Optimal nutritional management of the broodmare is essential to support correct foetal development, colostrum quality, milk production and re-breeding success. Similarly, the diet of breeding stallions plays an important role in both health and fertility.
Every breeder hopes for a high return on their investment; the nutritional team at Connolly’s RED MILLS and Foran Equine understand this and are on-hand to provide ongoing support and guidance in the nutritional management of your horses throughout the breeding season.
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Can Diet Influence Broodmare Fertility?
Broodmare management and optimal nutrition are both vital to a successful mating. A range of factors may negatively influence broodmare fertility, some of which are simple to correct while others are more challenging or even inevitable.
Feeding the broodmare in early and mid-pregnancy
Understanding the mare’s nutritional requirements, and how best to meet them, is key for the health of both the mare and the developing foal. When feeding the broodmare it is important to remember that the foetus does not grow at a constant rate throughout the entire pregnancy. During early and mid-pregnancy, the foetus is small, attaining only 20% of its birth weight, and hence its nutrient requirements are relatively low. Therefore, in the past it was thought that mare’s nutritional requirements did not increase until late pregnancy. However, we now know that this is not the case.
Feeding the Stallion to Maximise Performance and Fertility
Good nutrition and a well-balanced diet play a key role in maintaining a stallion in top health and condition to maximise performance and fertility. Fertility can be one of the traits first affected when nutrition is below the normal maintenance levels and a shortage of any nutrient can have a knock-on effect on fertility. Similarly, over-feeding the stallion can result in obesity, an increased risk of reduced libido and joint problems. Many factors need to be considered when designing a diet plan for a breeding stallion such as body condition, level of activity, temperament and fertility.
Feeding the Broodmare in Late Pregnancy & Lactation
Understanding the mare’s nutritional requirements, and how best to meet them, is key for the health of both the mare and the foal. During the last trimester of pregnancy, the equine foetus develops rapidly; over 60% of total foetal growth occurs during this period. This phase is also critical time for development of the foetal skeletal and muscular structure, as well as respiratory, endocrine and digestive systems. To support this growth, there is an increased rate of nutrient transfer across the placenta and the mare’s requirements for most nutrients increases substantially. Dietary deficiencies during this stage can result in the mare utilising her own body reserves; resulting in weight loss, reduced birth weights and potentially an increased risk of DODs in the foal.
The Nursing Foal and Early Nutrition
The broodmare can provide all the foal’s nutritional requirements for growth, development and immune protection up to three months of life. Getting everything right for the mare and foal can be challenging; how this period from birth through to weaning is managed can significantly impact the future performance and health of the young horse.