Healthy Foals Start With Healthy Mares
Is your pregnant mare getting the nutrition she needs? Adequate nutrition is important year round but especially during those last few months. The fetus increases in size by one pound per day during the last three months of pregnancy (source). That makes up 2/3 of fetal growth all in just a few months!
High quality, concentrated sources of protein, energy, vitamins and minerals are particularly important in the last few months of gestation. Ensuring the best nutrition possible will help your mare recover from the stress of foaling, lactating and rebreeding. A lack of adequate nutrition in those last few months could negatively effect milk supply and ability to rebreed. The foal’s dramatic increase in size at nine months tends to cause the mare to be deterred from “bulky,” overly filling meals. This is a perfect time to rely on concentrated sources to get your mare those essential nutrients.
Aside from providing for the fetus, protein is particularly important for your mare’s growing placenta. Plus, when she foals, your lactating mare will demand twice as much protein as barren or early bred horses. This is due to her milk being extremely high in protein. A lactating mare will secrete over one pound of protein in her milk each day (source).
Energy requirements for mares won’t increase until the ninth month when the fetus starts its big jump in growth. Then, it is recommended you consider providing concentrated sources of energy. Be careful that these energy sources aren’t too “bulky” or overly filling if you’ve noticed your mare start to decrease her feed intake. That foal is taking up a lot of space in there so try to get as much as you can out of smaller doses.
Vitamins and Minerals
Your mare’s body is giving everything it can to the fetus growing inside her. To ensure both mom and baby have everything they need, look for a high quality source of vitamins and minerals to help her through feeding the rapidly growing fetus, maintaining a healthy body condition score through lactation, and preparing her for rebreeding.
Calcium and phosphorus are particularly important to a pregnant mare in her last few months of pregnancy and through lactation in order to support milk production. From early to late gestation, the mare’s calcium and phosphorus demands practically double, by lactation those demands will have tripled. If there is a lack of adequate calcium, the mare’s body will begin depleting it from her bones in order to take care of the foal resulting in decreased bone density (source).
In addition to calcium and phosphorus, zinc and copper are also an important part of a pregnant mare’s diet. These four nutrient requirements cannot be met with forage alone and must be supplemented into the horse’s diet. Other vital nutrients include selenium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E.
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