Protecting Your Animals This Summer

June 30, 2014 in Advice and Tips, General

A horse showing signs of sunburn

As it gets further into the summer months, livestock begin to express a common discomfort as humans do: sunburn. Exposure to UV radiation can cause skin damage to dairy cows, light-colored beef cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses. Affected skin becomes red, painful and raised, which can lead to the skin becoming extremely dry and will eventually slough off leaving those areas exposed to secondary infections.

Sunburn not only makes the animal uncomfortable, it affects their overall productivity and performance. The body takes the nutrients that is needed for growth and uses them to repair the skin that is damaged. In dairy cows, this can lead to a decrease in milk production and in sheep, a decrease in wool quality. Sheep can be burned sheared or unsheared since the radiation is strong enough to penetrate through the wool. Pigs are one of the lucky animals that can protect itself form the suns rays. By wallowing in mud, the pig is forming a protective coating that shields the skin from the sun. Light coated animals are not as lucky. Cows and horses with predominantly white coats suffer more sunburn than those with dark coats. However, dark coats absorb more sun, which leads to more symptoms of heat stress.

UV radiation isn’t the only determinant of sunburn in animals. Animals that feed in wheat pastures with certain weeds are likely to develop photosensitivity. This is caused by a reaction within an animal’s body when the chlorophyll in some wheat plants release a toxin that increases sensitivity to the sun. Weeds such as barley, alsike clover, St. John’s Wort, nettles and others are some of the culprits in photosensitivity and can also be the causes of liver damage and neurological disorders that develop in the animal.

Preventing sunburn doesn’t just mean keeping them out of the sun, although providing a shady place for the animals can definitely help. If the sun is a concern, baby formula sunscreen can protect the areas that are more vulnerable to sunburn. Another way of decreasing sunburn is restricting the access of wheat pasture the animal is consuming to prevent photosensitivity. Adding grass hay in the morning when grazing intake is high, helps in restraining the animal from consuming too much wheat during those times.

Renzetti Chosen to Teach Equine Undergraduate Course at UD

June 18, 2014 in General

Dr. Annie Renzetti, VMD

Dr. Annie Renzetti, VMD or “Dr. Annie”, as she is known around the race track, has been chosen to teach a 300-level undergraduate equine health and lameness course this fall at the University of Delaware.  She is excited for this new opportunity saying,

“I am very much looking forward to teaching the equine health and lameness course in the fall. I have spent so many hours in lecture and I am confident that I have an understanding of how to convey meaningful information without drowning my audience or putting them to sleep. I promise it will not be a boring class – if you have an interest in horses – don’t miss it!”

Dr. Renzetti exhibits a strong lifetime commitment to and interest in all things horses. She was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. She attended the Tatnall School and grew up riding at the Vicmead Stables, competing in the junior hunters and Medal/Maclay.  She then changed over to the junior jumpers and foxhunting in high school. Annie and her horse Charlie attended Smith College for four years. They would hunt with the Cheshire Foxhounds while home on vacations.  She continued to hunt with Cheshire while completing her veterinary degree at the University of Pennsylvania. During her time in veterinary school, Dr. Renzetti became interested in pleasure carriage driving as well.

After graduating veterinary school, Dr. Renzetti worked as an associate veterinarian in a private practice in southeastern Pennsylvania for two years. During this time, her professional interest shifted to regulatory medicine and she accepted the Chief Regulatory Veterinarian position for the Delaware Harness Racing Commission in May of 2007 and has been employed there ever since.

Dr. Renzetti currently lives on a 13-acre farm in Clayton, Delaware with her husband of 8 years. They have three Sheltie dogs, 2 adult riding/driving horses and 2 yearlings. One of the yearlings is a homebred, born on her farm in May of 2013. They are hopeful that these two yearlings will grow into a wonderful driving pair.

