Feeding for Breeding
Kate Hore RNutr(Animal). Snr Nutritionist at NAF
Getting the feeding regime right for breeding stock, whether mares, foals or youngsters, is fundamental to ensuring a healthy youngster and, ultimately, a strong, sound horse or pony when grown. However that doesn’t mean we need to feed high levels of high powered stud feed – in fact overfeeding in both the mare and youngster will cause more problems than it solves.
If you’re preparing your mare for covering she should be in fit not fat condition, but a super fit competition horse would benefit from slightly relaxing prior to going to stud. In livestock production it’s referred to as ‘flushing’
In early pregnancy the additional calorie requirements on the mare are minimal, but it’s still essential that balanced vitamins and minerals are supplied to ensure healthy growth of the foetus. Similarly later in pregnancy, as foetal growth accelerates, it’s important the micronutrients are supplied without excessive weight gain which can be dangerous. Obesity in brood mares can lead to difficulties in foaling, reduced milk production, negative foal growth and even loss of the foal. Following birth, lactation does demand greatly increased energy and protein requirements.
However as natural foaling coincides with rich spring grass it is rarely necessary to feed high calorie feed, so long as mum and baby are enjoying life at grass.