Most nutrition programs on a breeding farm are targeted toward managing the broodmare.  This is appropriate, as the most rapid growth of the fetal foal occurs during late gestation and lactation is the largest nutritional stress a horse undergoes outside of race training.  However, nutrition is also important for stallions to maintain their body weight and vigor. 

Managing nutrition on a breeding farm is not simple.  It involves understanding the forages that are being fed and knowing about the nutritional requirements of the various horses so that the right feeds are being fed in the right amounts to allow for the optimal performance of each horse at the most reasonable cost to the owner. This will be discussed in future articles when we cover the lactating and gestating mares as well as growing foals.
Feeding Stallions
A stallion should be in good physical condition at the beginning of the breeding season.  This means he needs to be in good flesh (body condition score 5 or 6) and physically fit.  A stud in poor body condition (too thin or too fat) or one who’s out-of-shape won’t breed as well, and mares won’t settle as easily.  This costs additional time and money.
Nutrient requirements for breeding stallions are often overestimated.  A diet balanced for a light working horse typically has enough protein, vitamins, and minerals to meet the breeding stallion’s needs.  The only nutrient requirement that may go up significantly is energy.  When feeding enough of a properly balanced diet to maintain the horse’s ideal body weight, the levels of all other nutrients will meet the stallion’s requirements.

The stallion’s activity level will often increase (pacing and breeding behavior) and his attention span for feed will sometimes decrease during the breeding season.  This means he needs to receive more calories in a smaller meal, and that meal needs to be highly palatable to encourage him to eat.  A well-designed fat supplement added to a sufficient diet will increase the caloric content of the diet without substantially increasing the volume of feed being fed.  Turning the stallion out in a small paddock with grass will also encourage him to eat more and help maintain his body condition.  During the non-breeding season, feed him according to his activity level (maintenance or working). This likely will require a reduction in concentrate intake.

Longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have shown promise in improving fertility in stallions, especially those with lowered conception rates using cool-shipped semen. The addition of omega-3 fatty acid source should begin at least 60 days prior to the start of breeding season as they have their affect early in the process of sperm formation. Tribute’s Natural Remedy is a vegetable (algae) DHA source that provides this fertility enhancement.

Thus, maintaining the stallion in optimal condition on a well-balanced diet will meet most of his nutritional needs. Certain stallions may benefit from addition of omega-3 fatty acids, but only if marginally to sub-fertile. 
More information on Natural Remedy can be found here.

Daniel J. Burke, Ph.D.