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Setaria Grass And Big Head Syndrome In Horses

Posted by Caribu Team on May 30, 2019

Setaria Grass and the danger to horses

One of the challenges of creating the ideal grazing pasture for horses is being mindful of all the different plants in the area. Setaria grass is a summer-growing perennial grass, which is fairly common in northern Australia and has a strong tendency to spread on its own. Setaria grass manages to thrive in a relatively wide variety of soil types and doesn't always need great soil fertility, which is one of the reasons it can often successfully establish itself in an area. While Setaria grass sometimes goes unnoticed in horses' grazing areas it has one of the highest concentrations of oxalates in Australia, which can be problematic for horses. After only a month or so of heavily grazing on Setaria grass, horses can start showing symptoms of a calcium deficiency syndrome called Big Head.

Horse owners that are concerned about their horses developing Big Head syndrome should pay attention to their horses' mobility, weight, breathing, and facial structure. Many horses develop the infamous pronounced facial swelling that is classically associated with Big Head, although it may be less obvious on older horses. Mobility problems, weight loss, and laboured breathing are also common and noticeable symptoms of Big Head. Horse owners that start to notice any symptoms associated with Big Head should always consult their veterinarian, so they can rule out any other potential problems. Horses that have been consuming large quantities of oxalates for an extended period of time could have dangerous calcium deficiencies, which are often characterized by extreme problems with muscle control.

There are many steps that horse owners can take to try to prevent and address Big Head syndrome in their horses. Big Head syndrome is primarily a dietary imbalance and needs to be treated as such. Calcium carbonate supplementation may be enough to address Big Head syndrome in most horses. Feeding horses large quantities of clover and Lucerne can help establish a new internal balance, although these won't be able to completely counteract the effects of a diet high in oxalates. Horses with dangerous calcium deficiencies may require immediate calcium injections over the short-term, which should be administered by a qualified veterinarian.

It's important to get confirmation as to the exact cause of the problem to determine the correct supplementation regimen for the horse. Horses that have diets that are very high in oxalates may also be suffering from a lack of phosphorus, and they may need phosphorus supplementation as well. Veterinarians can help horse owners find the right balance of calcium and phosphorus-based upon the needs of the horse in question.

Setaria grass has a somewhat elongated and fuzzy appearance compared to many other grass species, and it can become easier to recognize with increasing familiarity. Horse owners who have a fair awareness of the potentially toxic of their local plants and their associated problems will be more likely to prevent these illnesses and be ready to respond to problems.

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