This article gives information from Katie Young, PhD, the manager of Equine Nutritional Services at Purina Animal Nutrition, about how Purina assists in the nutritional management of the Budweiser Clydesdales from the breeding farm to the working horses on the traveling hitches.
The relationship between Purina Animal Nutrition and Anheuser-Busch began in the spring of 2012, when Jeff Knapper, general manager of Budweiser Clydesdale Operations, Dave Hennen, herd manager of Clydesdale Operations, and Amy Trout, supervisor of Grant’s Farm, the Budweiser Clydesdale training farm in St. Louis, Missouri, visited the Purina Animal Nutrition Center in Gray Summit, Missouri. The Purina Animal Nutrition Center is a working farm where much of Purina’s nutritional research occurs.
After receiving recommendations from Purina PhDs on feeding the Clydesdales, the two groups formed a relationship that continues today.
“Purina and Anheuser-Busch share a commitment to quality, innovation, hard work and perfection when it comes to horse health and nutrition,” said Young. “So it’s no surprise that we both saw an opportunity to work together.”
Expertise on the Road
Purina currently supports all three of the traveling Budweiser Clydesdale “hitches” (or teams), which are based on the East Coast (Merrimack, New Hampshire), West Coast (Fort Collins, Colorado) and in the Midwest (St. Louis).
At Grant’s Farm, Purina experts offer nutritional counsel to Anheuser-Busch staff. Most recently, work has centered on young, growing horses. Purina experts spent a year conducting monthly checkups and collecting data on the growing horses, including height, heart girth measurement, weight and body condition score (BCS).
Purina experts monitor growth curves to determine if there are differences between growing draft horses and growing light breeds, which Purina has researched in the past. Anheuser-Busch has not looked at growth curves in such detail before, said Young, and both groups have learned a great deal.
“When you have a baseline weight and BCS for an individual horse, the next time you record that information, you can tell so much more,” said Young. “If BCS and weight have changed between recordings, what happened to the horse’s height? Is he getting taller and losing condition? Is he staying the same height and gaining weight? And when you collect the information on a regular basis over a period of time, you can determine the growth curve for each individual animal.”
Young said it is important for mature horses to maintain appropriate body condition scores and weights, and that their diets meet nutritional requirements.
Each Horse is Different
No matter what a Clydesdale’s age is, there is significant variability between individual animals. Some are easy keepers and others are hard keepers. This is true even with growing horses.
“We review the calorie needs for each horse to maintain a healthy weight and body condition, and to meet protein, vitamin and mineral requirements along with the right balance of calories,” said Young. On average, Clydesdales on the hitches weigh between 1,900 and 2,000 pounds. Purina Enrich Plus ration balancing feed and Purina Omolene #500 are two of the most-used feed products for the traveling Clydesdales.
Some easy keepers can maintain appropriate body weight and condition on calories from hay only. In those situations, Enrich Plus is used to provide needed protein, vitamins and minerals without excess calories. Other hitch horses need 12 or more pounds of feed per day along with about 40 pounds of hay to meet calorie requirements, said Young. “These are horses with the same lifestyle, on the same hitch, and that are similar in size,” she noted. “But there can be a great deal of variation between individual horses.”
Resources at the Ready
The Budweiser Clydesdales have such a high profile and make so many appearances during the year, it’s important that the people who work with them can contact Purina customer service or local Purina sales specialists when they have nutrition questions. And when needed, the equine staff at Anheuser-Busch contacts Young directly.
In addition, local Purina sales representatives offer help to traveling hitches, wherever they are located, and supply them with needed feed.
With this network, the Budweiser Clydesdale group can get Purina feed no matter where they are, said Young. They don’t have to carry lot of feed with them, or worry that Purina feed will not be available. The Purina technical team, which includes equine nutritionists, customer service representatives, sales representatives and local feed dealers who are well-versed in Purina products, are always ready and available to help.
Help for Your Operation
If all this technical support sounds good to you as a stable or farm owner, you can visit your local Purina dealer or call Purina customer service at 800-227-8941 to consult with a Purina expert.
“Our first response would be to give your information to our local sales representative so we can have someone in the area visit with you and see how we can help,” said Young.
In addition to local sales representatives and dealers, Purina Animal Nutrition has four PhD equine nutritionists and an equine veterinarian on staff. Through Purina, farm and stable owners have access to this equine expertise. As a result, much of the expertise used with the Budweiser Clydesdales can be used by your stable.
“The Budweiser Clydesdales are amazing horses–there is one horse at the brewery that is 20 hands tall,” said Young. “I was getting a BCS on this horse, and I could barely reach his back, even standing on tiptoe! The horses are so impressive, but also sweet, kind and loveable. It’s great to be able to work with these magnificent animals, and with the whole staff at Anheuser-Busch.”