Preparing Young Stock for the Sales Ring
In the sales ring, whilst bloodlines and genetics play a major role in purchasing decisions, beauty is for sure still in the eye of the beholder. The appearance of foals in the sales ring is still vitally important in influencing buying behaviour and sales price achieved and a foals body condition will either add to or detract from their ‘quality’ on paper.
The drive for perfection in sales prep for foals relies to a large part on the influence of feeding and nutrition on a body condition, muscle definition, hoof and coat condition and behaviour. Some foals may have been prepared very slowly to achieve the end result at the sales, but a large majority rely on an intensive 6-8 week period of preparation immediately before the sales begin. Whilst it is certainly true that we cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, foals can be given the best chance to been seen in their best light.
Ideally, foals would be prepared very gradually, allowing plenty of transitional time from mare’s milk, to pasture and then developing on to the introduction and building up of concentrate feed. Changes in management and feed type when done slowly prevent the foal’s digestive enzymes from becoming overwhelmed and allow the microbial balance in the gut to adapt, reducing the likelihood of digestive problems. Meal size should also always be kept very small and frequent in this respect. Changes in feed type and frequency make foals very vulnerable to both scouring and gastric ulcers, both of which will negatively affect their ability to thrive and their appearance. Scouring or suspected gastric ulcers will most often require input from a veterinarian, but in addition antacid and prebiotic containing supplements such as TRM’s
comprehensive GNF product can be extremely helpful. GNF is available as either a pellet for early introduction into feed, or as a paste for daily administration. It contains seaweed extract, calcium and magnesium, as well as the vital amino acids glutamine and threonine to soothe the stomach and help maintain gastric health. Addition of a fructooligosccharide (FOS) prebiotic also helps to maintain or restore a healthy microbial balance in the hindgut.
A longer term approach to sales prep would also allow a window of opportunity to influence the skeletal system and hoof condition. Robustness of the skeleton and structure and quality of hoof horn are so important for these ‘athletes in waiting’. Adequate macro mineral as well as trace mineral intake and balance supports bone density. TRM’s Calphormin is ideally placed to provide this additional calcium, as well as a balance of other trace minerals. Uniquely, Calphormin also contains a bioavailable form of silicon known as zeolite, which has been shown to promote the durability of the skeleton during subsequent training. Foot quality and conformation is another area of focus for potential buyers and in order for the farrier to be able to maintain, or in some circumstances remedially improve the picture, robust hoof horn growth and quality is essential. TRM’s Hoofmaker as the name suggests provides vital nutrients including biotin, zinc and targeted amino acids including methionine.
A foals body shape and condition will be influenced by overall feed intake but it is not simply down to just energy or calories. A high oil ration can deliver more calories with less volume, which is an advantage in foals. Additionally reducing the reliance of high starch cereals can help avoid some of the acute health issues linked to a high starch diet, such as gastric ulcers, loose droppings, laminitis etc. Reducing the reliance on starch can also potentially have a benefit on behaviour. This is particularly important when foals are first handled more frequently but also to ensure that they behave and are less stressed in the sales ring. Sometimes an additional source of specific amino acids such as L-Tryptophan and B vitamins e.g. thiamine, both of which are found in TRM’s Good as Gold, can help to avoid anxiety and stress during a change in routine and environment, as well as in the sales ring.
Oil also has hidden benefits beyond just using it to top dress an existing ration for extra calories. Most oil, e.g. corn or soya are high in omega 6 fatty acids, whereas others such as TRM’s Linseed Oil and Curragh Carron Oil are a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are widely known to promote skin health and reduce itching and can vastly improve coat condition.
Exercise for foals in combination with optimum quality protein from the diet will deliver muscle definition and development. TRM’s Muscle –Up, has developed a strong following in the prep community. It contains a concentrated source of gamma oryzanol derived from rice bran and is used extensively to promote muscle development but also delivers potent health supporting anti-oxidants. TRM have years of experience in offering advice and supplemental product that deliver on their promise. Our advice is that the key is in early preparation to allow foals the optimum amount of time to develop and grow in a sustainable way to ensure they not only shine at the sales, but also go on to be durable and perform to the best of their genetic potential once in training.