The Horse

SEP 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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Page 43 of 59

44 THE HORSE September 2018 NUTRITION KRISTEN JANICKI, MS T he apple doesn't fall far from the tree. A chip off the old block. Logisti- cally, these endearing idioms about parent-child similarities make sense because progeny receive their genetic blueprint from each parent, half maternal and half paternal. But a variety of other factors also dictate characteristics of offspring—including maternal diet during gestation—and horses are no exception. A pair of trailblazers from the Univer- sity of Cambridge, in England, conducted one of the first studies looking at how maternal environment can affect foal development in 1938. They found that newborn Shire-Shetland Pony cross foals were proportional in weight to their dams and almost the same weight as purebred foals of the maternal breed. That is, crossbred foals with Shire mothers were similar in weight to full Shire foals, and crossbred foals with Shetland mothers were similar in weight to full Shetland foals. The authors summarized their findings as an illustration of the interplay between nutrition and genetic fac- tors, both of which are involved in fetal development. During pregnancy the mare's daily nutrient requirements increase to allow her to maintain body condition while supporting the growing fetus. During gestation she might gain 12-15% of her initial body weight, mostly attributable to fetal and placental tissues. The amount of energy, or calories, she needs above main- tenance (when she's not pregnant) levels typically doesn't rise until the fifth month of gestation, after which the majority of fetal development occurs. After foaling, a broodmare must produce enough nutri- tious milk for the foal, while maintain- ing her own energy requirements for metabolism, digestion, activity, thermal regulation, and waste production. Mare health and nutrition during conception and pregnancy have been a recent focal point of research into foal growth and development, both in utero and after foaling. In this article we will focus on broodmare weight: What effect does her weight and, ultimately, energy or calorie intake have on her efficiency as a broodmare and on her foal? Underweight Issues Low body condition score (BCS) can affect several reproductive parameters in broodmares. Barren (nonpregnant mares that have foaled previously) and maiden (never carried a foal to term) mares enter- ing the breeding season in thin condition, or less than 5 on the 1-to-9 BCS scale, experience lower pregnancy rates and re- quire more estrous cycles to get pregnant. Broodmares: Worth Their Weight ISTOCK.COM A mare's body condition can affect pregnancy outcome and set her foal up for success or failure later in life Researchers have been studying how mare nutri- tion during conception and pregnancy affect foal development in utero and after birth.

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