Optimising mare body condition, adequate supplementation and selection of appropriate feed types may help to reduce the risk of osteochondrosis in foals.
It is widely recognized that the diet of the pregnant mare can significantly impact the overall health and well-being of her future foal. Insufficient levels of minerals and trace minerals in mare rations have been found to elevate the risk of skeletal disease in foals. As a result, it has become common practice to feed mares supplemented diets, especially during the final trimester of pregnancy.
Despite efforts to offer balanced rations, some farms still encounter bone defects in certain foals. Researchers have been investigating the influence of the specific type of feed provided to pregnant mares and how it affects the skeletal health of their offspring. Studies have indicated that offering mares high-starch diets during late gestation may lead to hyperinsulinemia in some mares and alterations in resting blood glucose and insulin levels in their foals. This in turn has been shown to increase the likelihood of osteochondrosis. This phenomenon is known as "foetal programming" which has been well-documented in other species.
In order to optimise the health of both pregnant mares and their foals, it is important to maintain a suitable body condition, ensure appropriate supplementation, and avoid unnecessary grain-based meals that are high in sugar and starch. These measures may not only be beneficial for the pregnant mare but also have a positive impact on the skeletal and metabolic health of the foal.