Feeding Broodmares: Fall Check List for Broodmares – Verify Pregnancy & Plan for Next Year

Feeding BroodmaresOne of the most important development periods in the life of a foal is the last six months of gestation when the foal is developing in the uterus of the mare.

The importance of this period was recognized in the Nutrient Requirements of Horses, Sixth Edition, when the Committee established that the nutrient requirements of the mare start increasing at the sixth month of gestation.

Mares that foaled and were re-bred or were bred in the first four months of the calendar year may now be entering sixth month of gestation, so a fall check-up is an excellent idea.

The key elements of managing the pregnant mare are the following:

  1. Verify that all bred mares are pregnant. If there are open mares, now is the time to assess potential problems and prepare them for breeding the next season. If a mare was pregnant and has lost the pregnancy, now is the time to plan her program. If she needs to go under lights, that should happen about December 1. If Body Condition was an issue, now is the time to bring her up to desired score.
  2. 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 they need to gain weight, now is an excellent time to gradually increase the energy intake of the diet so they will be in the desired body condition at foaling. If they are a bit too heavy, increased exercise or slight reduction in energy intake may be useful while still maintaining amino acid, vitamin and mineral intake for the developing foal. Drastic weight loss is NOT recommended!
  3. Lysine, methionine and threonine, the first three limiting essential amino acids, need to sufficient in the diet for placental and fetal development. Amino acids are more critical than crude protein.
  4. The mare needs to be receiving adequate calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium to provide minerals for the development of the foal and to build the foals own trace mineral reserves. Trace minerals are also critical for immune support. A good vitamin program is also essential.
  5. A regular health care program should be developed in conjunction with a veterinarian so the mare is protected herself and can also produce antibodies to protect the foal when it nurses and receives the colostrum that contains maternal antibodies.

Good quality pasture or forage may provide sufficient energy thru late gestation, but is unlikely to provide adequate amino acids, vitamins and minerals. An appropriate ration balancer product may be used from month five to about month 10 or 11 of gestation to provide the missing nutrients. A feed designed for broodmares and foals can be introduced prior to foaling so that the mare is on the feed before she foals. 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.

Feeding the broodmare properly during gestation 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.

Feeding Broodmares

Horse representing feeding broodmares

During a mare’s pregnancy, significant changes occur that cause her nutritional needs to increase substantially. While bred mares can be fed a quality maintenance diet during the first half of their pregnancy, this approach is insufficient in the latter stages. Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting the mare’s body condition, lactation, and successful rebreeding. This article provides guidelines for feeding broodmares to meet their specific nutritional requirements during pregnancy and lactation.

Nutritional Considerations During Pregnancy

Ensuring Adequate Energy Reserves

To prevent a drastic drop in body condition after foaling, it is essential for the mare to carry extra fat stores. Since it is challenging to increase feed intake dramatically after foaling, maintaining a body condition score of 6 when the mare foals is recommended. This ensures sufficient energy reserves for early lactation and maintaining condition for re-breeding. Mares in significant negative energy balance are less likely to rebreed easily and carry the next pregnancy successfully.

Importance of Balanced Nutrition

While good quality pasture or forage may provide sufficient energy during late gestation, they may lack essential amino acids and minerals. To address this, consider using a ration balancer product or a feed specifically designed for pregnant mares. From month 5 to about month 10 or 11 of gestation, these products can provide the necessary nutrients that may be lacking in the forage.

Preparing for Lactation

It is advisable to introduce a feed designed for broodmares and foals before foaling to allow the mare to adjust to the feed well in advance. Introducing a new feed immediately before foaling, when the mare is under significant stress, should be avoided. After foaling, the feed can be increased to provide the additional energy and nutrients required for lactation. This feed will also contribute to the foal’s nutrition as it starts to nibble on feed.

Additional Considerations: Water, Salt, and Vaccinations

Ensure fresh, clean water and free choice salt are available to the broodmare at all times. Adequate hydration is essential, especially during lactation when a mare’s water consumption can exceed 50-100% of that of a maintenance horse. It is also important to vaccinate the mare properly before foaling to ensure her colostrum, the rich first milk, contains antibodies to protect the foal. Proper nutrition can also support the mare’s immune response to vaccinations.

Lactation and Postpartum Nutrition: Increased Energy Needs and Subsequent Adjustments

During lactation, a mare’s energy needs can easily double compared to her maintenance requirements. Additionally, water consumption remains high while she produces milk for her offspring. As the mare’s milk production decreases around 13-24 weeks after giving birth, the diet can be adjusted slightly, gradually returning to the nutritional needs of a normal maintenance horse.

Properly feeding broodmares is crucial to minimize the risk of developmental problems for the foal and ensure the mare can rebreed successfully. By meeting their specific nutritional needs during pregnancy and lactation, horse owners can support the overall health and well-being of both the mare and the foal, setting the stage for future reproductive success.

At Nutrena, we believe proper nutrition plays the biggest role for a lifetime of health and happiness for every horse. That’s why Nutrena horse feeds are specifically formulated for every life stage and activity level. 

Learn more about our feeds formulated specifically for broodmares to ensure your horse is getting the optimum nutrition  to maintain their weight and health at feeding time, every time.

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