Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pasture Breeding

Friday, I told you I was going to start giving you some information on breeding. Since then I have received a email from Jerusha who is a student doing a report on pasture breeding. She is requesting information from us on this subject, so I thought this would kill two birds with one stone and write it on the blog. I am sorry I did not get this to you yesterday, but the "bug" has hit us here at the farm. It seems to be a 24 hour thing, but it kept me from posting yesterday. I hope all of you are staying well this winter, because it is not fun to be sick.

Pasture breeding stallions is something we have always done and with very good success. Like I said in previous post "no matter how much we spoil our horses and take them out of the environment they know, they still know how to be a horse". This works several ways for us. Since we have so many mares it is a easy way to get our mares bred/pregnant. The stallion does all the work for us. We don't have to worry about getting the mare up 3 times a week and teasing her, or having the vet come to ultrasound to see where she is in her cycle. Jerusha ask me how many mares we put in with the stallion. Now, I am not saying you can turn your mares and a stallion out and not have to check on them because you do. If you notice there are several mares cycling at the same time, then your stallion may not be able to get them all pregnant. With each breeding in a single day the sperm will become less and less. If you see the stallion breeding one or two mares on Monday, you may want to take them out of the pasture until Wednesday, so that your stallion will have the opportunity to breed the other mares, and then rotate them out. The sperm will live inside the mare for about 24 hours, so it is a waste of time to breed everyday or more than once a day. We try to stay on a schedule of Monday, Wednesday, Friday with our live cover and A.I. Sometimes a stallion just falls head over heels for one mare and will breed her several times a day and not get to the other mares. Again, you will want to move this mare out after she has been bred. So to answer the question from Jerusha, the number of mares we put in with a stallion is not as important to us as the size of the pasture. Here in Kentucky the rule is 2 horses per acre.

Her next question is, do they stay in when wet and dry? After the mare foals and has about a week with her baby, we will put the mare in with the stallion that we are wanting to breed her to. We have never had a stallion be mean to a foal. They are always very protective and you will sometimes see them babysetting for the mare. The mare and foal will stay in with the stallion until we know she is in foal or if there are not many mares in with the stallion we will leave her there until she is ready to foal again. Most of the time we put the stallions in the barn away from the mares in late July or early August. It is just as hard for us to have a foal in the extreme heat as it is to have a foal in the winter.

Jerusha wants to know what the conception rate is and is it easier to get a problem mare in foal by pasture breeding? We have found that the mares have a much higher rate of conception if we let them do pasture breeding. Sometimes a nervous mare or a maiden mare will have all the signs right, but no matter how many times we breed her, she just will not conceive. We have found if we turn her out with a stallion and let nature take its course, this will usually work.

When do we put the stallion in with the mares? Since it takes 11 months plus 5 days for gestation of a horse, we plan our foaling time around the weather. Ideally, we do not want to have a foal before the end of March, so we will put the stallion in with the mares in April. For showing purposes a horse is considered another year older Jan. 1st so, if we have a late baby, he will always be the youngest in the class and that sometimes does not work when it comes time to start a horse. Some people will shoot for a early January baby if they think it will be something they want to show. We allow all of our mares to foal in the field, so this just does not work for us, but if you want to put the mare up and watch her for a few weeks until she foals, and be able to provide a safe, clean, warm environment, then that is up to you. We have found our mares and foals do much better foaling in the field in the spring.

Do you ever add mares later on and if so, how does the stallion react? Yes, we do add more mares and take mares out as I have said above, depending on when they foal and how many mares we are wanting to breed to that particular stallion. The stallion generally does not have a problem with this, but sometimes, especially if they are not from our farm, the stallion will not accept the mare into the band for a couple of days. This is natures way of keeping out disease. When this happens, we will put the mare in a catch pen or adjacent paddock for a couple of days, so that the stallion can get used to her, and after a few days, he usually takes her right in. I will caution you about putting mares from other facilities that you are not familiar with in with your stallion, unless they have been checked by a vet for STD's. If they have a foal on their side, this is not as much a concern, but it is always a good rule of thumb, to have the owner have the mares checked for STD's and where she is in her cycle. You will not want to run the chance of infecting your stallion and therefore infecting the whole herd. I have had clients think they can bring their mare and leave it for a couple of weeks and think they should be pregnant when they come back to get them. If you don't know where they are in their cycle, and it is not the right time... a couple of weeks will not be long enough. Mares cycle much like a human woman, and they conceive much the same way.

I will be posting for my Dad in the next few weeks, so I am sure he will be covering some of these things for you, but since Jerusha is needing the information for school right away, I wanted to cover this as quickly as I could. Jerusha, if you have any more questions regarding our breeding program, please feel free to contact us.

1 comment:

wild luna said...

We put two maiden mares in with our shy stallion and both are in foal. He quickly learned what and when to do what he needed to. We left one of the mares in with him and they do great together. We intend to do the same this season.

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