The importance of nutrition for mares & foals
Danielle Nielsen | 06.07.21Producing a well-developed, sound, healthy foal is the aim for all horse breeders and stud managers. The combination of good management, correct care, genetics and most importantly a good feeding programme are needed for a foal to reach its genetic potential. The health of the mare needs to be maintained through all phases of pregnancy and her ability to care for her new foal and to be put back in foal in a timely manner after foaling is important.
Young Growing Horses
The stud manager and owner need to be able to balance optimal growth with minimising skeletal problems that could affect the athletic ability and appearance of the horse. It is imperative that a balanced feeding regime is provided to young growing horses to minimise growth related disorders to produce a sound elite athlete.The right mix of Energy, Protein, Vitamins and Minerals The energy a young growing horse receives contributes to the growth rate of that horse. Excess energy can contribute to bone related disorders and ideally, optimal growth rate should be encouraged to contribute to athletic performance, longevity and soundness.
A young horse will attain 90% of its estimated mature height by the time it is a yearling. Providing a ‘Good Quality Protein’ and the correct levels and ratios of minerals will support optimal skeletal development. A ‘Good Quality Protein’ will have the correct amount of protein, will contain the correct amount and level of amino acids and will be well digested. Good Quality Protein needs to be provided in the diet for the skeletal muscle and bone to be correctly built and formed.
It is important that the correct level of minerals are fed, not too much and not too little. Deficiencies in bone building minerals such as natural vitamin K, Calcium, Phosphorus, Copper and Zinc can contribute to bone diseases. Deficiencies in Copper can affect normal cartilage development, yet excess levels of Zinc affect Copper absorption and high levels of phosphorus can affect Calcium absorption. Understanding and providing the right amount of nutrients is important in producing a well-developed horse.
Free paddock exercise for a minimum of 12 hours per day is ideal for young growing horses. Paddocks should be no less than 2ha (5 acres) or preferably bigger. Confinement to stalls or small yards is not mentally beneficial for the young horses in addition to having and osteoporotic effect on bone, which decreases bone density. Research suggests that paddock exercise increases bone strength and cortical thickness, although it needs to be for a minimum of 12 hours per day or bone density will decrease.
The MareNutrition of the breeding mare is paramount to ensure she is healthy, has a good pregnancy rate, maintains her pregnancy, produces a strong, viable foal and can get back in foal in a timely manner.
Pregnancy rates need to be maximised and this is done by ensuring the mare is maintained in a good condition and fed a well-balanced ration. Pasture alone is not enough to meet the nutritional needs of the pregnant mare. Protein, macro and micro minerals, energy and vitamin requirements increase as the foal develops and grows throughout the pregnancy. During lactation the mare literally needs to eat enough for two. She needs to be fed a ration that will meet the protein, mineral and energy demands placed on her and produce enough milk to correctly feed her foal. Therefore, the quality of the ration is paramount during lactation, ensuring it contains well digested energy sources, the best quality protein, amino acids and those all important bone building nutrients in a bioavailable form.
Pregnancy, foaling and lactation are an exciting time for stud managers and owners. Feeding these horses a well formulated, highly digestible concentrate that contains the right amount of nutrients will ensure both the mare and the young growing horse are receiving premium nutrition to optimize the growth of the young horse and wellbeing and health of the mare.
THE STUDGRO ADVANTAGE