Petunia – Milk in Short Supply

Continued from April 19 & 20, My Stable Life Blog entries…

In the wee hours of February 27, 2010, and within only a few hours of her birth, Petunia finally found Rosey’s udder and appeared to drink. This was a huge relief as colostrum intake in the first 12 hours of life was crucial to Petunia’s survival. However, Danielle had noticed early on that Rosey didn’t appear to be as “bagged up” as a normal mare who has just given birth should look. She became concerned about the mare’s milk supply almost immediately, but in an effort not to interfere with nature, she allowed Petunia a few hours to try and suckle – hoping this would stimulate milk letdown.

Photo by Danielle LaForge.

In the morning (several hours after birth), one of our wonderful vets at Sherwood Clinic performed a SNAP test, to ensure Petunia consumed enough colostrum. With Rosey’s milk supply in question, we were all very worried about the amount of time ticking by – in the event that our filly didn’t get enough.

Rosey and Petunia in their king-size foaling stall. Photo by Danielle LaForge.

Dr. Bree Hamblin confirmed that Petunia’s antibody levels were indeed, good. Thank-goodness!!

At this point, Danielle tried manually to “milk” Rosey and her worst fears were realized. Rosey had little, to no milk. Although we weren’t positive as the cause of the mare’s agalactia, it was likely we could chalk it up to the fact that Rosey was unable to consume alfalfa hay during her pregnancy. But feeding it to her now was not an option.

Photo by Danielle LaForge.

So Danielle put together some milk replacer and began feeding the filly by bottle. It has put a huge demand on her schedule (not to mention sleep patterns), since Petunia needs to be fed every 2-4 hours. Meanwhile, we have begun the search for a solution. Options we have include a nurse mare, a nurse goat, foal pellets and a special oral paste called “Domperidone.” I’ll keep you posted…

Danielle and Petunia. Photo by Wade LaForge.

Petunia, A Stressful Delivery

At 11:26 pm on February 26, 2010, Danielle (Clay’s assistant at J. Drummond Farms in Regina) sent Clay and I a text stating that Rosey’s water had broke. With a due date of March 2, Rosey wasn’t far off the mark. Unfortunately, Clay and I were still in Arizona, so it was up to Danielle and her husband Wade LaForge, to ensure things went smoothly.

Petunia, shortly after delivery. Yes, those are Wade’s boots in the background. Pic by Danielle LaForge.

Shortly after the text message, I called D (Danielle’s nickname) to get a play-by-play on the events. She told me that one tiny hoof – through a healthy, blueish-white sac – had appeared. It was followed by a second hoof, set slightly back from the first one. All of these were very good signs of proper parturition.

However, at 11:54 pm, D and I both began to get very worried. The delivery hadn’t yet progressed beyond 2 tiny hooves and we were fast approaching the 30-minute mark from the time Rosey’s water had broke. Since most horses usually complete stage 2 labour in under 30 minutes, action was required.

We placed an after-hours call to our vet in Regina but since it would take a little time for the vet to get to the farm, we also placed another call to Dr. Tammi Roalstad in Scottsdale, AZ. Tammi has been an invaluable source for us, especially regarding mares and foals and was the vet who inseminated Rosey to Meradas Money Talks (Petunia’s sire). I ended my call temporarily with Danielle so Tammi could coach her and Wade through the next few stages over the phone, since it was obvious a malpresentation was occurring.

This is how Wade described the events:

“Basically you could see with every contraction that something was pushing Rosey’s anus outwards. With both of the foal’s feet out (and positioned properly), there was only one logical reason why the delivery couldn’t progress. Danielle and I figured the head and neck had to be stuck somehow.”

Wade had to reach inside Rosey – taking great care to insert his sterile-gloved arm inside of the amniotic sac, as opposed to outside of it and into the mare’s vulnerable uterus. Then he followed the foal’s legs up and tried to identify a reference point on the baby’s head, such an ear or the mouth. When he couldn’t find one, both Wade and Danielle realized the baby’s head and neck were stretched upwards, almost pointing towards the mare’s anus. In this position, there was no way the newborn could come through the birth canal without damage to either the fetus or to the mare.

“I could tell the head was tilted up slightly, not drastically, but just enough to be a problem. Plus, the mare could have been more fully dilated than she was,” Wade said.

“Once I could feel the nose, I put my hand on top of it and during the next contraction began to pull down gently on the foal’s legs and push down gently on its nose. I had to use the back of my hand to stretch the mare open slightly at the top until the foal’s nose popped out. At this point, the mare had been trying to deliver for quite some time and as a result was pretty tired, so I kept assisting her until the foal was completely out “

D and Wade had to remove the sac from the foal’s face and nostrils and finally, the baby began to take her first breaths of oxygen. Considering all this little baby had been through since 5 months of gestation, she was nothing short of a miracle! And Wade and Danielle were my ultimate heroes.

