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Before Breeding Season: Nutrition of Stallions and Broodmares

With breeding season just a few months away, now is the time to think about fine-tuning the nutrition of broodmares and stallions. To answer a few questions, we’ve turned to Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutritionist and a member of Kentucky Equine Research’s technical team.

According to Whitehouse, the technical team is charged with “providing support services to the company’s feed partners and offering consultation services to horse owners, farm managers, and trainers looking for sound, research-proven nutritional solutions for their horses.”

Whitehouse joined the Kentucky Equine Research team as a yearlong intern in 2009 and has since completed her master’s degree in equine nutrition, all while working in various roles within the company. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in equine nutrition at the University of Kentucky.

What are some special nutritional considerations for mares heading into breeding season?

The focus of nutritional management should be feeding to achieve or maintain an ideal body weight. This is especially true for horses coming off the track or out of another performance career. Fillies just off the racetrack, for example, will need a higher plane of nutrition than most established broodmares to prepare them for the breeding season.

In addition to good-quality forage, one key to success is providing a concentrate that supplies appropriate energy sources and nutrient fortification to balance the available forage and achieve body condition goals. This may be a specially formulated concentrate intended for breeding and growing horses or a combination of concentrate and ration balancer.

Aside from forages and concentrates, what else should managers consider when formulating a nutritional program for broodmares?

A growing body of research supports the use of specialized supplements, particularly, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, notably DHA, for improving broodmare fertility and foal health.

The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are found in products like EO-3, a marine-derived oil developed by Kentucky Equine Research, offer many reproductive health benefits to mares, from lead-up to breeding to weaning. One important advantage is the research-proven boost in immunity.

How can stallion managers feed their studs for optimal fertility, and when do they need to start that process?

Again, the importance of selecting the right forages and concentrates cannot be overstated for supporting stallion health and performance.

Several studies have highlighted the benefits of targeted supplementation with antioxidants, such as vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 as well as omega-3 fatty acids, for optimizing fertility and semen quality in stallions. Kentucky Equine Research has developed high-quality products that deliver these key nutritional solutions, including Nano-ENano-Q10, and EO-3.

While stallions should be fed well year-round to maintain moderate body condition, any season-specific supplement program should be started at least 30-60 days before the first cover for optimal results; however, many stallions are fed these supplements every day.