Project-work: Breeding & Feeding

Even though the horse course is officially finished by now, I would like to tell you a little bit about the project we have been working on during the course. It was introduced to us as followed: “In this project you will focus on a stud farm that you visit on your own in small groups. You will work with a breed from the list below. The breeds are chosen because they have different use and nutritional requirements. The project includes both breeding and feeding. When possible, a synthesis between the two parts shall be made.”. Our class was divided into four groups and the breeds we worked with were the Arabian horse, Gotland pony, the Swedish Ardenner and Pura Raza Española(PRE). My group had the Arabian breed and our study visit was absolutely fabulous, you can read all about it in this post.

“Although the breeds were very different, there were quite some similarities concerning the challenges.”

Working on the project took place alongside classes and practicals. Our group had decided to split the breeding and feeding parts initially and I ended up in breeding. The breeding part was divided once more into Arabian horse breeding on a national level and ‘on-farm level’. All chosen breeds are relatively small when it comes to the amount of horses in Sweden. Some of them have a large population when looking at a global level(PRE and Arabian horse) while others barely exist out of Sweden(Gotland pony, Swedish Ardenner). This strongly affects the orientation of the studbook and breeding strategies.

picture2cOur breeding scheme of Arabian horses on the National level

It was really interesting to compare the differences between the projects during the end presentations. Although the breeds were very different, there were quite some similarities concerning the challenges. Does the selection process match the breeding goal?  What genetic diseases could cause problems and how is dealt with the prevention of these?

“The nutrition part of the course has been very good and it was a great experience to put theory to practice.”

For the feeding evaluation we had taken feed samples on the farm to analyse the roughage. We had received all information on concentrates and supplements used and talked with the breeders about their pasture management. We calculated nutrition requirements for young horses, pregnant and lactating mares and compared these with the analysis of the feed provided. Combined with the results of the body condition scoring we ended up with a clear picture of the current situation and were able to come up with well founded recommendations. The nutrition part of the course has been very good and it was a great experience to put theory to practice.

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The main stables of Slängsboda studfarm

The most important part of the project was to analyse and evaluate the breeding and feeding practices on the farm, but other management aspects were also taken into consideration. For example our farm had one of the best stabling systems I have ever seen. Generally speaking it was spacious, light and clean. But it were the boxes that were outstanding. As most of them were without bars they allowed a wide range of social contact between the horses. The in between walls were removable, giving the opportunity to change box size and for example create a group-housing. However, this system was not only beneficial for the horses, it was also very ergonomic: Deep litter bedding required minimal daily workload and was easily removed mechanically by the end of the season.

All together I would say we learned a lot during the project. Also the teachers told us they were extremely pleased with the efforts the groups had made this year – Thank you all for well written reports! The best first versions we have read in many years!” – which was of course really nice to hear. If you have any more questions on the project or the horse course, please comment below.




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