Setaria Grass and Big Head Syndrome in Horses
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 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, 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 labored breathing are also common and noticeable symptoms of Big Head. Horse owners that are starting to notice any combination of the symptoms associated with Big Head should still ideally consult with their veterinarians to rule out any other potential problems, or to confirm the diagnosis. 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 maintain a reasonable awareness of the potentially toxic or harmful local plants and their associated problems will be that much more likely to prevent these illnesses and readily respond to others.
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Comments on Setaria Grass and Big Head Syndrome in Horses
Saturday, April 15, 2017 09:44 AM
In north EAST Qld, Stocklick Trading has a good supplement for counteracting or preventing the effects of buffel etc. It is good and inexpensive and the horses develop a taste for it very quickly.
Thursday, November 21, 2013 01:03 PM
We have been able to reverse the skeletal signs of Bighead on 3 horses by adding 30gms of Mudgee Dolomite to their daily feed. All our horses are given it daily as we have both setaria & Kikuya grasses in our paddocks.
Mudgee Dolomite is a natural form of calcium and magnesium, which are both needed for healthy bone growth, the nervous system, digestion and muscle health. Horses are genetically engineered to ingest and absorb minerals in natural forms.
Conditions that could be due to a lack of calcium and/or magnesium: Arthritis, Bighead, Deformities, Epiphysitis (open knees), Founder, Kidney or other stones, Mastitis, Nervous behaviour, Respiratory ailments, Shin soreness, Splints, Strangles, Stringhalt, Tetanus & Warts
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 01:30 PM
Trevour Wozencroft has a product on the market NOW which is called Fightback which has been thoroughly researched before going on the market which is aimed specifically at BIG HEAD. It builds the immune system. Top world class horse people are using it with great results. It also helps to fix the problem of Queensland itch. I am involved with the National Horse and Pony rescue and we have had some horses in very poor condition when they come into our care and beleive me it has helped to fix many of the problems that that come to us with. I can not praise this product enough.
|jenny kelly-central qld||
Monday, November 18, 2013 10:33 PM
We have bighead problems from buffel grass. Dr Jennifer Stewarts bone formula supplement does a great job for us. She is a vet & has done much research into the problem,symptoms & treatment.
Share your suggestions & experiences on this article.