Evaluating sources of omega-3 fatty acids for their benefits on late gestation mares and neonatal foals.



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Maternal supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids during late gestation has been shown to have a variety of benefits on the dam and resulting offspring. However, research in mares and foals is limited. The current study utilized 13 American Quarter Horse mares and their foals, assigned to one of three dietary treatments: a control basal diet (CON, n=5), a basal diet with the addition of a marine algae supplement (ALG, n=5) or a basal diet with the addition of a flaxseed supplement (FLAX, n=3). Mares were placed on treatments 30 days before their expected foaling date and continued through day 5 post- parturition. Samples of plasma were collected from mares prior to beginning supplementation, day 0 post-parturition, day 5 and day 30 post-parturition. Milk samples were collected from mares at day 0, 5 and 30 post-parturition. Plasma samples were collected from foals at birth, day 5 and day 30 post-parturition. Fatty acid compositions of mare plasma, mare milk and foal plasma were determined. Data was analyzed using the MIXED procedure of SAS. Foals born to supplemented mares exhibited increased plasma DHA levels at birth and foals born to ALG mares had greater plasma EPA levels. Samples obtained from foals at birth prior to nursing had the highest DHA content compared to all other samples. No differences were observed in mare plasma or milk. The results of the foal plasma suggest the most efficient avenue for increasing foal DHA levels is through maternal supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids in late gestation and that supplementation for the final 30 days of gestation is sufficient to see changes.



Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, EPA, Marine algae, Flaxseed, Plasma