Why feed the birds?
Written by: Brenda Holloway
Many customers enjoy feeding wild birds during the winter months, and there are some that feed all year round. Not only does this bring a variety of pleasant colors and sounds to a yard, but placing feeders and planting native plants also provides a valuable service to the local ecosystem. Wild birds do a great job of controlling insects in the spring and summer. Douglas Tallamy, professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, has observed that chickadees raising a brood of chicks will use 350 to 750 caterpillars every day to feed their young. Additionally, adult robins will eat a variety of different insects during the day, including grasshoppers and spiders, and can eat up to 14 feet of earth worms in a single day! Thus, attracting wild birds to your yard will go a long way toward pest management in your neighborhood.
As the temperatures start to drop with the approach of winter, and plants begin to go dormant, wild birds start to feel the pressure of fewer food options. This is a great time to attract wild birds. Wild birds like a variety of seed, nut, and fruit options, and picking a bird seed with a blend of items will attract many different species of birds. Not only does this provide you with greater visual entertainment but having a variety of wild birds is great for your yard come spring, as different species of birds prefer eating different species of insects!
In addition to providing a variety of seeds, it is good to provide multiple feeder types. Different birds prefer different styles of eating. Cardinals, for example, prefer feeding on flat surfaces, and often you will see them eating on the ground underneath a bird feeder, cleaning up what other birds may have discarded. Nuthatches are one of the few birds that can hop headfirst down a tree and enjoy tubular feeders with peanut splits or other nuts in them that encourage this natural behavior.
Wild birds are a great and easy way to keep your lawn and local ecosystem in balance. By providing food for them, especially in the cold winter months, you are encouraging the wild birds to establish themselves in your area. This helps decrease your local insect population, keeping both you and your plants happy through the spring, summer, and fall!
Make Those Fleas Flee
Written by: Brenda Holloway
The key to winning any battle, including one against fleas, is understanding your enemy. Fleas prefer temperatures around 65-80 oF, and humidity levels around 75-85%, which means you’ll most likely see them during the summer months. Although we tend to think fleas as being only on your pet but flea eggs and larva develop in the surrounding environment. This means you’ll need to treat your pet and the area where he or she roams.
Fleas are pesky when they’re inside a home, but controlling fleas outside poses a much larger problem due to chemical pesticide restrictions and wildlife reintroducing fleas to a clean lawn. Luckily for pet owners, outside fleas will die off as temperatures drop in the fall. So how do you manage the fleas on your pet and in your house?
There are different options to manage fleas on your pet, including spot-on treatments, shampoos, dusts, sprays, and prescription medicines. Be sure to consider using a product that fights all life stages of fleas. Adult fleas will lay their eggs on your pet, which then fall off and stay in the environment. By using a treatment that works on all life stages, you decrease the chance of adding more fleas to the area. When using spot-on topical treatments, it is important to make contact with your pet’s skin. These treatments need to be absorbed through the skin to be effective. Fleas like to live directly on the skin or very close to it, which is why shampoos need the opportunity to soak into the pet’s coat and to make contact with the fleas.
Once you begin eliminating fleas on your pet and in the environment, it is vital to avoiding re-infesting your pet. Foggers, or flea bombs, are a great starting point indoors. They work by releasing a gas that is toxic to fleas. However, they won’t reach fleas that are in crevices or that are deep in the fibers of a thick carpet or rug. Additionally, foggers need 8 hours to diffuse from a room and during that time no animals, including humans, should enter the area. They should also not be used around food. Separate from foggers, there are various dusts and sprays that can be used indoors on different surfaces, including upholstery. All bedding should also be washed in hot, soapy water. Vacuums are also very helpful! As long as you empty the canister or bag immediately after vacuuming. Unfortunately, this process may need to be repeated often while trying to eliminate the fleas, as they have a 2-3 week life cycle in ideal conditions.
If you’ve recently won the war or haven’t experienced the frustration of a flea infestation, take it from us, you want to put your pet on a preventative flea control schedule and now is the time to do it. Keep your pets flea-free next spring and summer by starting now!
It's Bulb Season!
Written by: Brenda Holloway
One of the favorite times of year for amateur and master gardeners alike is fall bulb season! Bulbs are a great way to bring low maintenance, lasting color to your flowerbeds. Bulbs need planting once evening temperatures are getting down to around 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the ground gets cooler. This is important because bulbs must experience an extended period of cold (winter), but they also need time to settle into the soil; by planting them a few weeks before the first frost, they have the opportunity to develop a strong root system and experience a cold spell. Luckily though, for us procrastinators, one of the nice things about bulbs is that they are pretty hardy, so even if you plant them a little (or much) later, there’s a good chance some of them will come up.
