Checklist to Keep Livestock and Horses Healthy During the Fall Season

This is the season of chokes, foot abscesses, horse colics, and weight loss. With the changing color of leaves, the roller coaster temperatures and humidity that create immune susceptibility in human lives, also contribute to animal health problems.

Many health problems that occur at this time of year are preventable by caretaker’s conscientious management. For example:

  • Ruminants (cows, sheep, goats) who notably gorge on apples from old orchard trees should be filled with hay or grass before given access to apples such that they can’t overload with a rapid diet change.
  • Horses should have a fall dental exam and maintenance float to encourage thorough chewing of apples, carrots, and hay. Speaking of which, good dental health is essential for hay digestion, because the fibers must be chewed into small pieces before being swallowed. Horses with poor dentition will often have manure full of undigested hay.
  • Horses should continue to be trimmed every 4-8 weeks. Some horses need less trimming in the freezing winter months, but we’re not there yet. Almost all the horses that present 3-legged lame with foot abscesses have hooves that are overgrown.
  • Small ruminants (sheep, goats) that become thin or have soft manure should be examined by a veterinarian. Internal parasites and sudden feed changes may both be at fault.
  • All livestock should have continual free choice access to clean drinking water. Hydration is critical to animal health and colic prevention. Keep an eye on the forecast and plug in water heaters before they are absolutely necessary. Paying the electricity is far cheaper than paying a veterinarian colic treatment.
  • Lastly, regularly check for downed trees and branches in and along your fence lines. Wilted red maple leaves are severely toxic to horses. Likewise, wilted cherry leaves are severely toxic to ruminants.

This is a beautiful season. Enjoy it by providing livestock with top-notch management and preventative care.

CALVS is owned and operated by Dr. Dianne Johnson. Dr. Johnson graduated from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech in May 2012. Dianne is thankful to be back in Vermont (the other “VT”), where she is close to her family and many friends.

Prior to establishing CALVS, Dr. Johnson did a 6-month internship at Cross-Border Equine in Springfield, VT. Dr. Johnson enjoys working with cattle, small ruminants, camelids, and horses, and will also work with swine and poultry on an as-needed basis. Dianne is especially interested in sustainable farming, pasture management, and preventative care.

In her spare time, Dianne enjoys reading, walking and hiking with her dog, and crafts.

Prior to studying veterinary medicine, Dianne studied psychology and worked as an outdoor education instructor. She enjoys teaching youth and adults husbandry and veterinary medical skills.

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