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What is certified hay and how do you raise it?

Question: What is certified hay and how do you raise it?

Response: The invasion of noxious weeds causes substantial economic loss and ecological damage. Common sources for the introduction and spread of weed seed include the transportation and utilization of contaminated forages.

In Minnesota, the state agency in charge of certified hay is the MN Crop Improvement Association (MCIA). The Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage certification program is designed to assure that forage (hay, cubes and pellets) meets minimum standards designed to limit the spread of noxious weeds. Most public lands in the western U.S. require that hay transported into these areas be certified noxious weed free.

To grow Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage, famers must first submit an application for membership to MCIA and apply for field inspection stating the location of the field and expected harvest date. MCIA then inspects the field and intended storage site to determine conformance to standards for freedom from noxious and undesirable weeds. The farmer then harvests the eligible crop and submits a tag request for the bales harvested. Certification labels are then issued by MCIA for eligible bales. The labels must be attached to each bale prior to delivery.

The MCIA website has additional information at, or they can be contacted by phone at 1-800-510-MCIA.

How many small square-bales are in a round-bale?

It depends on the weight of both the large and small-square bales. For example, if the round-bale weighs 1,000 pounds, then 20 50-pound small-square bales would be equivalent to 1 round-bale. If the large round-bale weighs 1,200 pounds and the small-square bales weigh 40 pounds, then 30 small-square bales would be equivalent to 1 round-bale. It important to know the weight of hay bales both for feeding and economic efficiencies.

By: Krishona Martinson, University of Minnesota

Legal options for horse carcass disposal in Minnesota include burial, composting, cremation, rendering, fur farm use and pet food. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Pollution Control Agency (PCA), and Board of Animal Health (BAH) regulate carcass disposal. Burial can be the most cost effective way of disposing of a carcass (if you own equipment to prepare the site), but may not be an available option in all areas of the state. The BAH states that the carcass must be five feet above the high water level, covered with three feet of soil, and not in soils that are within 10 feet of bedrock. If your burial site meets these requirements, then burial of a chemically euthanized horse is a legal option. These regulations are in place to prevent contamination of groundwater and to prevent exposure of the carcass to burrowing, digging, or scavenging animals, especially birds like bald eagles.

In some areas of the state (because of high water tables and the abundance of bedrock) it is not possible to meet the BAH criteria listed above. Therefore, in these areas of the state, burial of any equine carcass is not a legal option.

By: Krishona Martinson, PhD, Univ. of Minn.

Mud Management in Horse Pens

Question:  I recently built three 14' x 65' drylots for my horses.  The soil in my area is heavy, mucky clay.  What do you recommend using as footing to ensure proper drainage and as little mud as possible?

Response:  Unfortunately, with heavy clay soil, drainage and mud is going to be a continued problem unless the drylot is renovated.   The below system, called a high traffic pad, has proven to work (tested at the Universities of Kentucky and  Vermont) and will dramatically decrease mud problems in drylots.  To install a high traffic pad:

· Remove the 8" of top soil

· Install drainpipe to direct water out of the pen.  The pipe must be sloped towards an outlet. 

· Roll out geotextile fabric.  The fabric comes in large rolls. 

· Add 4" of crushed limestone (usually 1 ½ to 1 ¾ in diameter).

· Add second layer of geotextile fabric.

· Add 4" of dirty pea stone (small gravel)

· Refresh the top layer as needed; usually once every year or two.


The estimated cost for installing a high traffic pad is about $0.80 per square foot.  In one of your 14' x 65' drylots, the cost to renovate the entire paddock will cost just under $800.  To lessen the investment, renovate one  drylot per year. 


The University of Kentucky has a factsheet further outlining the process.  It is available online at


By:  Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota 

Would you recommend using treated wood?

Q: I want to install wood fence posts around my horse paddock. Would you recommend using treated wood?

A: Wood posts are a common and safe option for horse paddocks. However, wood has natural enemies including insects, mold, fungi, and bacteria. Some species have natural resistances, such as, cedars, junipers, locust, and redwood. Treated wood is more expensive than un-treated lumber, however, it will help extend the life of your wood fence, likely more than paying for the additional expenses. Current chemical treatments include copper cremated copper arsenate (CCA), ammoniacal zinc copper arsenate (ACZA), copper amines (copper azole, CBA-A & CA-B; alkaline copper quat, ACQ-B, ACQ-C, ACQ-D), and copper naphthenate (CU-Nap).

Pressure treated wood should last 30 to 35 years in Minnesota, compared to untreated wood, which generally lasts between 7 and 15 years. In drier climates, some posts can last longer. For example, cedar posts in western South Dakota can last longer than 100 years. In wet soils, filling the bottom 6 to 12 inches of the hole with a builders grade sand will increase the life of the post. Setting posts in concrete is not recommended because of the expensive and difficultly in replacing or moving the post.

Although horses do commonly chew on wood, I am not aware of any health problems (not counting dental issues) related to horses chewing on treated wood. If a horse is known to crib or chew, CU-Nap treated wood is the best option as no known health risk have been determined if ingested (maybe difficult to find). Another option is to install a single strand of electrified barbless wire, which will help keep the horses from both pushing on the fence and chewing on the wood; further extending the life of the fence and reducing maintenance costs.