Delaware 4-H Equine Art Contest Winners

May 26, 2014 in Events, General, Youth Corner

Delaware 4-H members of all ages recently participated in a statewide Equine Art Contest sponsored by the Delaware 4-H Horse Advisory Committee, a group of volunteer 4-H Equine Project Leaders.   Entries from 30 budding artists were submitted for the contest in the following categories:

  • Drawing- Pastels/Charcoal/Graphite/Colored Pencil (Abstract or Realistic)
  • Drawing- Pen/Ink/Markers/Crayon (Abstract or Realistic)
  • Painting
  • Photography- Color digital or 35 mm film
  • Photography- Black and White digital or 35 mm film

Entries were divided into age groups for judging. Awards were given to the top six entries in each category and age group as determined by a group of volunteer judges. A Best in Show Champion and Best in Show Reserve Champion overall were also chosen from all of the entries. The artwork has been on display at the Chick’s Saddlery retail store in Harrington, Delaware during the month of May. Delaware 4-H gives a special thanks to Chick’s for hosting the art display and their support of young people involved in the Delaware 4-H Youth Development Program.

Painting- Ages 8-11

  1. Sophia Peterson, Holler-N-Hooves 4-H Club, Kent County
  2. Donna Mullins, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County
  3. Rachel Carey, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County
  4. Mallory Cummings, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County
  5. Cheyenne Bowman, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County
  6. Paige Taylor, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County

Drawing- Pastels, Charcoal, Graphite, Colored Pencil Cloverbud Participants Ages 5-8

  • Carter Bradley, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County
  • Ryan Cummings, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County

Drawing- Pastels, Charcoal, Graphite, Colored Pencil Ages 8-11

  1. Erin Carey, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County
  2. Jenna Anger, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County
  3. Elizabeth Pallmann, On Target 4-H Club, Kent County
  4. Grace Abbott, The Lord’s Clay 4-H Club, Kent County
  5. Sydney Phipps, New Castle County 4-H Sheep Club
  6. Donna Mullins, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County

Drawing- Pastels, Charcoal, Graphite, Colored Pencil Ages 15-19

  1. Hannah Ziccarelli, Hearts-4-Horses 4-H Club, Kent County
  2. Ike Wharton, Buttonwood 4-H Club, Sussex County

Drawing- Pen, Ink, Crayon, Markers- Cloverbud Participants Ages 5-8

  • Carter Bradley, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County

Drawing- Pen, Ink, Crayon, Markers Ages 8-11

  1. Piper Biggs, Woodside Emeralds 4-H Club, Kent County
  2. Ryan Cummings, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County
  3. Donna Mullins, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County
  4. Cheyenne Bowman, Bridgeville Mustangs 4-H Club, Sussex County
  5. Rachel Carey, Bridgeville Mustangs4-H Club, Sussex County
  6. Grace Abbott, The Lord’s Clay 4-H Club, Kent County

Drawing- Pen, Ink, Crayon, Markers Ages 12-14

  1. Natalie Burchmoyer, Woodside Emeralds 4-H Club, Kent County
  2. Natalie Burchmoyer, Woodside Emeralds 4-H Club, Kent County

Color Photography- Digital or 35 MM – Ages 8-11

  1. Vanessa Gaines, Westville 4-H Club, Kent County
  2. Sydney Messick, Peach Blossom 4-H Club, Kent County
  3. Sydney Messick, Peach Blossom 4-H Club, Kent County
  4. Olivia Gaines, Westville 4-H Club, Kent County

Color Photography- Digital or 35 MM – Ages 12-14

  1. Natalie Buchmoyer, Woodside Emeralds 4-H Club, Kent County
  2. Lea Smith, County Line 4-H Club, Kent County

Color Photography- Digital or 35 MM – Ages 15-19

  1. Alexander Adriance, Woodside Emeralds 4-H Club, Kent County
  2. Alexander Adriance, Woodside Emeralds 4-H Club, Kent County

Black and White Photography- Digital or 35 MM- Ages 8-11

  1. Sydney Messick, Peach Blossom 4-H Club, Kent County

Best In Show Champion Award- Hannah Ziccarelli- Age 18- Hearts-4-Horses 4-H Club, Kent County, Drawing- Pastel, Charcoal, Graphite or Colored Pencil

Best In Show Reserve Champion Award- Sydney Messick- Age 8- Peach Blossom 4-H Club, Kent County, Black and White Photography

4-H is a community of young people across Delaware learning leadership, citizenship and lifeskills. Join the Revolution of Responsibility! For more information on becoming a 4-H member or volunteer in Delaware please contact your county extension office:

New Castle County: (302)831-8965

Kent County: (302)730-4000

Sussex County: (302)856-7303


Horse Owners Urged to Make Sure Vaccinations Are Up to Date

May 22, 2014 in Advice and Tips, General, Uncategorized

Delaware Department of Agriculture News Release May 21, 2014

West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis both spread by mosquitoes

With warm weather here and mosquito season under way, Delaware horse owners are being advised to make certain their equines’ vaccinations are current to protect against the threat of two potentially fatal diseases.

