A stallion needs to be in optimum health and physical fitness to cope with the rigours of regular covering and to help ensure maximum fertility.
The nutritional requirements of a busy covering stallion are the equivalent of a performance horse and become even greater if the stallion is competing, as well as undertaking stud duties.
Sperm takes around 60 days to develop so raising the nutritional status of the stallion 60 days prior to his first covering, or semen collection for AI purposes, will help achieve optimum condition at the time of covering.
Stallions should enter the breeding season with moderate to good body condition, which will allow their daily nutrient requirements to be met with a reasonable, rather than excessive, amount of feed.
The breeding stallion requires 2-2.5% of his bodyweight as feed per day, with a typical ratio of around 50:50 concentrates to forage, depending on weight, condition and frequency of covering.
It is important to select a concentrate feed that, when fed at levels to maintain weight and support work, will also meet the stallion’s increased protein, vitamin and mineral requirements.
For good doers, or those with lighter workloads or limited appetites, a stud balancer, such as Buckeye Gro’n Win, is ideal to ensure these requirements are met without the calories of traditional feeds. Conditioning feeds and feeds designed specifically for breeding stock are ideal for stallions who don’t hold condition so easily.
As with many horses in peak physical condition, stallions may occasionally become fussy eaters during the covering season, leading to a loss in condition. For these horses, the “little and often” approach is vital so they are not overfaced by large meals. Mixes with added herbs may also help tempt them.
Horses who require high calorie diets to maintain condition, but cannot tolerate the readily available energy from cereals, are best fed a cube rather than a mix, as these are less likely to exacerbate fizzy temperaments.
Oil is also an ideal, non-heating way of increasing the calorie content of the diet without significantly increasing the volume fed. A high oil supplement, such as Baileys Ultimate Finish, which includes omega 3 and 6 fatty acids plus vitamins and minerals, would be a suitable choice for a busy stallion.
Interestingly, research in other species has shown that fatty acids, especially omega 3, can help create stronger sperm cell membranes, which should help the semen withstand AI techniques.
Antioxidants, including vitamin E (fat soluble), vitamin C (water soluble), beta carotene and trace minerals zinc and selenium, help defend sperm cells against free radicals, the harmful compounds produced in normal metabolic processes, and have been linked to maintaining optimum sperm counts, motility, production and increased fertility.
For more advice on feeding the stallion at stud call Baileys’ nutrition helpline (tel: 01371 850247).
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