Seaweed for Animal Health
Does it make sense to include seaweed in horses' daily diet?
In an ideal world stable cough wouldn't exist, living accommodation would be spotless, air-conditioned and so forth. Hay, too, would be perfect and not given to releasing irritant spores. However, in the northern hemisphere, and particularly the further north you live, an ongoing battle is being fought to eliminate harmful bacteria and spores in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, though, it often turns out to be a losing battle. Damp, cold and poor quality hay from a bad growing season, are just a few hills that sometimes prove impossible to climb. The result can cause the broad termed "stable cough" for which expensive chemical treatments exist.
Many horse owners will recognise how upsetting it can be to watch a horse struggling to bring up unsightly phlegm. Furthermore a feeling of hopelessness can result if, after treatment, mucking out, wall washing and general sterilising procedures, and introducing a new supply of hay, the problem returns.
However, all is not doom and gloom, because a nature can help in the form of red and green seaweed gels. This seaweed is harvested in areas of extremely high standards of cleanliness - fit to also harvest shellfish which can be eaten raw. Green seaweed gel is administered as an effective conditioner which, in itself, will go a long way for general condition and also the immune system. To a lesser extent, red gel also acts as a conditioner, but with the added advantage of being natural and traditional for stable cough. It makes sense, therefore, to introduce seaweed as part of a regular feeding regime.
In the Orkney Islands, through simple observation, it was discovered that animals grazing on seaweed are generally in better overall condition, grow faster and have more resistance to illness, especially coughs and respiratory ailments. As a result of eating seaweed, the now famous North Ronaldsay sheep are sought after all over the world by top chefs and restaurants. When you discover the constituents of seaweed it is easy to see why it is valued so much.
RED SEAWEED (Chondrus crispus - also known as Carrageen)
Red seaweed is a very rich natural source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals including Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, Magnesium, Iron, Manganese, Zinc , Vitamins C, B1, B2 and A.
BROWN SEAWEED (Laminaria)
As it is covered by water most or all of its life, this seaweed spends its time absorbing minerals and vitamins from the seawater around it. It is rich in amino acids (tryptophan, threonine, icoleucine, lysine, methionine, cysline, phenylalanine, tyrosine, valine, arginine, histidine, alanine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serine).
Essential nutrients are also present such as Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, Sodium, Sulphur, Alginic acid, Laminaran, Mannitol, Iron, Copper, Manganese, Boron, Zinc and Iodine. It also contains natural vitamins C, B1, B2, B7 (Niacin) B12, D, E, K, A, Biotin, Selenium and Folic acid. In addition, both species have unique qualities that allow these beneficial ingredients present in their simple cell structure to be easily assimilated when digested by humans and animals.
After reading such a comprehensive list it may come as no surprise to learn that not only horses benefit from eating seaweed. There is nothing to prevent most other animals and humans, too, from taking advantage of the sea's natural vegetarian larder.
What seaweed products are available for my horse or other animal?
There are many products containing Seaweed available from leading equine and animal health companies, available online or in good feed merchants.
It's not usually recommended to use seaweed supplements to animals who're pregnant - e.g. pregnant mares. As with all supplements, it's advisable to speak to your Vet first before using, especially if your animal has any medical condition.
With thanks to The Orkney Tang Company for their help in producing this article.