Each Tuesday night, I will be posting a few facts and pieces of information about new animal advancements. This week I’ve included a few interesting facts I recently learnt at last week’s 2012 Equine Science Symposium.
Hope to speak to you all soon,
Horse science snipets from the Equine Symposium [or as others might say “Random Stuff”]
The Australasian Equine Science Symposium presents research from ‘Genomics to the Winning Post’ from scientists, veterinarians and industry people around Australia, New Zealand and some from the USA. The following are some summary snipets that might be of interest.
- The digestibility of the starch fraction of cereal grains fed to horses varies considerable – yet it is a very important when developing feed rations. As you know ‘cooking’ of grains can dramatically improve starch digestion in the small intestines. However, the variables [moisture adsorption, temperature, duration of processing] in manufacturing can cause variation >25%. Extruded is the best, then micronized and then steam flaked processing with varying effectiveness between manufacturers has implications for feed use efficiency, and hindgut health. Problematically, stock feed manufacturers do not have any obligation to quantify the digestibility value of the processed grain. So continue to take care with your ration formulations – for horses in hard work, and for ponies and pensioners at maintenance.
- In Americian feeding comparisons, hay and grain, pelleted hay+grain, and cubed hay+grain for young horses demonstrated that the cubed feed resulted in the best feed efficiency and without incidence of stomach ulcers. Note – with dry pastures, copra meal provides an ideal supplement that safely improves energy and protein intake to ensure maintenance.
- Stress of weanlings when first weaned and stabled was mitigated by music. ‘Calming’ music was played during the day, resulting in less time walking, and more time eating. And when a stallion was walked past, music reduced the immediate increase and duration of elevated heart rate, indicating less stress.The ‘quality’ of the music is important!
- The importance of early exercise has been supported by physiological, clinical and epidemiological data. In wild horse populations, foals are capable of covering up to 10 km per day within 9 days of birth. Foals had a positive response to early pre weaning paddock exercise [greater cartilage health] and more recent work has demonstrated that exercise over and above that normally occurring with pasture reared foals, introduced as early as 3 weeks-old, had positive effects on the musculoskeletal system. The ‘quality’ of this extra early exercise is of ‘key’ importance.
- Despite the significant research achievements, the dynamics of horse infection from flying foxes is not completely understood. Both QLD and NSW government reports suggest that most infections have occurred in horses that might have been hungry. A review of pasture growth by an independent horse breeder supports this issue because no subtropical pasture growth occurs during winter early spring. A hungry horse is more likely to consume bat related material found on short pastures setting the scene for a HeV spill-over.
- A positive update on the Hendra virus. A prototype vaccination of nonhuman primates has been 100% effective in protecting when challenged with the virus. Also, the imminent release [2013?] of the vaccine for horses is progressing well. Significant collaboration has occurred between USA and Australian laboratories and commercial business to make this progress. Importantly, the Australian Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong is the only facility in the world capable of carrying out horse trials with such a dangerous virus.
- Currently, equine parentage is verified by testing a minimum of 12 internationally agreedSimple Tandem Repeat DNA markers [STaRs], known as the Equine Primary Panel of STR DNA markers. This has been 100% effective.
Completion of the horse genome sequence has characterised thousands of single nucleotide polymorphisms [SNiPs]. Serious consideration is being given to using SNiPs as a source of genetic variation, to confirm parentage, and also inherited conditions such as disease, coat colour etc and, comparisons between breeds. It is therefore potentially more comprehensive, but more expensive.
- Data were collected from 120 Mongolian horses [average 13.7 hands] used in the 2011 ‘Mongolian Derby’. None of the horses were subjected to routine hoof trimming!Overall, few conformational abnormalities were observed. Hoof confirmation represented the natural interaction of the environment with the hoof.
- A natural fungus has potential to reduce worm burdens on pastures. The spores of the fungus can be fed in a supplement, it then subsequently germinates in the faeces, creating a fungal web [hypae] that traps and kills emerging worm larvae – stopping the usual progression onto pasture.
- As some of you well know, hairy caterpillars have for 10+ years been implicated in abortions with episodic 5-10year cycles. Science has now verified the serious issue implicating the fine hairs of the exoskeleton [setae – with small barbs] which when accidently ingested will rapidly migrate from the mares gut. Setae travel throughout the body of the mare and facilitate bacterial infection of the placenta and foetus resulting in death. Ecology to these hairy processionary caterpillars now highlights the importance of destroying white spherical ‘golf ball’ egg nests and the larger dark cream coloured larvae nests if they are found in paddocks containing brood mares. Personal care not to make contact is emphasised.
More than 50 presentations were all advancing the science and welfare of our horses. Further information can be given if you have a particular query.
Dr Rod Stephenson