It’s imperative that you pay careful attention to what your stallion is eating as their diet has an impact on fertility and reproductive performance. In addition to this, if your stallion is still competing, you need to ensure you feed for fertility and for performance whilst keeping them calm. Fortunately, we have put together a short guide including the horse feed you need to consider, so your stallion can be in prime condition.
The energy requirements of a stallion will vary depending on different factors including temperament and breed. Stallions generally have a greater energy requirement than geldings or mares with similar characteristics. When the stallion begins covering, then the number of covers he carries out will largely determine his energy requirements, regardless of whether it’s for mares or collection for AI. If he is covering 12 times a week, then this would be considered intensive work and he is therefore likely to need an increase of energy supply in his feed.
Despite there being limited studies regarding the relation between the effects of the diet on fertility of the stallion, we can take information from other species. Research has shown that fatty acids are present in semen in larger quantities than other mammalian tissues. If semen is being frozen or chilled, it’s recommended to feed omega-3 fatty acids to make the sperm more resilient to preservation.
Grass is very low in oil, so naturally horses wouldn’t consume high levels of oil. However, the oil that grass does contain, has higher levels of omega-3 than 6. This means that the horse’s diet would have a higher omega-3 content than omega-6. Good sources of omega 3 in horse feed include micronized linseed and rape seed oil.
The trace mineral, zinc, is also recognised as being important for fertility due to it being a key constituent of testosterone. Studies show that although it is important to meet the stallion’s requirement for zinc, feeding extra won’t improve fertility. This is key for a lot of nutrients; supplying sufficient is important, but feeding more doesn’t improve things further.
A balanced diet is crucial for fertility and good health. Therefore, if a stallion is overweight or a good doer, they should be fed a low-calorie source of vitamins and minerals. These can be found in balancers and supplements rather than traditional horse feed likes mixes and cubes which have much higher levels of calories.
If a stallion is in an intensive covering programme then it can have effects on his behaviour, including going off his feed. Unfortunately, this can have an impact on the stallion’s weight and over a prolonged period, can also affect the fertility, due to essential nutrients being missed in the diet. It takes around 60 days for sperm to develop, so the impact on fertility may only become apparent later. If this happens, very concentrated feeds, such as a balancer, can help to supply the essential nutrients that are needed in a small volume of feed. You can also encourage them to eat with chaff that contains different herbs, such as fenugreek and oregano.
Stallions that difficult to handle or over-excitable can be fed feeds that contain low levels of sugar and starch. Oil and fibre are both sources of slow-release energy that can be combined in horse feed to provide your stallion with an energy value equivalent to a stud mix or conditioning mix. Therefore, if you do have an excitable stallion, it is possible to supply them with enough energy, but in a slow-release form.
Hopefully this guide has giving you some food for thought about what to consider when feeding the stallion. If you would like to find out more information or have any specific questions regarding your stallion and his diet, get in touch with a professional equine nutritionist.