The right food for your brood mare and her foal

The monitoring and feeding of pregnant mares and their foals requires a specific approach, which we would like to explain.

At the beginning of the gestation period, the foal grows slowly and a basic ration is sufficient for the mare: roughage and concentrate feed which is geared to the mare's condition and work intensity.

From the eighth month of pregnancy onwards, you can switch to a specific mixture for broodmares. This is balanced in terms of minerals and trace elements, contains sufficient energy and provides easily digestible proteins. Minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc and manganese are important during pregnancy. The need increases during the last 5 months. It is therefore important that these levels are adjusted in the ration. It is also important that sufficient copper is passed on to the foal via the placenta. After birth, this transfer is limited because milk contains little copper. Copper influences cartilage formation and is thought to be related to the occurrence of cartilage fragments. Therefore, the copper content of a breeding feed is higher than a basic feed and the levels of minerals and trace elements are coordinated to achieve optimal absorption.

Vitamins A and E are important for a high-pregnancy mare. These are excreted through the colostrum and contribute to the health of the foal. Vitamin A is important for the resistance and a shortage of vitamin E can lead to muscle disorders. In addition, extra vitamin E and selenium in the feed can increase the amount of antibodies in the colostrum. The vitamin requirement is covered by a good breeding feed and by the vitamin content of the grass.

The protein requirement also rises in heavily pregnant mares. Easily digestible sources of protein such as soya beans, alfalfa, linseed meal and beer yeast ensure that the amino acid requirement is met and that the amino acid profile is as diverse as possible.

Due to the growth of the foal, the pregnant mare also has an increased energy requirement. Limit sugar and starch to prevent digestive disorders, extra energy can come from a fat rich ration. The energy intake can be monitored using the body condition score. With an appropriate breeding mix, the mare will lose less weight and, moreover, produce sufficient milk of good quality. The need for energy and protein is not only increased during the last months of pregnancy, mares also need good sources of protein and energy during the first months of lactation. The greatest increase is seen during the first 3 months of lactation. The nutritional status of the mare plays a role in the quality of the milk. Recent studies show that giving too much starch in the last months of pregnancy has a negative impact on the bone quality of the foals. It is recommended to provide a maximum of 100g of starch per 100kg of body weight per feed. This amounts to a maximum of 2 kg concentrated feed (with a starch content of 25%) per feed.

At Lannoo Feed, the Breeding range has been adapted to the new guidelines by reducing the starch content and increasing the fat content through the addition of oil and oilseeds. If your mare has poor hay available, she may need an extra feed or high quality roughage (e.g. pasture grass) to meet her energy needs. If the mare breaks down her muscles because she consumes too much protein (e.g. high milk production, or lactating mare in training), Lannoo Muscle Plus can support the muscles and ensure that the muscle volume is maintained. (0.5-1 kg/day on top of the ration).

To improve digestion and optimise the absorption of nutrients, probiotics can also be added to the feed. Live yeasts are the best known probiotics for horses and ensure good large intestinal function and optimal fibre fermentation.

In addition to an appropriate concentrated feed, breeding horses can also be supplemented with fish oil. This has an influence on the fertility of stallions and mares. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been proven to have a positive effect on fertility. Lannoo O-Mega-Condition is derived from deodorised fish oil and contains a maximum of EPA and DHA.

With older mares it can be more difficult to get and stay pregnant. The quality of the ova can be inadequate and especially when a mare has not had a foal for a number of years, there is a risk that she will have difficulty getting pregnant. Here too fish oil can help.

Recent research at Colorado State University (CSU) has shown that nutrition plays a key role in improving oocyte quality, which may be of great benefit in overcoming fertility problems in older mares.

The study in question suggests that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants allows oocytes to mature better and metabolise energy more efficiently. In addition, oocytes from older mares receiving these supplements were also more likely to develop into normal blastocysts (an early stage of the developing embryo) at fertilisation, which could lead to viable pregnancies.

Vegetable oil (e.g. maize oil) and cereals mainly contain omega-6 fatty acids. These omega-6 fatty acids can be partially converted to omega-3 fatty acids, but this conversion is inefficient and limited in horses. The supplementation of short-chain omega-3 fatty acids via fish oil has a direct influence on the levels of EPA and DHA in the animal's blood.

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Voeders Lannoo-Martens BV
Eugeen Meeusstraat 6, 2170 Merksem (Belgium)
KBO 0461.284.884
RPR Antwerp, division Antwerp

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