When determining where to plant your bulbs, it’s important to consider a few things. First, they need to be planted in soil that drains well; bulbs do not like wet feet, so they need porous soil. Second, consider the height of each plant and when they will come up. If your plants all come up at the same time, you don’t want to plant tall plants in front of the short plants or you won’t be able to see the short plants. However, if the short plants are early bloomers, and the tall plants late bloomers, then it’s better to plant the tall plants in front of the short, in order to hide the short plants as they die off. Finally, when it comes to placing the bulbs in the ground, a good rule of thumb is that small bulbs get planted shallower (~4” deep) and bigger bulbs get planted deeper (~8” deep). When planting, make sure the roots face down, and the pointy end (area where the plant will grow) faces up. If you’re not sure which end are the roots and which end is the plant, just put the bulb in the ground on its side; as it starts to grow, the plant will most likely work its way up to the surface on its own.
Once planted in the ground, give your bulbs a good water to stimulate the roots, but don’t water them anymore after that. Also, don’t worry about late frosts as your plants start breaking through the ground in the spring. Bulbs are hardy, and are prepared for early frosts. It is possible that early blooms may be knocked out if the frost is bad enough, but the plant will be just fine!
Keeping Your Horse Healthy
Written by: Mill Jennings, The Mill Equine Specialist
Reduce parasite reproduction and contamination of the environment by creating a deworming program.
Parasites are becoming resistant to current de-worming products. This causes de-worming products to be less effective. Horse health can be adversely affected with a heavy parasite burden (colic, chronic coughing, poor keeper, poor performance, unthrifty, internal organ damages, etc.).
How has this happened?
- Overuse of de-worming products
- Inappropriate use of de-worming products
- Not knowing what parasites were present when de-worming
- Deworming according to the calendar
- Treating all horses the same when de-worming
- Many other factors affecting grazing practices and pasture management
These are just a few of the major contributing factors.
What can we do?
Performing fecal egg counts on a regular basis and tailoring your deworming program based on these results is the single most important thing you can do to improve your parasite control strategy. Treat with the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time, in the right horse.
Good Pasture Management Practices (that may help)
- Rotate pastures
- Do not overcrowd pastures
- Plant annuals such as winter wheat
- Rotate livestock species in pastures when possible
- Quarantine and deworm all new horses prior to introduction to the heard
- Remove feces from grazing areas on a regular basis (every few days)
- Avoid feeding on the ground
- Harrow pastures only when climatic conditions (hot summer temps) will kill the developing parasites
- Leave freshly dragged pastures empty for several weeks to allow the weather to kill the maximum number of parasites.
There are three classes of dewormers
- Benzimidazoles (Fenbendazole, Oxibendazole)
- Pyrantel (Strongid)
- Macrocyclic lactones (Ivermectin, Moxidectin)
How to make sure the proper dose is given
Here is a way to estimate your horse’s weight
- Measure heart girth (directly behind elbow)
- Measure body length (from point of shoulder to point of buttocks)
- girth X girth X length ÷330 = body weight
Consult your veterinarian if there are any questions concerning your horse’s fecal egg count results and recommendations about your deworming program.
Balancing the Equine Diet based on Forage Quality
Testing your hay will help you to know what to put into your feed bucket. All hay is not created equal and will often vary in nutrients depending upon when it is cut, the weather, the soil conditions and differences in fields. Hay analysis can give us specific nutrient values to work with and to help us better balance the horse’s diet. Testing will allow us to understand the overall quality of the hay and how it fits into the total diet.
When balancing a horse’s diet in general it is done in the following order:
- Digestible Energy (DE)
- Minerals & Vitamins
Balancing DE in the Equine Diet
We must remember that calorie recommendations are just that – each horse is an individual and we need to feed them according to their body condition. I have included the calorie requirements below. These calorie requirements are designed for the horse’s total diet. We need to keep in mind that when looking at calories for the horse it is important to always keep age, work level and breed in mind.
Daily Digestible Energy Requirements ( 1,100 LB Horse)
Maintenance Horse – 16,500 kcal/day
Gestation – Final Trimester – 21,000 kcal/day
Lactation – 1stMonth – 32,000 kcal/day
Heavy Work – 27,000 kcal/day
Moderate Work – 23,000 kcal/day
Here is a quick example for balancing forage DE in the diet:
1,100 – Horse in moderate work requires – 23,000 kcal/day
Average “Grass Hay” contains – 909 kcal/lb
The horse will eat 1.5 -2% of Body Weight a day in forage – 16.5 -22 LBS of hay/day
In this example the horse will require 25.3 LBS of this type of hay per day to meet calorie requirements only, this does not include protein, vitamins or minerals. In this example, it would be necessary to supplement this horses diet with grain/concentrates to meet calorie requirements.
