Wood Chewing in an 18month old filly. - Page 2

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Wood Chewing in an 18month old filly.

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    12-16-2010, 05:57 PM
I have to agree with your vet about the mineral block to an extent because you have to stop and think what did horses do in the wild... they didn't have people putting salt blocks out there they got their nutrients from the ground.... now if the horse is not on very good pasture land you or if the horses is boarded then you will have to supply a mineral/salt block for the horse
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    12-16-2010, 06:07 PM
She does have a himalayan salt lick in her box that she's totally uninterested in.
    12-16-2010, 09:24 PM
Green Broke
Originally Posted by Cherie    
This is actually a case of 'pica', which is an abnormal craving for inedible substances. When horses ingest large amounts of wood, bark, dirt, mains & tails, etc, they have a deficiency in their diet. It has nothing to do with boredom or lack of exercise.

If this horse is being fed grass, grass hay and/or grain, it is a very good bet that Calcium (Ca) is missing from its diet. It can be stopped, almost overnight, by providing a free choice loose mineral supplement that has at least 3 or 4 times more Ca in it than Phosphorus (P). This mineral should also contain a good amount of Vitamins A and D -- needed for the absorption of Ca & P.

The mineral we have used for many years also contains Magnesium and Zinc. It is 24% Ca and only 4% P. It is also 25% salt, so it is the only salt source we provide in the winter. In the summer, we also keep out white salt blocks in case they do not eat enough mineral.

I have had horses come in with horrible hair coats, pot bellies, eaten off tails and eating dirt and wood. They had been dewormed but still looked awful. When given this mineral, they ate so much of it that I limited them to 1 pound a day until they got their fill. Within days they began looking better and their pica appetite stopped immediately.

Our mineral also contains 200,000 units of Vitamin A per pound, so it prevents rain rot, goopy eyes and lice, particularly in winter and early spring when Vitamin A reserves are depleted.
While I agree with this in theory, my mare/foal have access to a white salt block, Purina 12:12 mineral block, and their diet consists of 1/2 bermuda, 1/2 alfalfa (which should be high in calcium). And the foal also gets a Purina growth feed and the mare Purina Strategy. He STILL chews on everything and also nibbles his mom's poo. He likes sticks, dirt and tree bark too. But since I started feeding bermuda and they nibble it all day, at least he doesn't eat mom's tail anymore. I wonder if my guy is teething or something. Do they still teeth at 5 months of age?
    12-16-2010, 09:32 PM
Super Moderator
What did horses do in the wild? Well, with thousands of square miles to roam on, they could eat many different forbes and forages. If given many choices, they will balance out their own ration. Horses running in large pastures today will eat brush, weeds and twigs from things like small willows and cottonwoods. Free ranging horses do not eat fertilized hay coming from depleted soils. They are not forced onto a diet of one or two kinds of grasses that are grown on sour soil that has never been limed.

Why do you think the farms raising Thoroughbreds on the Kentucky Bluegrass were so famous? It was because the Bluegrass was growing on the 'limestone soil' that the Lexington area of Kentucky was so well known for. Limestone soil is about the only soil that grass can grow on and not be deficient in Ca. And after many years, even it will need additional line added.

If you doubt me, just give this horse a Ca supplement for a while and see if she stops eating wood. I have fed horses and studied nutrition for over 50 years. In that time, I have found few confined horses eating grass and grass hay that were not Ca deficient and Vitamin A deficient.

For several years, before I figured it out, I used to cut small willow and cottonwood saplings so the horses could eat them instead of my good wood fences and stalls. They ate them like candy but they quit eating boards and tails.

After I started supplementing Ca and Vitamin A, I also had no crooked legged or weak legged foals born. I also NEVER had to have a Vet out to 'clean' a mare after that. For many years, I foaled out 20 or more mares a year, so I do not think it was a coincidence. I have never have any problems with OCD or any orthopedic developmental disorders as long as I keep plenty of Calcium out.

