Breeding stallions require a carefully balanced diet to maintain optimal body condition and fertility. For the stallion, the year can be divided into two basic phases, the breeding season and the off-season. The breeding season lasts approximately five months for the majority of stallions, but may double when stallions stand for breeding seasons in both hemispheres. Regardless of the number of mares bred, stallions must be properly nourished to perform their jobs successfully.
Stallions are sometimes expected to be fertile with normal sperm counts all year, every year. However, as with the mare, the fertility in the stallion varies according to the season. The sperm count (concentration of sperm per ejaculate) is lower in late autumn and winter, being only about half of that in spring and summer. The total semen volume is lower in winter, and a stallion is much slower to mate (less interested) in late autumn and winter, and is also more likely not to ejaculate even when he does serve a mare.
From a nutritional standpoint, the act of breeding can loosely be classified as work. Breeding stallions expend nearly the same amount of energy as performance horses in light work. However, a stallion’s caloric expenditure may be elevated when bred multiple times a day and in stallions that naturally give themselves more exercise, such as those that display nervous behaviors. Additionally, some stallions continue to be in work either competing or simply being exercised, and the caloric expenditure is additive to that of breeding. Stallions should be maintained on diets designed to provide the recommended intake of forage and satisfy their caloric needs and nutrient requirements. The stallion’s diet should provide the appropriate amount of calories to maintain the horse in optimal condition, avoiding excessive thinness or obesity.
Certain aspects of stallion reproduction have been shown to be improved by supplementation. In order to survive and achieve fertilization of the egg, the sperm cell must survive some harsh conditions, from freezing and thawing in the case of shipped semen, to the mare’s body and its defenses. For that reason, antioxidant protection is key when attempting to improve the chances for a successful mating. Vitamin E is an essential component of body-wide antioxidant defenses and plays a vital role in reproductive functions. Supplementation with high levels of vitamins E and C, individually or together, has resulted in increased sperm output, concentration, and motility while decreasing numbers of dead or abnormal sperm in a number of species.
Semen contains significant amounts of fatty acids, mainly of the omega-3 and omega-6 types, as these are incorporated into the sperm cell membranes. These components are important in sperm motility, sensitivity to cold shock, and fertilization capacity. Because grain diets for horses are typically considerably higher in omega-6 fatty acids, it was thought that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids might improve semen quality. A study at Texas A&M University showed that stallions supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids showed a threefold increase in semen levels of omega-3 fatty acids and an improved semen ratio of omega-3 to omega-6.
Benefits of EPA and DHA supplementation in stallions included increases in total motility, progressive motility, and rapid motility of sperm. Similar studies at other locations resulted in improved total numbers, morphology, and percentages of live sperm in supplemented stallions.
Which solution is right for your horse?
EO•3™. Omega-3 supplement. EO•3 is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, compounds found to optimize the well-being of all horses, regardless of age or use. Choose EO•3 to support sperm motility and viability as well as support of cold shock resistance.
Nano•E®. Nanodispersed, liquid natural-source vitamin E supplement. Nano•E provides a highly bioavailable natural (d-α-tocopherol), water soluble source of vitamin E to horses through a unique delivery system. Recommended for horses that spend a significant portion of their time in stalls or otherwise confined, performance horses, horses whose forage intake is largely from hay rather than pasture, those with neurological problems, those experiencing stress, and convalescent horses.
Preserve™ PS. Prescription strength antioxidant supplement. Preserve PS provides superior antioxidant protection with natural-source vitamin E, organic selenium, vitamin C, and magnesium. Preserve PS is ideal for supporting muscle recovery after work, promoting optimal immune and reproductive function, and providing nutrients that may be lacking in regions with selenium-deficient soils.
Micro-Max. Ration fortifier. Micro-Max is a low-intake concentrated source of vitamins and minerals for mature horses. Micro-Max is ideal for horses that maintain body weight on diets of forage and small amounts of concentrate. The use of Micro-Max ensures that all vitamin and mineral requirements of mature horses and ponies are satisfied. Because of its low feeding rate, Micro-Max can be fed by itself or mixed with a concentrate.
Learn moreNutrition of the Breeding Stallion
Factors Affecting the Stallion’s Reproductive System