Unvaccinated horses suffer most severely from both West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis, which are spread by infected mosquitoes and can be fatal, said Delaware State Veterinarian Dr. Heather Hirst, who heads the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Poultry and Animal Health Section. Delaware had two confirmed equine cases of EEE and six confirmed equine cases of WNV in 2013.

“Vaccination is a simple and cost-effective way of preventing these diseases – far cheaper than treating them,” Hirst said. “Horse owners should take full precautions to keep their horses safe, and be on the alert for signs of infection.”

Both horses and humans can contract WNV and EEE if bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus, but it is important to note that the viruses cannot be transmitted between horses or from horses to people. The viruses normally exist in a cycle between mosquitoes and birds, but occasionally EEE can be transmitted from mosquitoes to mammals.

The Mosquito Control Section of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control monitors for both diseases statewide. DNREC began spraying for mosquitoes in mid-March, treating wooded wetlands near populated areas in all three counties.

Hirst said horse owners should contact their veterinarian immediately if they suspect their horse may be showing signs of WNV or EEE, which both may include fever (though not always with WNV), anorexia, head pressing, depression or personality change, wobbling or staggering, weakness, blindness, convulsions, muscle spasms in the head and neck, or hind-limb weakness.

Owners should consult with their veterinarians about the WNV and EEE vaccinations, as well as vaccinations for herpesvirus (rhinopneumonitis), influenza, rabies and tetanus, among others, Hirst said.

Horse owners can also help during mosquito season by keeping horses inside during dawn and dusk, which are peak mosquito times, and using topical insect repellents labeled for use on horses, Hirst said.

Beginning in June, DNREC’s Mosquito Control Section will be asking the public’s help in monitoring for the presence of WNV by reporting sick or dead wild birds of certain species that may have contracted the virus. Sick or dead crows, blue jays, cardinals, robins, hawks or owls, and clusters of five or more sick or dead wild birds of any species, should be reported to Mosquito Control’s two offices: Glasgow, for northern Kent County and New Castle County, (302) 836-2555; or Milford, for southern Kent County and Sussex County, (302) 422-1512. Bird specimens should have been dead for less than 24 hours and not appear to have died or been killed by other obvious causes.

For more information about WNV or EEE:

Please report neurological horses to the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Office of Poultry and Animal Health so animal health officials can be included in following up with test results, if diagnostic tests are ordered.  Because there is no public health veterinarian in Delaware, Deputy State Veterinarian, Dr. Regina Jensen, is the point of contact with Delaware Division of Public Health and eventual required reporting to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in regards to arbovirus suspects and positives.  If a horse owner or veterinarian is calling with a neurological horse, please request Dr. Heather Hirst or Dr. Regina Jensen.

Is It Time to Start Thinking About Renovating or Planting a New Pasture or Hay Field? Part 2

May 17, 2014 in Advice and Tips, Ask the Expert, General

Part 2- What Should I Plant?

Now that you’ve taken care of any soil fertility issues that can reduce the chance for a successful stand, the next decision involves choosing the right seed to plant. I’ve had the opportunity over the years to read many seed labels on various pasture mixes offered for sale. I understand the convenience of buying a prepared pasture mix and the allure of these mixes. The buyer often assumes that the seller has spent the time and energy studying the issue and has come up with a mixture that in their opinion and experience has the best chance of success. I certainly can’t speak to motivation of the seller but keep in mind that from a business point of view, seed that is mixed and offered for sale needs to be sold over as large an area as possible to justify the expense of wholesaling large quantities of seed as well as blending, packaging, and labeling the seed. In my opinion, this nullifies the expectation that the seller has designed the mix for your particular field or location.

