Key Factors and Role of Nutrition on Mare & Stallion Fertility

Good fertility lies at the heart of successful breeding of mares and stallions. While several factors can influence an individual’s ability to breed, nutrition plays a central role in both, mare and stallion fertility. 

Body Condition is an Important Factor Influencing Reproductive Efficiency in Horses

Research has shown a direct link between nutrition, body condition, and reproductive efficiency in breeding horses.  Broodmares that are underweight are more difficult to get in foal. Likewise, breeding stallions that are in poor condition or significantly overweight are likely to have reduced fertility, plus they are less likely to be able to withstand the rigours of a busy covering season. 

Louise Jones, Connolly’s RED MILLS Nutritionist, says “The quality of the hard feed for breeding mare or stallion you choose is vital.  Choosing a horse feed with low-quality ingredients is often a false economy as you have to feed more to achieve the same results, or they simply, don’t contain the same levels of vital micronutrients, some of which we know play a significant role in fertility.” 


Several Equine Vitamins and Minerals Play Critical Roles in Equine Fertility

Vitamin A for stallions, for example, is involved in sperm production and also Vitamins A is important for broodmare’s ovulation.  Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc are found in semen and seminal plasma. In addition, zinc is thought to help normal oocyte development and follicle maturation.  The essential amino acids, lysine and methionine, have significant roles in sperm health and hormone balance. 

Experts recommend that when choosing a horse feed for breeding stock, look for one that contains high-quality protein sources such as soya and optimum levels of essential vitamins and minerals, such as the Connolly’s RED MILLS Stud Range. However, where the nutritional value of the forage is unquantified or for individuals with a history of fertility issues, Louise Jones suggests adding a broad-spectrum equine vitamin, mineral, and amino acid tonic or supplement such as Foran Equine’s Chevinal to the diet during key periods. 

The Role of Antioxidants Such as Vitamin E and Selenium in Fertility in Horses is Clearly Established

Since horses do not produce vitamin E or selenium themselves, these potent antioxidants must come from their diet.  One of the best sources of vitamin E for horses is fresh grass, however, just when Thoroughbreds are bred, grazing is often limited and its nutritional value is lowered.  Likewise, many soils are low in selenium, which in turn has an impact on the selenium value of grass or conserved forage grown on them.  Nutritionist Lorraine Fradl recommends giving breeding mares extra equine vitamin E and selenium a month before and a month after foaling; “as well as supporting fertility antioxidants have been shown to aid colostrum quality and immune resistance in newborn foals.” 

Likewise, for busy stallions, first season sires, or those known to be sub-fertile, Lorraine recommends supplementation before and during the covering season with a product like Foran Equine V.S.L, a vitamin E, selenium, and Lysine supplement for horses, which is available in both a liquid and powder. 


Research has Highlighted the Benefits of Feeding Omega 3 fatty acids to Promote Mare & Stallion Fertility

They help promote sperm motility, aid ovulation, and maintenance of early pregnancy.  Horses diets are plentiful in omega 3 when they are eating green and growing grass in spring and summer.  However, to replicate this for the Thoroughbred mare and stallion supplementation with an oil rich in omega 3 fatty acids will be necessary.  Louise Jones warns “not all oils are equal – soya oil contains around 6 times less omega 3 fatty acids compared to linseed/ flax oil.” Consequently, she recommends breeders choose a premium oil for their breeding horses such as Foran Equine Kentucky Karron Oil.

Breeding is not an inexpensive game, investing in providing optimal nutrition will help to maximise the chances of a successful pregnancy and in the long-term pay dividends.

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