Jun 14 2010
Foals spend much of their youth near the floor of the stall where ammonia resides, leading to a much higher ammonia health risk in foals. In addition to this, foals are weaker and the ammonia’s adverse health effect’s are even more pronounced in young foals. According to Frederick Harper PHD written for the University of Tennessee, up to 15% of all foals will suffer from a severe respiratory health disease before one year of age.
AMMONIA AND FOALS DON’T MIX
Dr. Frederick Harper
Extension Horse Specialist
Animal Science Department
University of Tennessee
It is the time of year when many of us get colds, or at least do a lot of coughing and sneezing. Also, it is that time of year when foals are starting to be born. It is also a frustrating time for horse breeders. About 15 percent of all foals have a severe respiratory disease before they are one year of age. Problems appear from 1-12 months of age. But, most respiratory diseases occur when the foal is 2-6 months of age.
Not only are these diseases costly and time-consuming to treat, but they disrupt other farm activities, such as foaling, breeding mares, training and showing. Horse breeders need to review management practices, seeking methods to reduce insults to foals that place them at risk. One of these is reducing the level of ammonia. High ammonia levels have been associated with respiratory problems in foals, as well as other animals. Protein in the diet is broken down by the body, resulting in urea that is excreted in the urine and volatilized to ammonia in the environment.
Often, horse owners keep barns shut up to keep out the cold. They may even heat their barn in winter, especially if they have show horses. A strong ammonia odor can often be smelt when entering these barns. Much of the ammonia is near the floor where young foals spend a lot of time. Young foals also have an immature respiratory system, making them more susceptible to disease. Ammonia levels as high as 400 parts per million (ppm) were measured in foal stalls in one study. But, it has been reported that 10 ppm of ammonia is the level above which one might expect problems in animals. So, it is important to reduce the level of ammonia in foaling stalls, and all stalls in barns were foaling occurs.
In a University of Illinois study, the ammonia level was the same regardless of whether straw, sawdust, sand or shredded paper bedding was used. But, 1-2 pounds of hydrated lime reduced the ammonia levels when sprinkled on the stall floor after cleaning and before re-bedding. Ammonia levels were noted 48-72 hours after the hydrated lime was applied with straw, but not until 72 hours with sawdust. A commercial product prevented detectable ammonia levels at either 48 or 72 hours with either straw or sawdust. In another study at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers lowered ammonia levels
to non-detectable levels when 10 pounds of sodium bisulfate were placed on the floor of a 10 x 10 foot stall (100 square feet), before bedding with 33 pounds of straw. Afterwards, sodium bisulfate was sprinkled on top of the bedding daily, then 4.5 pounds of straw was spread over the old bedding. Straw is the preferred bedding material at foaling. Afterwards, mare and foal can be bedded on sawdust or other suitable bedding materials. It is also advisable to check the level of protein being fed to broodmares. Excess protein in the diet results in greater levels of ammonia. Not only can this negatively affect the foal, but excess protein is a waste of money.
Horse breeders need to remove waste and soiled bedding daily, and apply hydrated lime, sodium bisulfate or a commercial stall product along with additional clean, fresh bedding to reduce levels of ammonia in foal stalls.
How Can Stall Genie Help?
Simple, by absorbing and eliminating deadly ammonia fumes and moisture. The absorption of moisture will help eliminate populations of parasites and flies which thrive with moisture, while the Ammonia absorption will improve the health of your horses and foals reducing veterinarian bills and resulting in a happier healthier horse.