Blue Light Positively Influences Breeding Success
For successful breeding outcomes, timing is everything.
The horse’s natural reproductive period coincides with the light-filled days of summer. As seasonal breeders, the naturally lengthening days of spring suppress melatonin and in turn stimulate reproductive hormones that maximise fertility for both mares and stallions. This can conflict with the desire to breed Thoroughbreds during the earlier, darker months in order to have foals on the ground sooner. Often, early foaling mares experience longer gestation lengths, have smaller foals and can have trouble cycling post-foaling. This has consequences for breeding efficiency.
Published scientific studies confirm that extending daylength for mares using blue light from Equilume Light Masks advances reproductive activity as effectively as stable lighting, with the bonus that mares can be fitted with these masks while out at pasture, keeping mares in their natural environment. Early reproductive activity means production of early season foals and increases the economic value of youngstock. Light masks should be fitted 70 days before desired ovulations.
For pregnant mares, the benefits of extending daily light using blue light from Equilume light masks are comprehensive. As well as hormones that control reproduction, lengthening days also stimulate important growth hormones in the mare that allow foals to mature optimally in utero and mares to produce more milk and good colostrum. Specifically, it is the blue light wavelengths from the sun that drive these seasonal hormonal changes.
“The 2023 breeding season will be Torryburn’s 10th consecutive year using Equilume light masks. They are an integral part of our breeding and husbandry program.
Not only do they help our maiden and dry mares cycle early, we also use them on our pregnant mares to ensure that our early foaling mares cycle well after foaling in the last month of winter. We found that the mask greatly improves gestation length and normal foal birthweight, limiting foaling and post foaling complications.”
Mel Copelin, Stud Manager, Torryburn Stud, NSW Australia
Published research studies, presented at the Equine Symposium of the British Society for Animal Science’s Conference, showed that pregnant mares wearing blue light masks in the final 100 days of gestation had shorter pregnancies, earlier post-foaling ovulations, developed larger follicles, and produced foals that were more mature at birth. The exciting studies, conducted by researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, also found that foals from mares wearing light masks in the final months of pregnancy were 15 minutes faster at getting to their feet after birth than foals born to mares that did not receive additional light.
The two-year study was conducted at the historic Brandenburg State Stud in Germany. The blue-light stimulated mares developed larger follicles in the late stages of gestation and could be bred sooner after foaling. Foals born from mares wearing blue light masks also had shorter hair coats, demonstrating that the light perceived by the pregnant mare is transmitted to the foal and influences their physical development in utero.
These new study findings show how correct light management of our pregnant mares can improve breeding efficiencies similar to Nature, but still allow foaling earlier in the year to fit with industry timelines.