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Feeding the Broodmare and Nursing Foal brought to you by HyGain Feeds

August 2018 by Tania Cubbitt, PhD

Mare owners spend thousands of dollars on stud fees and shell out hundreds of dollars in veterinary care to prepare their mares for breeding and foaling. Mares are expected to produce enough milk for a foal for up to six months. Many mares are expected to raise healthy foals year after year, requiring successful rebreeding while the previous year’s foal is still by her side. Because nutrition influences each stage of the broodmare’s production cycle, nutritional management may, in many ways, determine the success of the breeding program.

Broodmare nutrition can be broken down into several different stages: conception, early, mid and late gestation, and lactation. Nutritional management is a simple, yet cost effective tool that we can apply to ensure normal reproductive cycles, improved conception rates and increased pregnancy maintenance in mares to ensure overall reproductive success. Body condition scoring serves as an effective means to determine the nutritional needs of your mare.

The lactating mare has the highest nutrient requirements of any horse on the farm. To produce milk and to repair the reproductive tract in preparation for future pregnancy, the mare requires substantial amounts of energy, protein, calcium and phosphorus. To maintain both adequate milk production and body condition, lactating mares will often need to be fed substantial amounts of grain and high quality forage.

Without adequate energy (calorie) intake, mares will lose body weight and may have problems conceiving. The most common feeding mistake made with lactating mares is to underfeed them. Careful management is necessary because individual requirements will vary greatly.

A foal at foot can quickly lower condition in the mare, and lactating mares in thin condition may take longer to rebreed and have lower pregnancy rates than mares in a moderate to fleshy condition.

HYGAIN TRU BREED®, is a great feed to ensure lactating mares get the nutrients they need in a palatable feed. Both of these feeds provide essential protein, energy and balanced levels of macro and micro nutrients to ensure health, fertility and optimum growth.

Each mare is an individual so make sure you monitor changes in body condition weekly and make feeding changes accordingly.

Foals will meet their nutritional requirements in their first 2-3 months of age from the mare’s milk and pasture. If a foal and mare are in good condition, the foal does not need to start creep feeding until it is at least 2 months old. However, some may need to start creep feeding by 30 days of age. In the third month of lactation the mare’s milk production drops while the foal’s nutritional needs keep increasing. Therefore, foals have a nutrient gap. Creep feeding (that is, using feed that the mare cannot get to) can provide the foal with extra nutrients to fill this gap.

Several aspects of creep feeding are very important:

  • Start creep feeding when foals are about 8 to 12 weeks old. Make sure the feed is fresh daily and that foals are consuming it adequately.
  • Use a creep feeder designed so that mares cannot gain access and so that foals will not be hurt. If you do not want a field type feeder, you can tie the mare in her stable, allowing the foal to eat.
  • Put the creep feeder where mares gather frequently.
  • Feed the creep feed at a rate of 1% of the foal’s body weight per day (max – 1 kg/100 kg of body weight).
  • Choose a feed that will be easy for the foal’s baby teeth to chew such as a pelleted feed like HYGAIN TRU BREED®