was successfully added to your cart.

Cart

Monthly Archives

May 2018

The Mare: Pre-Breeding Considerations

By | Brood Mares, Foals, Horses | No Comments

Whether you are a new to horse breeding or are an experienced breeder, it is crucial to understand the importance of properly caring for your pregnant mare to ensure for a safe and healthy birth for both mother and foal.

Let’s face it — while this is an exciting time, it can be very stressful. Even the most experienced breeders have questions that come up.

To successfully care for your pregnant mare while minimizing the stress it can have on you, it is helpful to have some guidelines to follow.

Pre-Breeding Considerations

Before you consider breeding your mare, there are things that should be taken into consideration.

Body Condition Scoring

A universal method to measure weight and fat distribution, called body condition scoring, has become one of the most effective tools used by breeders.

The vague terms “hard keeper” or “fatter than a county fair hog” are no longer relevant when considering a mare’s breeding readiness.

When you are considering breeding your mare, studies have shown that mares with a body condition score of 5, 6, or 7, have over a 90% higher chance of getting pregnant than those with lower or higher scores.

The Current Nutrition and Gut Health of the Mare

Mares are expected to carry a healthy foal for 11 months and produce enough milk for that foal for at least 6 months.  Therefore, it would seem logical how critical a role nutrition plays in breeding.

Nutritional management, in many ways, determines the success of breeding in the mare due to the influences it has on the various cycles of production.

Good nutrition doesn’t just involve feeding the right kinds of feed. It also is highly dependent on the mare’s ability to properly digest and absorb nutrients.

A low pH can result in a whole range of issues, including poor absorption and ulcers. When the pH is low, the gut flora can become unbalanced, with a die-off of beneficial microbes and an explosion of the pathogenic flora. When this happens, a horse’s ability to properly digest and utilize nutrients is compromised.

Then we come to ulcers. Gastric ulcers are more prevalent among broodmares than you might expect. According to one study, an alarming 70.9% of the mares included had gastric ulcers. The pain caused by these ulcers can lead to a decrease in feed consumption and stress, raising overall cortisol levels.

When Was the Last Foal Born?

Surprisingly, the reason to consider this is similar as to with humans. The mare’s gestation period lasts approximately 11 months, and then mare will nurse its foal for approximately 6 months.  The general rule for mares (and for humans for that matter) is to allow the mare to have the appropriate time for her cycle to normalize. This will optimize the mare’s chances of a successful breed-back and pregnancy.

Consider the Mare’s Age

The age at which a mare can breed and should be bred are two different things.  A healthy mare will start cycling, can be bred and even become pregnant in their yearling spring, often before their first full year of life.

Studies show that breeding fillies this early in life will frequently lead to a smaller foal and less milk production from the mare. It also may result in underdevelopment of the mare herself, as many of the resources she’d be using to grow are going to the development of the foal.

The general consensus within the horse/veterinary community has been to give fillies additional time to mature by allowing them to reach 3 years of age before breeding to successfully carry a pregnancy to term.

On the opposite spectrum, mares often will carry foals into their 20’s with no problem.  However, it is now well documented that the eggs of mares over 18 years old have a very high incidence of inherent defects that result in a high rate of early pregnancy loss (20-30% or higher).  Therefore, it is sometimes best to consider the health of the mare, rather than the age.

Conditioning for Breeding

Okay, so by now you have a general idea of what things to consider prior to breeding your mare.  Now let’s discuss the next step, conditioning your mare for breeding.

Because mares are not the most fertile animals (conception rate is approximately noted to be 60%), in order to avoid frustration and excessive expenses there are things you can do to maximize a successful breeding.

Optimal health in your mare is essential to achieve the greatest reproductive efficiency.  By being proactive you can take the necessary steps to attain this optimal health in your mare.

General health includes making sure your horse is in good physical condition.  Your mare’s diet should consist of high-quality feed to ensure proper weight which directly can influence regular cycling of the mare.  Equally as important is good dental health by having your mare’s teeth examined regularly.  It is also recommended having your mare dewormed every 6-8 weeks.

Required vaccinations should be met prior to breeding your mare.  It’s important to remember that vaccines are only as effective as the immune system is strong. If your mare has recently had an illness, injury or other stressors, you may want to wait to vaccinate until she has recovered.

There are different requirements depending on what region of the country your mare is living. Talk to your veterinarian about which vaccinations your mare will need to be covered in your particular area.

Related Posts

Five Ways to Prepare Your Horse for Summer

The Mare: Pregnancy Trimesters 1-3

Foal Diarrhea 101: Signs and Symptoms

Prebiotics: What They Are and What They Do

By | Acidosis and Shipping Fever, Branding, Cattle, Cow-Calf, Pre-Conditioning | No Comments

Prebiotics are an important part of the digestive cycle and especially for mammals. Although much research has been conducted on the importance of probiotics, it’s only been in recent years that the role of prebiotics has been closely examined and studied.

Not to be confused with probiotics, prebiotics support the health and continued growth of the beneficial microbes that make up prebiotics.

