Feeding Broodmares

During a mare’s pregnancy, some significant changes happen that cause her nutrition needs to skyrocket. While bred mares should be fed a quality maintenance diet for the first half of their pregnancy, a maintenance feeding program just won’t cut it after the mid-way point of the pregnancy.

Since we cannot increase the feed intake drastically when the mare foals, she needs to be carrying some extra fat stores so she does not drop body condition drastically before we can bring her up to intake levels that fill lactation energy requirements.  Mares should be at about a body condition score 6 when they foal so that they have sufficient energy reserves for early lactation as well as to maintain condition for re-breeding. If she is in a significant negative energy balance (losing body condition) she is much less likely to rebreed easily and carry the next pregnancy.

To bring a mare along properly in her nutritional journey, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Good quality pasture or forage may provide sufficient energy thru late gestation, but may not provide adequate amino acids and minerals. 
  • A ration balancer product or a feed designed for pregnant mares may be used from month 5 to about month 10 or 11 of gestation to provide the missing nutrients. 
  • A feed designed for broodmares and foals should be introduced prior to foaling, so that the mare is properly adjusted to the feed well before she foals.  She is under quite a bit of stress immediately before foaling, so this is not the time to be introducing a new feed. This feed can then be increased after foaling to provide both the increased energy and the increased nutrients that are required for lactation, as well as providing nutrition for the foal when it starts to nibble on feed. 
  • Fresh clean water and free choice salt should also be available at all times.
  • The mare should also be vaccinated properly before foaling so that her colostrum, the rich first milk, contains antibodies to protect the foal.  Proper nutrition will also help immune response to vaccinations.

During lactation, a mare’s energy needs are easily doubled over her maintenance needs, and while a mare is producing milk for her offspring, her water consumption can exceed 50-100% that of a maintenance horse. Around 13-24 weeks after the mare has given birth, her milk production will begins to decrease, and the diet can start to be cut back slightly as nutritional needs are getting back to those of a normal maintenance horse.

Feeding the broodmare properly can help reduce the risk of developmental problems for the foal and help insure that the mare can be rebred in a timely manner to produce another foal the following year.

5 thoughts on “Feeding Broodmares

  1. I can understand I think the reason for the Aciopholos and last ingredients given on tag .What would they be for in the mare? May be for stress Ulcer?

  2. Can I grass a new a broodmare on a renovated pasture with 6 inch oats with rye grass, blue grass new seeding?

    • Hello Wayne, Rye grass and oats tend to be higher in non-structural carbohydrates which are great for grazing cattle, but may be a challenge for your mare if she has any metabolic challenges such as insulin resistance.

      If not, once the height has reached 8″, slow introduction to the pasture is acceptable. Feed her normal hay and feed and then simply start with just 15 minutes a day and very gradually working the minutes up that she is turned out on the pasture. You might also consider the use of a grazing muzzle to slow her consumption. Slow and steady introduction over a few weeks is best so as not to cause colic or laminitis.

      Thank you ~ Gina T.

  3. Hello,
    I recently bought a retired race horse who has also been a broodmare for the last four years. It’s has been years since I have owned a horse an I have gotten out of the swing of things so I just wanted some opinions on the grain I give her. She is on pasture an this winter will be moved an fed grass hay, I currently grain her in the morning (half scoop of crimped oats) to bring her back up from being a broodmare an work her. So far she is looking amazing. What I want opinions on is what kind of oats would be bets for her? Whole, rolled, or crimped? I don’t want anything too high in protein considering she is already hot headed being a retired race horse, an I don’t want to make her fat. I just want to bring her up an get her back in shape. Thank you

    • Thank you for your interesting question about a retired race mare that has been a broodmare for the last 4 years. If her teeth are good, whole oats is OK. If she has any dental issues, either rolled or crimped oats require less chewing to crush the hulls. You may also want to consider using a ration balancer product designed for grass hay to provide amino acids, minerals and vitamins that will not be in the hay or oats. This will help with muscle mass/Topline recovery as well. Make certain she has salt available free choice as well as clean water.
      Best wishes,
      Roy J.

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