After looking at the species of forages used in the prepared pasture mixes, I find that these mixes are more often a shotgun approach to seeding. A bit of everything is included in hopes that something will establish in all areas of the field. Usually they contain a quick establishing grass such as annual or perennial ryegrass that can germinate in as little as 5 to 7 days so the buyer can feel comfortable that the new seeding is successful. Horse pasture mixes usually contain the feel-good or highly recognized grasses such as timothy and Kentucky bluegrass along with some orchardgrass and probably an endophyte-free tall fescue to provide more permanent cover. Finally, a legume such as white or ladino clover, red clover, or alsike clover will be in a pasture mix to provide the N-fixing legume everyone wants in a pasture.

The convenience of these mixtures comes from not having to mix them yourself before you fill the seed drill. The allure comes from not having to make a decision other than how much seed per acre to plant and not having to choose individual species to plant. For most buyers, the convenience and allure end up costing them many, many dollars per acre in seed costs for seed of grasses that won’t survive in grazing situations or won’t survive more than a season or two at best or will be unproductive during the middle of the summer grazing season.

Tall Fescue Photo Courtesy of Oregon State University

Tall Fescue Photo Courtesy of Oregon State University

So what should you do? I prefer going with a simpler mixture using forage species that are adapted to our region. In most cases, the only species that will survive for many years in our transitionalzone climate is tall fescue. Because of endophyte (an fungus growing in some tall fescue plants) issues, many growers have tried the endophyte-free tallfescue varieties and some have had success with keeping a stand for many years while others have seed stands decline or disappear quickly. The newest chapter in this issue has been the development of novel or friendly endophyte tall fescue varieties. The novel endophyte tall fescue varieties do not produce the chemical compound (alkaloids) that interfere with animal performance but still provide benefits to the tall fescue plants helping them survive in many stressful environments. A limitation still in evidence with these new tall fescue varieties is that horse owners who breed horses do not all accept tall fescue as a feed source for their animals. This can limit tall fescue’s acceptance.

Orchardgrass photo courtesy of the University of Missouri extension

Orchardgrass photo courtesy of the University of Missouri extension

What other species can you include in your simple mixture? Orchardgrass is another grass that many producers like to include in a pasture mixture but you should be aware that many orchardgrass fields are failing due to a disease/insect/environment/management complex interaction we’ve been calling orchardgrass decline. If you choose to include orchardgrass, keep it as a small proportion of your mixture. The other grass to include at least on heavier soils and in the northern portion of Delaware is Kentucky bluegrass. Be sure to include several varieties of the Kentucky bluegrass to help with disease resistance. It will be most productive early in the year (early spring to early summer) and mid- to late-fall. Finally, add in a legume to help with providing N for the grass to use as well as to improve the protein and forage digestibility of the pasture. For grazing, most people prefer a ladino-type of white clover. Although slobbers (the animal produces excessive amounts of saliva) is a potential concern with all clovers, it seems to be mostly associated with red clover. Often included in commercially sold horse pasture mixtures, alsike clover is known to cause photosensitivity (sunburn) and sometimes liver injury especially in horses and should not be included in your pasture mix.

One of the new grazing-types of alfalfa should be considered especially by beef producers. These varieties tolerate rotational grazing systems and produce well during the summer period in most years. Alfalfa is very deep rooted and can be a great addition to pastures and provide more and higher quality forage in the summer grazing period.

You will find it useful to talk to your seed dealer about the various varieties of each species that are available. Once you decide on the varieties to use and you purchase seed, you can mix your own pasture mix by either purchasing or renting a cement mixer and combining the seed in the proportions you decide are best for your purpose and field. Since many legumes now come pre-inoculated with the N-fixing bacteria and often are coated with a fine limestone, do not over mix the seed and when you re-bag it store it where it is protected from high temperatures and humidity. Stored properly, the seed can be held over the winter if something prevents you from seeding this fall but you should plan to plant as soon as possible after purchasing seed. Not only are the N-fixing bacteria alive; but, if you use a novel endophyte tall fescue variety, the endophyte has a limited storage time (around a year under good conditions) before it needs to be planted. Although tall fescue seed will germinate after longer storage times, the endophyte fungus may no longer be alive. The fungus only lives in the plant and is not soil-borne.

In the next article coming out later this summer, I’ll cover some of the other management issues to consider such as planting date.

This article was submitted by Dr. Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomist, University of Delaware. 

Dr. Taylor can be reached at