These findings have led to a major change in the way prebiotics and probiotics are being used in the cattle producer’s operation to help minimize the need for antibiotics while increasing gains.

Definition of Prebiotics

Prebiotics are feed ingredients that are not digestible or only partially digestible. They provide colonies of beneficial bacteria in the gut with “food” so they can continue to flourish. This, in turn, works to maintain a balanced digestive microbiota.

In specific, cattle benefit from the undigestible sugars that are often found in fibrous plant material. Most feedstuffs contain at least a small amount of prebiotic material. Prebiotics can be found naturally at some level in almost any feed.

This includes grass and other forage, grains, and formulated concentrated feeds. Some products on the market even add specialized blends of prebiotics.

How Do Prebiotics Work?

When a cow consumes feed, the rumen works to break it down more and more as it moves sequentially through each stomach chamber. In this way, the feed it is eating has the highest chance of being gleaned of nutrients for the cow’s utilization.

By the time this digesta reaches the intestinal tract nearly all of the nutrient-containing components have been extracted, allowing for the final stages of digestion and absorption into the body. The only exception to this is the undigestible matter that remains unprocessed. Much of this matter serves as a prebiotic.

Once these prebiotics reach the intestinal tract they begin to ferment, where they produce volatile fatty acids such as butyric acid. The beneficial bacteria in the gut thrive on these volatile fatty acids (VFAs), which in turn allows them to grow more robust and increase their numbers.

What Is the Most Common Source of Prebiotics in the Bovine Diet?

In an unenhanced diet (i.e. feedstuffs that have not been seeded with prebiotics), the most plentiful source or prebiotics comes from plant material such as hay or alfalfa. The undigestible fiber and other components in this roughage provide an excellent source of prebiotic material.

This is, in part, why cattle that are on a concentrated feed diet may be more prone to experiencing intestinal microbial imbalances.

To counter this issue with concentrated feeds, many companies are now offering diets using a wide variety of prebiotics. Perhaps the most widely known of these are mannan oligosaccharides (MOS).

MOS are highly beneficial for attracting and carrying harmful pathogens from the gut. They work by drawing in bad bacteria with a sugar known as mannose. These bacteria cannot derive energy from the sugar but do stick to it. They are then carried from the animal’s system without managing to infect it or further populate the gut.

Other prebiotics that have also shown to be valuable in developing a healthy digestive system include fructooligosaccharides and beta glucan.

Why Are Prebiotics Necessary?

The health of the digestive system and gut microbiota (as discussed in the first installment) is dependent upon the balance of microbes inhabiting the intestines.

Every animal has a different microbial makeup that forms their own individual microbiome. Despite this, there is one fact that is the same across the board – there must be a much higher level of beneficial microbes than commensal or pathogenic.

Prebiotics feed the beneficial bacteria that line the gut walls. They are responsible for helping further digest food, increase nutrient absorption and keep the pathogenic microbes at manageable numbers. They also provide a sort of “buffer” that prevents toxins from passing through the intestinal walls and into the bloodstream.

When enough prebiotics are not being introduced into the digestive system, the beneficial microbes don’t have access to the needed “food” that keeps them functioning and multiplying. As they “starve” they begin to die off in increasingly larger numbers.

As this die-off occurs, acid-producing harmful bacteria are able to establish themselves in larger numbers on the gut walls.

Once too much of the beneficial microbe population has been destroyed, it’s difficult to get the balance back where it belongs.

How Can Prebiotics Help?

In animals with a healthy gut microbiota, keeping an adequate level of prebiotics in the diet will help maintain the status quo. However, for those animals that have a compromised digestive system, prebiotics may be the key to giving them an honest chance at becoming healthy.

It has been found that calves that receive adequate prebiotics both pre and post-weaning tend to have greater gains. This is due to increased nutrient absorption.

A popular remedy for calves that are poor doers is to administer lactulose, a synthetic disaccharide. Studies have found that calves that have been given this course of therapy frequently develop strong immune systems and are able to overcome some of the issues associated with premature birth.

Additionally, prebiotics increase the body’s ability to rid itself of waste and toxins by increasing stool size, moisture content and composition. Both constipation and diarrhea can be devastating conditions for the young calf.

In Conclusion

Prebiotics are an absolutely necessary aspect of maintaining a healthy microbiome. The gut’s ability to function optimally depends on two main things – how strong the beneficial microbial population is and whether or not the pH is properly balanced.

Both of these functions depend on the presence of adequate amounts of prebiotics to support the digestive system.

SOURCES:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462921/

http://ijlr.org/issue/prebiotics-new-feed-supplement-dairy-calf/

http://www.credenceresearch.com/press/global-prebiotics-in-animal-feed-market

https://www.progressivedairy.com/topics/feed-nutrition/youve-heard-about-probiotics-for-cows-but-what-about-prebiotics

http://feedlotmagazine.com/benefits-of-using-probiotics-prebiotics-in-cattle-feed/

Related Posts

Herd Handling Techniques and Their Effects on the Immune System

Stress and Cortisol Can Undermine Your Herd Vaccination Programs

Understanding Adaptive Immunity

>