1962-Voice Of The Tennessee Walking Horse 1962 December Voice | Page 7

5 Voice of the Tennessee Walking Horse Dr. Ensminger Analyzes Factors In Pasture Breeding Bv Dr. M. E. Ensminger Clovis, California Today, there is renewed interest in pasture breeding of horses; largely (1) as a means through which to lower labor costs, and (2) because of the hope that a higher rate of conception and foaling may be obtained thereby. So let us analyze the situation. As every horseman knows, there are three methods of handling the mating operations; namely— 1. Hand breeding.—This is the most common, current practice, in which tire in-heat mare and the stallion are mated with the help of two or more caretakers. 2. Corral breeding.—In which the in-heat mare and a stallion are turned loose in a small, well-fenced corral. The attendants usually remain near­ by, where they can see but not be seen by the animals, until service is completed, following which the stal­ lion and the mare are returned to their respective quarters. 3. Pasture breeding— This consists in turning the stallion to pasture with the band of mares that it is intended that he serve. Except on the ranges of the far West, this method of breed­ ing is seldom practiced in domestic horses. It is generally recognized that no phase of modern horse production has become more unnatural or more com­ plicated with domestication than the actual breeding operations. Indeed, normal breeding habits of the horse do not exist under domestication. In the wild state, each band of thirty to, forty mares was headed by a stallion leader who sired all the foals in that particular band. With plenty of out­ door exercise on natural footing, superior nutrition derived from plants grown on unleached soils, regular re­ production beginning at an early age, little possibility of disease or infec­ tion, and frequent services during the heat period, 90 per cent or higher foaling rates were commonplace. By contrast, under domestication, the average conception rate is less than 50 per cent, and only the better breeding establishments exceed 70 per cent. Why? Certainly it must be con­ cluded that the low fertility encount­ ered under domestication must be caused to a large extent by the re­ latively artificial conditions under which horses are mated. But what’s happening in other classes of livestock? In a survey that 1 did for the American National Cattlemen’s Association in 1955, I found that 98 per cent of the nation’s commerical cattlemen and 68 per cent of the purebred cattle breeders used pasture mating. Further, this same study revealed that cattlemen average an 80 per cent calf crop. Also, it is generally recognized that an e ven higher percentage of sheepmen and swinemen pasture breed—and with satisfactory results, for (1) only 6 to 10 per cent of all ewes are barren and (2) only 15 to 20 per cent of all sows fail to pig. It’s something to think about! I would be the last person to re­ commend that a valuable stallion be turned to pasture with a band of mares, especially without prior con­ ditioning and preparation. I do con­ tend, however, that we might tv-el 1 emulate nature more than we are now doing; that we should do every­ thing within our power to avoid breeding and keeping two mares a whole year to produce one foal (a 50% foal crop) ; and that the time has arrived when we must lower labor costs. Perhaps in the final analysis there is no one best method of handling the mating operations. Each enterprise is an individual case, requiring careful study. And what will work for one won't work for another. Therefore, the choice should be determined pri­ marily by the results being obtained at the time, by the size and quality of the horses, by the finances and skill of the operaior, and by the ultimate goal ahead. Recently, I received the following letters: Dear A. K.: You hit the nail on the head when you referred to "fads, foibles, and trade secrets.” It's the greatest “plague" in the light horse industry. I’m doing everything within my power to raise the industry above this level; especially through my writings and the Horse Science School and Short Course that I shall direct next year. But now to your question; the ad­ visability of self-feeding foals in a separate enclosure away from their dams—the practice known as creep­ feeding: When the foal is ten days to three weeks of age, it will begin to nibble on a little feed. In order to promote swift and early development and to avoid set-back at weaning time, it is important to encourage the foal to eat supplementary feed as early as possible. At four to five weeks of age, the normal healthy foal should be consuming i/2 pound of grain daily per 100 pounds live weight. By wean­ ing time, this should be increased to about y2 pound of grain daily per 100 pounds live weight. By weaning time, this should be increased to about 3/, pound or more per 100 pounds live weight; the exact amount varying with the individual and the develop­ ment desired. When liberally fed, foals will normally attain one-half their mature weight during the first year and their full height by the time they are two years of age. It is rec­ ognized, however, that the forced development of young horses must be expertly done if the animals are to remain durable and sound. On the other hand, it is known that a foal stunted in the first year by insufficient feeding cannot be developed properly later in life. M. E. E. Work and Pray for Peace Dear Dr. E: Creep-Feeding Foals I’m kind of a nut about horses myself and I fully appreciate their Dear Dr. E.: "I have a sizeable band of well- value in companionship, sport, and bred mares that will begin foaling entertainment. I think they’re beauti­ this coming January. I have a hard­ ful, intelligent and altogether wonder­ working, honest man taking care of ful animals. I dearly love my ow-n them. However, like so many men in horse—and mv parents. But, if there is this business, much of his thinking is a war I wonder if any of us will live based on fads, foibles, and trade through it. I can't stand to see animals secrets. For example, he claims that suffer. Should I sell my horse? creep-feeding foals is no good. What R. V. should I do?" A. K. Continued on page 24