CCA and ACZA treated wood has limitations because of arsenic, and has been band in the residential construction market; but still can be purchased in the agricultural sector. If CCA or ACZA is used, recommendations are to not have the CCA treated wood come in direct contact with feed; not used for bunks (support legs are OK), feed storage boxes, etc. The arsenic treated wood is also not recommended for use in playground equipment.

By: Chuck Clanton, PhD, University of Minnesota

To cool a hot horse, should I spray the entire body?

Q: When cooling a hot horse after exercise, many people simply spray the horse all over with water and do not scrape away the excess. Does it really offer a benefit to spray the entire body as opposed to just the legs and belly?

A: Spraying water on a hot horse to cool it off promotes convection cooling and assists the horse in lowering its core temperature. The reason you spray the legs and belly is because the blood vessels are closer to the skin in those locations and it promotes faster cooling of the horse's core temperature by carrying the cooler blood to the heart.

Another important part of cooling out horses is evaporation. After the horse has been sprayed off, it is very important to scrape the water off, because once the horse is sprayed, the water absorbs the horse's heat and becomes warm. In order for evaporation to occur effectively, this warm water must be removed. This process can be repeated until the horse's temperature comes down (i.e., spray, scrape, spray, scrape). If the water is not scraped off, it could act as an insulating layer, and actually make the horse hotter than when you started.

In extreme circumstances, ice can be added to water buckets to increase the speed of cooling the core temperature. It is commonly thought that ice will be a shock to the horse's system and could cause tying up (muscle cramping); however, with extreme heat and internal body temperatures, this is not the case.

If a horse is prone to tying up, it may be recommended to not directly apply the ice to the large gluteal muscles in the hind end, but focus on those key areas where the blood vessels are more superficial.

By Carey Williams, PhD, Rutgers University

Should I blanket my horse?

Q: With winter coming, should I blanket my horse?

A: Blanketing a horse is necessary to reduce the effects of cold or inclement weather when:

  1. there is no shelter available during turnout periods and the temperatures or wind chill is below 5°F;
  2. there is a chance the horse will become wet (i.e. rain, ice, or freezing rain);
  3. the horse has had its winter coat clipped;
  4. the horse is very young or very old;
  5. the horse has not been acclimated to the cold (i.e. relocated from a southern climate); and
  6. the horse has a body condition score of 3 or less.

Keep in mind a horse will continue to develop a natural winter coat until late December; and blanketing before late December will decrease a horse's natural winter coat. Horses, given the opportunity to acclimate to cold temperature, often prefer and are better off outdoors.

By Marcia Hathaway, PhD, and Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota

Why won't my horses lie down in the stalls?

Q: I use rubber mats over a concrete floor in my box stalls. I use only enough sawdust to absorb the urine and moisture in the stall and clean it out completely each day. I have never seen a horse lay down in the stall. Is there any reason to add more bedding in the stalls?

A: Horses need to lie down in order to get an adequate amount of deep sleep and will eventually, over weeks or months, become sleep deprived if they cannot or will not lie down for some reason. Opinions vary, but research on the subject suggests that relatively hard ground doesn't usually deter horses from lying down and getting enough sleep. Wet ground and deep mud will be a significant deterrent, however, as will a slippery surface.

If it were only one of your horses that never seemed to lie down, I would worry about musculoskeletal or lameness pain playing a role. Older or arthritic horses, for example, tend not to lie down as much as they should and go on to suffer sleep deprivation. In those cases, treatment of the pain is very helpful. If none of your horses lie down while in the barn, it makes me wonder whether they prefer to lay down outdoors for some reason. If you are worried, it is certainly worth running an experiment by bedding them more deeply for a time and looking for any change in their sleeping behavior.

By Christie Ward, DVM, University of Minnesota

Can horses get diseases from deer?

Q: Do you know if horses can get any diseases from deer? With the amount of snow we had this winter, the deer are eating hay out of the round bale feeder.

A: Unlike cattle and bison, which can contract tuberculosis (TB) from deer, horses seem to be less susceptible. I have never personally seen a case of TB in a horse in approximately 20 years as a practicing veterinarian. The risk exists, but is very low. There have been extremely rare reports of meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis); a parasite in deer feces that can migrate into the central nervous system of animals grazing contaminated pastures. Meningeal worm is a significant problem for sheep, goats, and camelids, but horses are minimally susceptible.

Some horse owners do prefer to fence the deer out of hay piles, which is basically impossible to do at a round bale feeder, unless horse access is also restricted. If the deer herd is large, fencing can reduce the economic impact of hay loss associate with deer feeding, which is likely of greater concern.

By Christie Ward, DVM, PhD, University of Minnesota

What are these bugs in my manure?

Q: There are small flying bugs that are turning horse manure into large areas of flattened mush. There are hundreds working on each pile. Do you know what they are?

A: Your "bugs" are actually small dung beetles or Aphodius haemorrhoidalis. We researched them in cow dung 15 years ago and found they were most abundant in spring, and tapered off in the fall. The ones you are seeing descended from a bountiful summer population and they are working on your horse's manure to build up nutrients for overwintering.

The beetles are actually beneficial; they spread out the manure, which speeds incorporation into the soil, and break up piles. It is possible that internal parasites eggs in the manure could become more spread out. However, any increase in parasite transmission would be minimal if you routinely deworm your horse(s).

By Roger Moon, PhD, University of Minnesota

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