," Dr. Kerr says. "It is a good source of energy as well as an additive for weight gain." Fat has a number of benefits for the working equine. Not only is it 85 percent digestible, it’s free from carbohydrates, which means it doesn’t contribute to a risk of colic or founder. It produces 30 percent less heat than protein in the metabolic process, and it is an easy way to increase calories without increasing feed volume. Not to mention the glossy coat it produces!
Commercial weight-gain supplements often contain stabilized rice bran or flaxseed products as major ingredients. Both are excellent sources of high-quality fat calories. Stabilized rice bran alone can be fed as a top dressing, but it is extremely high in phosphorus, which creates the possibility of a calcium/phosphorous imbalance unless the diet is carefully modified. Flaxseed meal can also be fed alone. Freshness is the key, and it can be ground at home from whole flaxseeds using an electric coffee grinder. Flaxseed must be ground for horses to benefit; otherwise it passes right through the digestive system.
The most economic way to increase fat calories in the diet is by adding common vegetable oil. One cup of corn or safflower oil contains 240 grams of fat, the equivalent of 1.2 pounds of corn or 1.5 pounds of sweet feed. Thus it can be substituted as part of the daily grain ration. But standard cooking oil does not contain the beneficial fatty acids found in flaxseed oil, and it is important to store properly to avoid rancidity.
We here at South Ridge Farms Inc hope this information will be helpful in getting your horse back to a healthy weight. Any suggestions or comments are always welcome.