Balancing Protein in Diet
When balancing protein it is important to balance the total diet, just not the protein in your forage or grain concentrate. Also, protein is important in the diet, but it is the amino acids that the horse requires. Amino Acids are essential in nutrient absorption and utilization. It is important to check your feed tag for lysine and methionine as they are the first 2 limiting amino acids, which help to ensure good hoof quality, muscle maintenance and repair, hair coat and overall topline condition.
Here is a simple calculation to determine the overall total protein in your horse’s diet:
( (LBS of Hay x % of Protein) + ( LBS of Grain x % of Protein) )/Total LBS fed ( hay + grain) = Protein in TOTAL DIET
Equine Protein Recommendations in the TOTAL Diet:
Mature Horse 10%- 12%
Lactating Mare 12%-14%
Example in a yearling diet:
Protein requirements – 12%-14%
1-2% body weight in Hay – 8-16 LBS/day
Average Grass Hay – 10.8% protein
Grain – 4LBS/day of a 12% Concentrate
( (16LBS x10.8) + (4LBS x 12%)/(16+4) = 11.04% ( this diet is deficient in protein)
Need to increase the diet’s concentrate.
Balancing Minerals & Vitamins
Horses that are fed forage only diets ( hay & pasture) are almost always found to be deficient in the recommended minerals and vitamins. Most forages have their ups and downs in their vitamin and mineral content leaving horses with the same inconsistency in their total diet. These deficiencies will typically overtime manifest themselves into poor hair and hoof quality, as well as general lack of condition in the horse. These visible signs might be good indications that your horse has a mineral or vitamin deficiency or imbalance within their diet, but sometimes deficiency can go unnoticed for months or even years. Overtime deficiencies that are not addressed can cause your horse to be more susceptible to serious diseases, health conditions, and decreased longevity.
It is very important to remember not to rely on just forage to ensure a balanced diet for your horse. All horses require a concentrate or a supplement in addition to their hay.
Items of Interest
- 20% of the horses harbor 80% of the parasites
- Worming according to the calendar encourages parasite resistance.
- Not all horses are equally susceptible to parasite infection.
- Removing feces from the environment before eggs become infective provides parasite control that is superior to deworming.
- New additions to a heard can introduce resistant strongyles to a previously “clean” population.
- More than 150 different parasites can infect horses (only a small number pose a real problem for horses)
- The most important parasites (the big 4) to target are round worms, Large and small strongyles and tape worms.
- Younger horses are more prone to problems associated with parasites and should be treated differently than adult horses.
- The active ingredient in dewormers influences the interval between deworming times
- Horses pastured with donkeys are more likely to harbor lung worms and should be treated accordingly
Why seed forages in the fall?
Written by: Henry Holloway, The Mill President
Many producers want to seed their pastures in the spring, as this is when dead spots and weedy patches become evident. By seeding in the spring, produces are able to fill in those undesirable patches making their pastures look fuller and greener. However, spring seeding of forages presents a number of challenges when considering the longevity of the new seedling. Forages that are grown and grazed in the Mid-Atlantic Region are primarily cool season forages due to the length of our grazing season (March to November). Cool season forage seeds require the soil temperature to be around 55oF for germination and need consistent moisture. Therefore, most cool season grasses planted in the spring will not germinate until after the middle of April.
Given that, spring seeded forages need to be well managed in order to keep them viable long-term. As temperatures rise going into summer, and the risk of reduced rainfall increases, the immature roots of new seedlings are susceptible to drying out and causing the new seedling to die. The young forage shoots need to receive consistent rainfall in order to keep the forages roots viable, particularly in summer. Plus, with the annual broadleaf and grassy weeds coming out in full force in the spring, the new forage seedlings will be facing stiff competition unless those weeds are closely managed. Thus, spring seeding, although possible, requires close management that doesn’t fit into all production systems. In reality, the best time to plant forage seed for long term success is in the late-summer/ early-fall, which brings a more ideal combination of moisture and temperature for optimum germination and growth of dense, high quality forage.
In contrast to spring, the warmer soil temperatures in the late-summer/early-fall allow for faster and more consistent germination. Furthermore, the daily air temperatures are cooling down which is preferred by cool season forages and allows for faster establishment. Additionally, this region generally gets reliable moisture in the late-summer/early-fall, keeping those seeds and immature roots moist but not overly saturated. As an added bonus, most of the annual broadleaf and grassy weeds are nearing the end of their annual cycle at this time, and they won’t be competing with your immature forage seedlings. With the seasonal change into winter, the plant will go dormant, but the roots of those fall-seeded forages will continue to grow and mature underground. As temperatures warm up with the arrival of spring, the seed you put down in the fall will have developed into a strong, mature plant that will grow quickly and produce multiple cuts of high quality hay or provide terrific grazing.
We have many options of forage seed to chose from to suit your production goals, whether it’s for quick establishing seed for successful short term grazing, or long term forage establishment. Give us a call with any questions you may have!