I have recommended a high Ca mineral to many horsemen living around me that have had problems with 'pica', crooked foals and breeding problems and they all reported a complete turn-around in their program after adding the correct mineral and Vitamin A. One farm that comes to mind had one or two foals in casts every year, had performed surgery on one and had to put another down. They had asked their Vet and were told it was 'genetic' as most of them were by their stallion. After getting these horses on a good mineral, they have not had any more problems but have sure had lower Vet bills.
    12-17-2010, 04:32 AM
I appreciate what you're saying but still not 100% but will give it a go! So what brand? And seeing as she wont eat any hard feed, at all, how do I actually get it in to her?
    12-18-2010, 02:03 PM
Super Moderator
I have no idea what is available in the UK. Here, there is a real shortage of mineral options labeled for horses and even fewer that will correct an imbalance.

I used to make my own mineral (once I figured out what was missing) by taking a 12%P : 12% Ca mineral that Purina made. By itself, it would only worsen an Ca deficiency as a horse should get 2 X as much Ca as P. So, I added an equal amount of powdered Ca Carbonate to it. It is 40% Ca, so by adding it, I came up with a good supplement for getting Ca into a horse.

A few years ago I found a livestock mineral compounded for cattle on wheat pasture. It is called a "non-medicated wheat pasture mineral". It is 22 -24% Ca, 4% P and 2% Magnesium as well as 200,000 units of Vitamin A. It is perfect and I have to add nothing to it. I pay $16.00 for a 50# bag here in Oklahoma. I have 60 horses aright now nd they eat it free choice at a rate of about 2 bags a week. Any dairy, beef or general livestock mineral will work as long as it is not medicated.

As long as a mineral is palatable, horses will eat it. They frequently gobble it if they have been deficient for quite a while. When a horse is Ca starved (like I suspect yours is) I do not give them more than 1 cup a day of my mineral supplement. At that rate, it may take a week or more for yours to catch up.
    12-18-2010, 10:01 PM
Green Broke
Cherie, so according to your theory, alfalfa should be a good hay to feed, correct? Lots and lots of calcium there!

I have a little bit of doubt in your theory because my mare was eating about 75-100% alfalfa hay from months 3-11 of her pregnancy (when I bought her I figure she was around 2 months pregnant) and she had a big, bouncing, beautiful colt, with one deformed leg. If anything, she was probably getting too much calcium. But I did what I could to the best of my ability and knowledge at the time. Before I bought her, she was on pasture.

Actually, my theory is that my foal's deformity was positional, because that's what it looks like to me. Like the the leg was in a cramped position and grew sort of warped.

I dunno. I guess I just don't know if calcium really is the missing link, because then none of us who live in the west and feed almost exclusively alfalfa would ever have any problems, right?

I have another question, instead of going through all the trouble of trying to re-formulate a mineral supplement with more calcium, why not just use the Purina 12:12 and add a significant amount of alfalfa to the horse's diet? That is more or less what I am doing. I am feeding about 60/40 alfalfa to bermuda, with a free-choice mineral block and white salt block.

My baby still chews everything in sight though!
    12-18-2010, 10:56 PM
Super Moderator
Did you read my original post?

If this horse is being fed grass, grass hay and/or grain, it is a very good bet that Calcium (Ca) is missing from its diet.

I plainly stated that this applied to horses eating grass, grass hay and grain, all of which contain low levels of Ca. Others can be Ca deficient, but that gets much more complicated.

Personally, I do not feed alfalfa. I currently have 60 head of horses on free choice grass hay. They eat a LOT of a high Ca mineral.

Yes, a foal can be positioned badly in a mare. Just like you can occasionally see dystocia in mares. But, if a person or a farm has more than an occasional weak legged or crooked legged foal, or has a large number of them like some of the farms I have seen, you have a nutrition problem.

I suppose alfalfa is fine if you like feeding it. I really do not. We have a high incidence of blister beetles around here and it is the colic capital of the world. Every horse I have known that had enteroliths was on an alfalfa diet. Many of the farms and training barns that have a high incidence of surgical colics are also feeding alfalfa. It also requires a great deal more labor in feeding it. I can free choice round bales of grass hay and not have any problems other than it is more difficult to get a horse show fit (which I don't do anymore) as they carry more belly and eat more than they need.

