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  • Feeding For Breeding

    Picture the scene. You have a gorgeous mare. She is well-bred, has great conformation and a temperament ‘to die for’.

    She has worked well and turned her hoof to pretty much anything. She might even have had some significant success along the way. She has never really ailed a day in her life and lameness – what is that?!

    She has been a wonderful partner, companion, colleague, and teammate. You want her to live forever.

    This might be the point at which breeding her becomes a distinct consideration. The potential of finding and using a complementary stallion, the careful management of her during pregnancy and foaling and then the end result of a healthy foal carrying many of her characteristics.

    Breeding is not for the faint hearted, however.

    Breeding horses is easily one of the most amazing but also potentially one of the most terrifying things we can undertake. Even with the best planning, things can sometimes deviate from the dream.

    However, feeding for breeding is one aspect that we can manage well and have a significant degree of control over. Nutritional management of potential breeding stock is an important way to support successful outcomes, in addition to maintaining the health of stallion, mare and foal and minimising stress for us.

    If you are thinking about breeding, what might you need to consider and what key nutritional advice should be implemented?

    Here is our essential guide to feeding for breeding.

    Plan Ahead

    Nutrition is a long-term management strategy. Good nutritional advice always incorporates gradual rather than sudden changes in feed supply and ingredients. For our horses, this is especially important. Their digestive system is dependent on commensal populations of microorganisms to help them effectively digest and utilise ingested material. Sudden alterations to the feedstuff fed and thus the digesta passing through their digestive tract can result in death and destruction of those critical microbial populations. This can lead to significant digestive upset and other systemic problems for our horses.

    Consequently, if breeding is on the horizon, it is good practice to think and plan ahead nutritionally. This likely means at least a season before intended breeding and probably much longer. Ensuring regular and consistent grazing (where possible), forage provision and supplementary feeding when needed will go a long way in early nutritional management, as well for pregnant and lactating mares.

    Growing youngstock, especially after weaning also benefit from careful nutritional management to support healthy development of their musculoskeletal system particularly. This might involve the use of supplementary feeding of a concentrate feed such as a suitable stud mix, or the use of a supplement or balancer. This can help to ensure that appropriate levels of minerals that are critical for skeletal development, including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, are supplied in the diet.

    Don’t Forget The Basics!

    The other essentials of good equine management should also not be forgotten. Access to fresh, clean drinking at all times is critical – indeed, for nursing mares, this is important to support milk production. Cleanliness of feeding utensils and good storage of feed and forage are basic, yet often under-appreciated in their value to support overall nutritional health.

    Exercise and activity can also help our horses to maintain a healthy physical body condition and avoid excess bodyweight gain. Indeed, overweight and obesity can significantly impact on the success of breeding. Mares carrying excess weight might struggle to conceive or have complications during birth. A good, lean body condition is always recommended, but for breeding stock, a healthy physique can go a long way to ensuring breeding success.

    Vitamins & Minerals – The Importance of the Micronutrients

    When horses are managed on grazing and forage only, or if additional feed is fed well below the recommended feeding levels, deficiencies in key micronutrients, the vitamins and minerals, are possible. Even the best grazing and forage is likely to be deficient in essential nutrients.

    This is an important consideration for current and future breeding stock, as well as for growing youngsters. Micronutrient delicences tend to be cumulative and only result in outward problems after a prolonged period. However, because breeding is nutritionally ‘costly’ for our horses, their requirement for essential vitamins and minerals is typically enhanced, before, during and after breeding.

    Ensuring our horses are fed a balanced diet in advance of the additional challenges of breeding can help to maintain health and wellbeing as well as support successful future breeding endeavours.

    This is where the use of vitamin and mineral supplements, or feed balancers such as those in the Science Supplements WellHorse range are good options to ensure that essential micronutrients are supplied in your horse’s diet at suitable levels.

    For breeding animals, pregnant and lactating mares, and growing youngstock, supplements and balancers that provide elevated levels of key nutrients in comparison with those intended for leisure or resting horses are recommended.

    Antioxidant Benefits For Breeding

    Nutrients with antioxidant potential such as vitamins C and E might also be beneficial at higher levels in the diet of breeding stock because of the additional biological challenges that can result from breeding, pregnancy, foaling and lactation.

    For example, breeding mares, stallions and growing youngstock all have increased requirements for vitamin E which is essential for overall health as well as specifically for heart, muscle, skin, and immune system health. Vitamin E is also important for supporting sperm health, an important consideration for our stallions.

    Notably, horses require a dietary supply of vitamin E to meet their needs. Unfortunately, levels of vitamin E in many feedstuffs can be significantly impacted by storage conditions, processing, and age of the feed. For example, vitamin E levels are higher in fresh preserved forage than in older sources.

    Consequently, vitamin E supplement is often recommended for breeding mares, stallions and growing youngstock.

    Natural E is a supplement that specifically provides supplementary vitamin E and selenium. The form of vitamin E included in Natural E is the naturally occurring form that has enhanced biological activity when compared to many synthetic forms. In addition, combining vitamin E with the mineral selenium, helps to ensure that it’s activity is maximised – selenium being essential for the normal functioning of vitamin E in the body.

    Feeding For Breeding

    With careful planning and preparation of all aspects of breeding, including feeding, you can ensure that the experience is as successful, enthralling and exciting as possible. Wherever you are in your breeding programme just now, all at Science Supplements wish you the very best of luck and if we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us for further advice and guidance in how best to support your horse’s health and wellbeing.

    Top Tips

    • Plan ahead in terms of nutrient supply, food provision and your horse’s overall body condition – fit not fat is always a good adage.
    • The micronutrients are as important as the macronutrients – consider the use of a suitable supplement to provide key vitamins and minerals, especially for broodmares and growing youngstock.
    • Science Supplements WellHorse Veteran and WellHorse Performance are balancers specifically formulated to provide nutritional support for our equine friends who might need additional supply of micronutrients, including breeding stock. Each balancer also provides additional targeted support for gut, joint or immune health as needed.
    • Specific targeted supplementation for breeding stock in the form of micronutrients such as vitamin E and selenium should also be considered for any horses in breeding programmes.

    Science Supplements offer a premium range of high specification equine supplements that are carefully formulated by nutritionists and veterinary surgeons to support your horse’s overall health and wellbeing, whether they are happy hackers or high-performance athletes.

    You can find out more and explore our equine supplement range here, including our WellHorse feed balancers specifically formulated according to NRC (National Research Council) and BASF (Animal Nutrition) guidelines, or contact us to speak to one of our experienced nutritional advisors.

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