Little Petunia is camera shy. In the back, you can see her dam (a maiden mare) is still trying to process what just happened... Photo by Danielle LaForge.

Danielle and Wade allowed the mare and foal a bonding period. Then, just before it appeared as though the filly would try to stand up, they entered the stall again to disinfect the baby’s naval stump, discern it’s gender (which you already know is a filly) and tie up the placenta that was still partially inside Rosey’s uterus. The weight of a knot sometimes helps the placenta to expel, but mostly, it keeps it from being stepped on by the mare and expelling before it’s ready. (Ask your vet about tying a knot in a placenta before you try this at home – this is just what we have found to work best for us.)

Petunia tries to take her first, albeit wobbly, steps. But she won’t open her eyes! Photo by Danielle LaForge.

After that, the waiting period began for the filly (who Danielle named “Petunia”) to find the mare’s teat and latch on for some colostrum. Which takes us to Part 3 of Petunia’s dramatic little life so far… Stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry!

Petunia – Against All Odds

Meet little Petunia. This sweet filly was born to J. Drummond Farms, February 26, 2010 just before midnight. She is sired by Meradas Money Talks and out of our mare, Smart Rosey Chic also known as “Rosey.” This little darling has had to overcome many odds to get where she is today. At birth, Petunia was a healthy, sorrel filly but her story doesn’t begin there.

Photo by Danielle LaForge.

This is the dam, Rosey at the Okanagan Summer Slide in early August, 2009.

Photo by Tracey Eide - EquineSportPhotography.com

On August 18, 2009, Rosey was bedded down for the evening in her regular spacious, indoor stall at J.Drummond farms in Regina, SK. She had eaten the same regular hay portion she was accustomed to for dinner and spent her normal amount of time out in her turnout for the day. However, during our evening barn check at 11:00 pm, Clay and I found Rosey rolling in her stall. Not a good sign – the mare was experiencing abdominal pains. At that point, Rosey was 5 months pregnant. As a maiden mare, this was her first foal.

Clay and I spent a sleepless night, traveling with the mare first; to see one of our regular veterinarians at Sherwood Animal Clinic in Regina, SK, and; secondly to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, SK. Our clinic in Regina is equipped to handle many things, but not surgery. This was hard for Clay and I – in our entire professional career in the horse industry, we’ve never had to drive more than 30 minutes to get to an equine surgery facility. But it needed to be done. Following a mineral flush, sedation and pain killers, Rosey’s heart rate wasn’t returning to a normal level. Therefore, at 1:00 am on August 19, we set off on a 3-hour drive to Saskatoon with Rosey in tow.

During this drive several questions ran through our minds, the most significant of which being, “Why isn’t there a cure for colic?” I would like an answer more than anyone. But like everyone, that night I was at a total loss. Was it the feed? Was it a change in barometric pressure? Maybe it’s the pregnancy? All these questions ran through my mind…

An ultrasound done on Rosey in the wee hours of August 19, showed a tiny little spinal cord (as indicated to the right of the red arrow).

Clay and I were hoping the colic would have subsided from Rosey’s long trailer ride. But we had no such luck. After several tests and exams, Rosey was prepped for surgery at approximately 5:00 am. Tired and scared, Clay and I got back into our truck and started the long drive back home. All we could do was wait.


Several hours later, we got a call from our wonderful vet, Dr. Stacy Anderson at WCVM. She told us that Rosey had a 180-degree twist in her intestine which had to be righted. She had waited until our mare had recovered from the anesthesia, to call us with the good news.

Two weeks after we first took Rosey into WCVM, we brought her home sporting a large incision, a clipped belly and a cleared IV area in her neck. She had lost a lot of weight but she seemed happy and healthy, nonetheless. And amazingly, she had hung on to her pregnancy!

We changed Rosey’s feed intake to strict diet of grass hay and as she healed, added small amounts of Frisky Foal to supplement for the pregnancy. We had her vaccinated and a dewormed as a healthy, pregnant mare. Many months later, Rosey approached her due date without any further complications.

Baby Batter

A new definition of "Miss Behavin'."

Approximately two weeks ago, I awoke to the sound of two giant brontosauruses fighting. Honestly there I was, warm and cozy and cuddled up next to Clay. And the next thing I know, giant dinosaurs were having a giant squabble right next to my bed. At the crack of dawn.

Where we’re staying currently, our room is right next to the horses: the barn is essentially an extension of our living accommodations. We like it that way because if anything goes wrong, we are generally right there to investigate. Like in the event of a dinosaur fight.

I threw on a hoodie and ran outside in pajama bottoms and flip flops. And as I arrived in the barnyard, the two culprits looked at me with innocent eyes as if to say, “What’s going on? You’re up early…”

Argh. Mares!