There are also other considerations with alfalfa that can still let you have Ca deficiencies when feeding it. Most alfalfa contains a large amount of Potassium. Potassium stops animals from absorbing the Calcium that would otherwise be available. I am not sure livestock nutritionists even know exactly why this happens, but if you want cows to get milk fever, collapse and die from low serum Ca levels, just feed them alfalfa or any other feed high in potassium and Ca before they freshen.

Calcium deficiencies are very prevalent in the early spring and are especially bad when the early grass is 'washy' and immature. They are also especially bad when horses or other livestock are on winter wheat or rye grass. They get a condition known as grass tetany or grass staggers as well as milk fever. All are directly related to Ca deficiencies and, to a lesser degree, Magnesium. They can be severe enough to cause Tetany or grass staggers.

Nearly all grass hay -- unless grown on good limestone soil -- is deficient in Ca. Grains and protein sources are also Ca deficient unless they have been fortified and balanced, usually with Ca CO 2 or Calcium Carbonate, which is nothing more than ground limestone. Horses and other stock absorb the Ca very well if there is Magnisium and Vitamins A & D also present.

There are many more things in play than just the Ca levels of certain feeds. So yes, your horse that is eating alfalfa can still be Ca deficient. Any horse that ravenously eats wood, trees, dirt, manes and tails, etc has 'pica' and is deficient in something.
    12-18-2010, 11:09 PM
Green Broke
I guess I just go the impression from your posts that if the horse is eating trees, manes, tails, dirt, etc. then it must be calcium missing from it's diet.

I have never even seen a round bale in Arizona. The only reason I know they exist is because everyone on the internet talks about them.

We feed alfalfa because that is practically the only hay available here. Well, we also have bermuda but it is more expensive and my vet thinks its a filler and not much more. But I know straight alfalfa has some health risks too. So we do the best we can with what we have available.

I was genuinely curious about this topic because my foal DOES chew everything in sight, and he gets fed alfalfa, bermuda, Purina Ultium Growth, free choice salt block, free choice mineral block. I just can't imagine what else I should be giving him.

That's why I am wondering if he's teething or something. He's 5 months old.
    12-19-2010, 12:03 AM
Super Moderator
Are you talking about a mineral block or a mineral salt block? They are very different.

A mineral block contains 'macro minerals' These are minerals like Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, etc that are supplied in large amounts.

Mineral salt blocks are 99% salt and only contain 'micro amounts' of trace minerals -- usually measured in ppm -- parts per million. They are minerals that are usually NOT deficient and are minerals like Manganese, Copper, etc.

It is NOT normal for weanlings to eat everything they can get their teeth on. Something is missing. It is out of my area of expertise and experience. I have always been balancing out grass hays and grains.

Is there a river near you where there are willows or cottonwood trees? I would be tempted to cut some young saplings and small branches and see if your horse eats them like candy. That was where I started more than 40 years ago.

You can also see if there is a 'Stockade" mineral dealer near you. They make loose minerals and soft blocks. They make a Super 4, Super 6 and a Super 8 block that has 4, 6 and 8% phosphorus and much higher amounts of Ca. They are pretty effective if one cannot find a better loose mineral.

I know what you mean about feed availability. Back in the 70s, I spent two winters in North Phoenix with a set of race horses I was training. I was at Turf Paradise and hated the feed choices. I finally gritted my teeth and bought 3 wire Timothy hay from Washington state. I hate to think what hay like that is selling for now. I have a good friend in Las Vegas and that is what she is feeding now and it is $14.00 a bale there.

I am paying $70.00 a ton for grass hay delivered here. I feed about 200 ton a year plus all of the pasture we feed. We used to graze a lot of winter wheat and rye in the winter and spring, but have not put any in in several years now. We still have a lot of rye grass that comes up every spring and works very well for us. They really go through the mineral when they are grazing it.

I do not know what else to tell you.

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