Feeding Omega 3 to Horses for Reproduction
Posted: January 14, 2010
Ann Swinker, Ph.D., Cooperative Extension Horse Specialist
Stallion Fertility – Several studies conducted at Texas A&M, the University of Arizona, and Colorado State University (CSU) examined effects of omega -3 on sperm output and semen quality. Each study showed the same trend. CSU’s study showed an increase in the total number of motile sperm using. They evaluated fresh, cooled, and frozen semen, as did the other studies; they saw a major effect on fresh semen and 24-hour cooled semen. For horses that have semen that might not cool very well, there's no question that they're feeding it helps during the cooling process. One study even showed an increase in the percentage of morphologically normal sperm and an increase in the concentration of the semen. Omega-3 fatty acids have the potential to affect not only sperm quality, but sperm quantity,
Mares and Foals - The University of Florida looked at fatty acid composition of a broodmare's diet affect the fatty acid composition of her milk and if the fatty acids passed along to the foal. They looked at feeding increased levels of omega-3 to broodmare and to see if it caused an increased immunity to the foal. This research shows there may be an affect.
From foaling through 16 weeks post-foaling, mares fed a control diet (no fat supplementation), corn oil supplements (rich in omega-6), or a 50/50 mix of corn and linseed oil (rich in omega-3) passed along fatty acid levels in their milk and plasma reflective of omega-3 and -6 levels they consumed.
Beginning one month prior to foaling and continuing 12 weeks post-foaling, mares receiving no additional omega-3, those supplemented with milled flax (rich in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid), or mares receiving fish oil (rich in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA) saw similar results as above. Mares and foals fed fish oil produced an earlier inflammatory response than the other two groups, suggesting that omega-3 could confer an early advantage in responding to infection, although omega-3 supplements had no effect on the antibody content of mare colostrum, milk, and foal serum.
Another study (fish oil vs. milled flax vs. no supplementation) in yearlings found no differences in immune function or inflammation among the groups, except for an earlier inflammatory response in yearlings that had been fed fish oil. However, because all of the yearlings were on fresh pasture, total amounts of omega-3 might not have been very different. So do not ignore what forage provides.
Researchers at Kansas State conducted a studies, reporting that omega-3 supplement of broodmares change the levels of fatty acids in milk. The KSU studies on immunity levels in foals from omega-3-supplemented broodmares showed higher immunity levels in the milk, but no increase in blood samples from the foals. They also reported no foal height or weight differences in foals from supplemented or control mares. Remember, despite the promises given by these products, there are still facts that need researched related to the role of omega-3 fatty acids in the horse diet.
Reference for Omega 3Article:
Marcia King (2009) The Latest on the Omegas (Fats) The Horse, 7186.