Nutrition is key for healthy breeding stock

R. Dean Meyer DVM
Lodi Veterinary Care
An excellent indication of how your nutrition program is balanced and working is the appearance of your new foals.

Lodi — This time of year it is very important to take a good look at the nutrition you are providing to your broodmares and stallion. The breeding season will be upon us before we know it and now is the time to prepare your animals for the stress this can bring.

An excellent indication of how your nutrition program is balanced and working is the appearance of your new foals. Are the foals born strong? Do they have straight legs? If they are not, I strongly suggest having your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist evaluate your nutrition program.

Foals born to mares on a good nutrition program are up and nursing within an hour. They have straight legs when they are born and they are healthy and strong. Foals are born with 17 percent of the mineral content in their skeletal systems and if the mares are not receiving adequate supplementation they will pull this from their own reserves to supply the foal. This leaves the mare even more deficient for future breeding and foals; if she ever settles again.

Mares that are not on a good nutrition program commonly have foals with angular limb deformities or weak foals. They sometimes even have stillborn foals. If you are feeding a vitamin-mineral supplement to your breeding animals and you are still experiencing problems, be sure you are feeding at the correct dose. Do not cut the dose to try to save money.  These products are balanced and if you do not follow the directions it will only cost you more in the long run.

It is not uncommon for mares that are nutritionally lacking something to experience reproductive health problems. These mares often take longer to breed back, or experience a higher than average embryo loss. Mares such as this can benefit from an organic mineral and vitamin supplement. These supplements will also benefit older mares, whose absorption may not be as good as it once was. An organic supplement simply means the minerals are bound to amino acids which help with absorption of the mineral.

Breeding stallions also benefit from organic minerals and vitamins. Many breeding stallions do not have access to pasture and thus are often low in minerals and vitamins including vitamin E. Organic minerals and vitamins help with semen quality and general health in stallions. Last year we evaluated the diets of several stallions in not only our practice but other areas of the country.

It was a bit surprising to see these stallions were lacking in basic nutrients such as copper, zinc, selenium and vitamin E. If you consider the number of mares these stallions are breeding and the stud fees involved, it is pretty important that all management bases be covered long before the breeding season gets in full swing.

If you have any problems, questions, or concerns about your nutrition program or the health of your mare, foal, or stallion please call your veterinarian and schedule a consultation. If they are uncomfortable discussing nutrition, they can direct you to a nutritionist to help assess your situation.