Double Argh for mares that are stabled next to each other and are in heat…

As luck would have it, I had scheduled an ultrasound appointment with one of our vets, Tammi Roalstad for today. Since it’s time to start thinking about breeding again, I asked Tammi to ultrasound Chicolet (my original non-pro mare, turned matriarch broodmare) and see where we were at in her cycle.

Upon the ultrasound examination, Tammy exclaimed, “WOW! Chicolet has a big ol’ follicle…”


I could barely believe my eyes when Tammy showed me a 40mm-sized follicle on her ultrasound monitor. What timing… Here I was trying to get a game plan in place for breeding and ordering semen. I didn’t realize I’d need semen today!

Armed with two cell phones in my pockets, I made a desperate call to one of our stud owners. It went a little something like this:

ME – “Hi Cinder Lakes Ranch. I need semen. Like, now…”
OTHER END “…Unfortunately Jenn, our collection days are odd days this month. And today is an even day.”

Of course it was an even day.

OTHER END “But, I did have a canceled dose from yesterday. If I stuck that under the microscope and it still looks good, would you be interested in it? I could get it on a flight to you and you’d have it about 5 hours.”
ME – A dance of joy that might have resembled Steve Carell in an episode of
The Office.

Cinder Lakes Ranch totally came through for me. Within a couple of hours, that dose was on a flight towards Chicolet and I.


Early that evening, Clay and I whipped into the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and found our way to American Airlines.

When I walked in wearing boots and jeans, the lovely ladies at the cargo holding area said, “You must be here for the Baby Batter…”


The Baby Whatter??

“Baby Batter. It’s what we call shipments of little horses-to-be,” the ladies smile at me. “We get a lot of them at this time of year.”

Gotcha! Baby Batter… That’s brilliant!!

Dr. Tammi Roalstad grabs supplies.

Back at the barn, Tammi meets us for the second time today. But this time, it’s pretty dark.

She checks the motility of the “Baby Batter” and despite the fact that its yesterday’s dose, things are looking really good!

You gotta love good vets and helpful stallion stations. I know I do!

Genesis: Starting with a plan

GENESIS

A scene in our yearling filly pasture.


I always love this time of year. These are the days when Clay starts focusing the training energy onto our 2-year-olds. The babies we foaled out in early 2008 have had almost two years to just grow and be horses. And now, it’s time to start handling them regularly. Up until now, they’ve been halter-broke and have received consistent farrier work and medical care. Other than that however, our yearlings have mainly been running and playing like little kids out in the pasture.

The fillies: aka Drama Queens.

Naturally, there is much discussion surrounding the topic of starting young horses. Every trainer or owner has an opinion on the subject and every program has valid points. I am not here to argue or validate which way is best. Clay and I just know what works best for us and the practice of starting our colts as long yearlings, has proven extremely beneficial in our experience.

All shapes and sizes.

Ideally, we like to center our breeding program around the earliest foals in the year as possible. This means, we try to aim for March babies. Of course, this goal isn’t always attainable since Mother Nature plays a large role in equine reproduction. However, we have found that earlier birth dates allow our foals more time to grow, develop and mature. And sometimes, if a mare is having difficulty getting in foal early in the year, we choose to leave her open. In today’s economy and with the instability of our market, it has become more crucial than ever to make smart breeding decisions. Since our herd consists of +/- 11 broodmares (depending on the year), we have decided that demand must exist for each and every horse we produce.

It’s all about supply equaling demand.

We don’t want to create something the world has no desire for, as often seen in the overbreeding problems and market lows the horse industry is already battling. Therefore, with careful scrutiny we make our breeding plans each year and if a mare just can’t seem to become pregnant early in the year, that’s alright with us. We don’t believe it’s absolutely necessary to bring another 11 foals into the world every year.

It’s always so amazing to me to watch dreams and goals take shape, from this tender moment forward.

That being said, each of our foals will have a better chance of thriving in today’s society if they are well-trained and have solid foundations. Broke horses have a modern purpose in today’s society and can give their owners justification of the costs of feeding and caring for them. That’s why Clay prefers to start our young horses as long yearlings, starting with approximately only ten minutes day, three times a week. Since the horse’s body continues to develop until it is about six year of age, it’s important to consider the young muscle and bone structure and never physically push the animal too far in a session.

A few minutes each day, starting earlier on in its life, allows Clay the time it takes to build a solid foundation with a colt. It is very hard on a horse to begin training later in life and have the same amount of lessons crammed into a shorter span of time. Doing so would be the equivalent of sending a child to begin school in grade six, without having the benefit of kindergarten, grade one, two, etc. The person training the horse would have to teach the horse all the same lessons, despite having only half the time.

The yearlings, just being horses.

