The Alberta SPCA is urging livestock owners to ensure they have supplemental
feed for their animals and are not relying on pasture grass to provide nutrition.
The problem is most acute for horses. Horses have the ability to paw through the
snow to get to grass leaving false impression the horse is getting enough to eat.
“Many horses denied supplemental hay or other feed will be in very poor
condition and even die,” said Dr. Duane Landals, Alberta SPCA President, and a
retired veterinarian. “The reality is, pasture grasses lose most or all of their
nutritional value once they begin to die off and long before the onset of winter.”
With livestock feed in short supply this year, many owners may be trying to
stretch pasture feeding for as long as they can. However, horses confined to
pasture year-round without supplemental feed find themselves losing body fat
throughout the fall, long before the cold weather sets in.
“When the weather gets bitter and energy demand goes up, they have no fat
reserves to call upon and quite simply suffer and die,” said Dr. Landals.
Despite the mild December weather, the Alberta SPCA has already received
numerous complaints of malnourished horses, including several cases where
horses have died. There’s a concern the mortality rate will increase once the frigid