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Nutrition Needs for Breeding Stallions

Mare owners spend millions of dollars each year keeping their stallions healthy and in tip-top shape.Stallions that are in top health, physically fit and well-fed, are apt to perform on command and produce better conception rates. The proper feeding and daily management program can influence stallion breeding performance. But even the most fit, healthy, and properly fed stallions can have fertility problems. The key is to knowing that there are huge differences and variables in energy intake needed from one stallion to another.

Enhanced nutritional levels may not make a stallion more fertile, but poor nutrition and improper body condition can result in heart attacks, poor libido and lower conception rates. A balanced adult ration of good-quality hay and grain fed to maintain optimum body condition are key to stallion nutrition during the stages of management: pre-breeding, breeding, post breeding/non-breeding.

Pre-Breeding Nutrition

Stallion weight should be maintained at a level coming into pre-breeding so the horse can gain some weight without becoming fat before breeding. Unfortunately, it's more common to overfeed stallions than underfeed. Each year there are reports of older stallions that die from a heart attack during their first or second mating. Extra weight creates additional stress on big, stout horses. This can contribute to laminitis, which shortens their breeding careers. Breeding stallions need a regular exercise program if possible.

Breeding Nutrition

Breeding season nutritional demands start for most stallions around February 15 with physical exertion of mating, imposed physical exercise for conditioning and psychological reactions to breeding. Each stallion has to be fed as an individual to maintain condition. Added fat feeds provide additional energy without increasing starch intake. The antioxidant benefits of vitamin E and selenium may be beneficial when horses are under stress.

Post Breeding & Non-Breeding Nutrition

Thin stallions at the completion of the breeding season should gain weight gradually. If a stallion loses 200 pounds during the breeding season, he should be fed to gain ½ to 1 pound per day to get him back to a body condition score of 5-6. Weighing the horses or using a combination of body condition scoring and weight tape measurements may be useful.