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Steps to Avoid Botulism in Horses,Horse Hay, Haylage
By The Rock Depot

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Now we'll address how to avoid the deadly botulism that can be carried in horse hay.  The disease may find its way into any type of hay-from timothy hay to orchard grass hay for horses to alfalfa mixes, grass silage or haylage, and consequently infects horses.

All hay for horses and other feeds should be inspected for signs of thetoxins produced by the bacterium, Clostridiabotulin.  Found worldwide, this strain grows in the absence of oxygen.  Clostridium botulin can be present in soil, mostly from decaying animal carcasses.  Think field mice.  At times, the infected substance is inadvertently raked into the feed pile or baled into the hay forage.

In addition to ingesting bad hay, horses can be infected through an open wound.  Symptoms in affected horses may occur with hours of ingesting contaminated feed or it can take up to 7-10 days.  They include muscle tremors, extreme weakness, and tongue hanging from mouth, inability swallow, stiff stride, stumbling, and loss of tone in tail.

Botulism disease is fatal to horses.  Of domesticated animals, horses are the most prone to its ravages.  Therefore, horse owners and equestrian enthusiasts need to be aware of the serious impacts of botulism and take steps to steer clear of it.

For someone buying hay, the first sign of trouble may be a foul odor caused from a decaying carcass trapped in a bale.  In most cases, the horse product looks and/or smells spoiled.  At times it does not.  Other precautions include carefully raking hay to avoid adding any contaminated soil, staying away from poultry manure, and keeping an eye out for animal carcasses.  Similarly, hay producers should carefully rake and bale hay, be sure hay for silage contains the correct amount of moisture and pH, and avoid using chicken or turkey manure and delays in wrapping or bagging plant material.

Since it grows without air, botulism bacteria can be trapped inside a large round bale of horse hay where there is a greater chance of infestation. 

The same principle applies to silage or haylage, which is a fermented product kept at a specific pH.  It is created by young moisture-laden hay plants in silos or other airtight containers.  Hay silage is excellent when properly prepared and dangerous if not.  Therefore, if horse owners use silage or haylage, they should consider vaccinating their horses for botulism. 

Where to Buy Hay

Rock Depot in Castle Rock recently expanded services to offer agricultural hay for horses.  We carry high-quality Orchard Grass Hay at the store in Castle Rock, along with other hay for horses, including Meadow Hay, Timothy Hay, Brohme Hay or Brome Hay, and a Grass Alfalfa Mix of Brohme Hay or Brome, Orchard Grass and Alfalfa. 

Our helpful staff will guide buyers to the right hay for horses in Colorado.  For more information, contact Rock Depot of Castle Rock at 303-660-2444. 

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