Starting early also affords Clay the opportunity to turn our yearlings out to pasture again, if he so chooses. Sometimes a young horse comes along so nicely in the lessons that Clay might feel he needs time to go out and be a horse again. Or, perhaps his or her body just needs more time to develop. And later in January, February or March Clay might bring the colt back in and resume the training. Either way, an early starting point gives my husband a foundation to build on.

No health records? Ship before July 31st

It isn’t an April Fool’s joke. In fact, rumors of it have been the talk of the industry all winter and in late January the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed new regulations regarding the implementation of a Meat Hygiene Directive. As of July 31st, slaughter facilities will be allowed to process only those equines with complete health records dating back six months. In other words, the maintenance of health records must have begun by February 1st, for equines that are intended to be sent (or sold) for processing on or after July 31st.

The Information Bulletin from the CFIA that outlines the new requirements is available from the CFIA’s web site at:

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/corpaffr/newcom/newsrele.shtml where it states “ owners who wish to keep their sale options open should record all vaccines, medications given (administered or fed) to their animals and record any occurrence of illness in their animals.”

The CFIA requires that health records for equines intended for human consumption include the following:

• Identification information for the horse, including markings and photos

• Record of diagnosed illnesses

• Records of drugs or vaccines administered (or fed) that are not intended for use in food animals

• Records of drugs or vaccines administered (or fed) with known withdrawal periods

• Records of all other drugs or vaccines administered (or fed)

A list of the substances that are not intended for use in food animals can be found at in the Meat Hygiene Directive No. 2009-49 which is available from CFIA’s website at

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/meavia/man/direct/2009/direct49e.shtml.

Important to note: the use of Phenylbutazone (commonly known as bute), is now considered a banned substance for any equine intended for human consumption.

Equine meds which require a six-month withdrawal period include such drugs as Acepromazine, commonly known as Ace.

Perhaps even more troubling than the health records requirement is the news that this program is all intended to lead into an overall Canadian equine identification program, which is intended to encompass not only unique identification, but movement tracking and health and drug administration. Read on for the official word from the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency:

“To assist horse owners in the maintenance of health records, the CFIA has created the Equine Identification Document (EID). The EID is a paper document that can be downloaded and printed from the CFIA website.

“The CFIA announcement describes this as “the first step in the development of a comprehensive food safety and traceability program for the Canadian equine industry—for both domestic and international markets.” This is in-line with previous Agriculture and Agri-food Canada announcements committing to the development of livestock traceability programs for Canada by 2013.

“It is expected that the EID paper document will serve as a foundation stone upon which a comprehensive electronic system will be built to incorporate unique equine identification, movement tracking, and health and drug administration information necessary to satisfy food safety and bio-security requirements.

“It is expected that further information and details regarding the development and implementation of the national identification and traceability system will be announced shortly.”

If all of this smacks you in the gut the teensiest bit, if you find your thoughts drifting off to 1984, and big-brotherism, you just might not be alone . . . and plenty of you may even recall we’ve been through this before, back in 2003-04 when Equine Canada gave it’s best shot at fast-tracking an equine identification program. Alarms were raised, cries of “not another gun registry!” were made and eventually, it all went away, back into the dark hole from whence it came. Or, so we thought.

Just as intriguing . . . on the heels of this Canadian announcement came the news from the United States Department of Agriculture of its complete scrapping of it’s $142 million NAIS (National Animal Identification System) and starting it’s disease traceabililty program from scratch according to the Washington-based American Horse Council. Apparently, the decision came after a USDA national listening tour.

We’ll be keeping track of this as it progresses, but in the meantime, thoughts anyone?

Q & A – Milking Mares

Published in the March 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review.

Dr. David Ramey, DVM, is a graduate of Colorado State University. After completing an internship in equine medicine and surgery at Iowa State University, he entered a private equine practice in southern California in 1984. Dr. Ramey is a noted author and lecturer. Here he answers our reader’s question on their brood mare. Visit him online at www.horseandriderbooks.com/david_ramey.html

Question: I have an open mare that milks up every spring and summer. She is older and has carried several foals to term, but has also lost a couple. Can you tell me why this happens and if there is any way to stop it?
Answer: The mammary glands of the mare are under the control of various hormones secreted by glands in the horse’s body. Older horses may develop benign growths of their pituitary glands, causing a condition called pars pituitary intermedia dysfunction (PPID), which is more commonly known as Cushing’s Disease. Older mares with PPID may have hormonal abnormalities that result in abnormal lactation. It’s something that your veterinarian can test for, although probably not until the spring (research indicates that tests for Cushing’s Disease may not be accurate at the end of the year).If your horse is confirmed with Cushing’s Disease, the most commonly prescribed treatment is a drug called pergolide, which helps one of the horse’s own hormones, dopamine, do its job. It’s given orally, so it’s easy to administer. In fact, I’ve treated a couple of mares that have acted just like yours that stopped their mammary development when on the drug.