Spring Time Management

Be prepared for spring with a GutzBusta Hay Net!

Nikki here! Here in Central West NSW we have had a wonderful, warmer winter during the last few weeks. Still with some good frosts, but many of those days have warmed up to be beautiful winter days of around 18 degrees. A reminder that Spring is just around the corner.

Spring is a time of new and more vibrant growth, marking the start of greener pastures and warmer weather. However, we have also had minimal rain for the last month or so. Therefore we are still having:

  • Frosty or very cold mornings of less than 5 degrees.
  • Warm days to start the Spring growth period.
  • Not much rain.

What does all of that add up to?? STRESSED PLANTS with MAXIMUM sugar levels!!

For the many reasons that I will go on to explain, this could be a very bad spring for already overweight horses and ponies, or those that are already metabolically at risk of laminitis.
Remember, laminitis is the second biggest contributor to the death of our beautiful equines, so all horse owners need to take it seriously.

Other things to take into consideration are to gradually change your horse's feed which is vital to keep your horse or pony safe and well, particularly if you have a laminitic, Insulin Resistant (IR) or Cushing’s horse or pony. No doubt your horse will be chomping at the bit to get into the lush green spring grass, but the high sugar and starch content can lead to laminitis and/or diarrhoea if grazing is not strictly controlled and managed during the transition from Winter into the Spring flush of feed.

At GutzBusta, we’re committed to helping you keep your horse safe, so we’ve put together some news, tips, and advice to help you prepare for Spring.

When is your pasture safest?

Higher easily digestible carbohydrate content in your pasture is potentially dangerous to all horses while they’re transitioning from a low-grass/hay-based diet to the flush of feed in Spring. But animals that are IR, have Cushing’s disease or are overweight are even more susceptible to laminitis, so you need to work out when or even if your pasture is safe.
The general rules of assessing whether your pasture is ‘safe’ or not are determined by both temperature and sunlight on the plant: 
  • When the night temperatures are below 5 degrees C, the grass is too high in sugar and starch due to the stress on the grass.
  • Once it gets above 5 degrees C at night, the lowest plant sugar and starch level is before sunrise
  • Anything that stresses a plant will raise the sugar levels eg: drought or frost or importantly - overgrazing!
  • Sunny days: The NSC levels are highest in the afternoon/evening
  • Overcast or cloudy days: Grass produces less sugar and starch due to less photosynthesis taking place, so pasture is a little safer.
Unfortunately, there are some horses and ponies that are never in a position to be put out to pasture for longer than an hour a day, if at all at certain times of the year.
It is important to seek veterinary/trimmer/farrier/equine nutritionist help when dealing with chronic and acute laminitis cases.  Making an informed decision and getting the CORRECT advice can literally mean the difference of life or death to your horse or pony, or a lifetime of suffering.
Sunny afternoons are NEVER safe to allow grazing for these types of horses and ponies.

Carbohydrates levels = ESC + Starch < 10%

This is particularly important when you are getting hay tested for laminitic-prone horses and ponies.  It is not the NSC that is what you need to know, but the ESC + Starch level. This should be under 10% to be considered safe for at-risk equines.  These figures are equally important for pasture, however, pasture carbohydrate levels change all of the time due to many factors already discussed above.

Dr Eleanore Kellon's page - Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance has some fantastic information on managing, emergency protocol, and general education on this topic. All horses are capable of getting laminitis under the wrong conditions.
This spring for the East Coast of Australia will be particularly detrimental for more horses and ponies than usual. High rain and warmer weather equal prolific growth.

Factors to consider!

There are many other factors that can affect the ESC and Starch content of your grass and hay, including soil quality, nutrient levels, drought, flooding, and type of pasture (native V’s improved).
If you are uncertain and need some help working out which slow feeder will suit your needs best in this transition period or all year around, be sure to reach out to us here at GutzBusta. We’ll help put your mind at ease and help you decide which slow feed hay net will work for your horses.💖
When requesting actual feed advice we suggest speaking with an Equine Nutritionist or Veterinarian that may be familiar with your individual animals and locality.
Be prepared as we head into Spring and have your hay net stock levels up so if you have to lock up your equines to get them off the grass, you have an excellent management tool ready!