Jarvis Insurance Newsletter
Proper mare management is essential to ensure the birth of a live, healthy foal with the greatest probability of survival and success in performance. To breed efficiently, your mare must be in proper body condition. Thin mares do not become pregnant or maintain pregnancy as readily as moderate or fleshy mares; however, lower milk production and foal growth are observed in very fat mares.
It is advisable to do a follow-up pregnancy check on all bred mares in the fall even if previous checks and pregnancy determinants were done.
HEALTH CARE - To provide the best production for your mare and her foal, follow your veterinarian's recommended vaccination, deworming, and hoof-care program. Deworm your mare every 2 months throughout pregnancy except in the last 30 days. Do not give your mare unnecessary drugs during the first 60 days, nor during the last 30 days of pregnancy.
FEEDING - Keep your mare in a consistent body condition rather than allowing her to gain or lose weight. If the mare is in proper condition and the pasture plentiful, supplementing the ration probably is unnecessary. If the pasture is questionable, adjust your horse's diet according to its individual needs as assessed by body condition. Make sure clear, fresh water and trace mineralized salt are available at all times, and at all ages, weights and period of gestation.
Mares have only a maintenance nutritional requirement during the first 8 months of gestation. Most fetal growth occurs during the last third of pregnancy, thus nutritional requirements, especially for proteins, minerals, and vitamins are greatest during this period. Pregnant mares need to be in desired body condition prior to the last trimester, thus the second trimester is the best time to feed them to achieve the desired healthy condition.
The mare's greatest nutritional demands occur during early lactation. Milk production increases during the first 30 to 60 days, then steadily declines. Your mare should have access to a properly balanced ration that satisfies her increased lactation requirements. A mare can, however, lactate successfully on pasture alone if her nutrition requirements are being met. If pasture is not available, adjust your horse's complete ration to maintain lactation and body condition according to the NRC feeding guidelines.
FOALING PREPARATION - As the day approaches for your mare to give birth to her foal, preparations should be made to create a warm and healthy environment. About 30 days prior to foaling, introduce the mare to the stall where she will foal. This allows her to produce protective antibodies against the microorganisms in the environment. she will then be able to pass these antibodies on to her foal in the colostrum. Providing your mare with her own stall will help her stay relaxed, provide her with a place to rest, and give her a quiet place to bond with her foal. The preferred stall size for your mare is 14 x 14 feet, which should be lined with straw. Though it is important to ensure the mare has plenty of room to move around in her stall, it is even more important for the stall to be as sanitary as possible.
Contacting your veterinarian a few days before your mare is expected to foal is advisable. A few signs that your mare is ready to foal include the following:
- Enlarging of udders with "waxed beads" of colostrum.
- Frequent urination.
- Swelling and relaxing of the vulva.
- Relaxed croup muscles, producing a sunken appearance over the hips.
- Mare can become restless and start to sweat.
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FOALING - Labor occurs in three distinct stages. In stage one, the mare is restless. This may continue for 12 to 24 hours. During this period, the fetus is positioned for delivery and the cervix is dilated. This stage end with the rupture of the chorio-allantoic membrane ("breaking of the water bag"), which lubricates the birth canal and aides in delivery of the foal.
The actual birth or hard labor is stage two. It usually is rapid, with most foals born in 20 to 30 minutes In a normal presentation, the foal's front feet appear first, with heels pointed down toward the mare's hocks. The foal's hind feet usually remain in the mare 5 to 15 minutes after foaling, while the foal and mare lie resting. In a normal delivery, the foal's nose should be lying on or about the knees. One front leg usually is slightly forward of the other, speeding the foal's movement through the birth canal. After the head exits the vulva, you may see a clear, transparent membrane (amnion), which covers the legs and head. If this membrane does not rupture and free the foal's head, open it and free the head so the foal can breath. It's best not to disturb them while the umbilical cord is still connected. Premature breaking of the umbilical cord by the mare, foal, or human may result in a loss of very important fetal blood supply.
In stage three, the uterus shrinks and the placenta (afterbirth) is expelled normally without assistance. Never try to remove the placenta. If the placenta is still attached after 2 to 2 hours, call your veterinarian because it may result in a medical emergency. Save the afterbirth for the veterinarian to examine. Store it in a clean garbage bag.
AFTER-FOALING MARE CARE - It's important to monitor the mare and foal for the first 48-72 hours. Even though foaling takes only 20 -30 minutes, it tires the mare. It's important that the dam and foal bond, so it's best to leave them alone if there is no problem requiring immediate attention.
Some maiden mares try to move away from the foal. It's advisable to attend the foaling of all maiden mares to ensure safe delivery a nd bonding. If the mare does not accept the foal readily, you may need to restrain the mare while the foal nurses its first few times.
Mares are usually thirsty after foaling. Offer your mare slightly arm water; but do not let her drink too much at once. She also may be hungry, and one option is to try feeding a wet-bran mash. The bran mash may help move material through her digestive system, and keeps her feces soft. This aids in the mare's comfort since her reproductive tract probably will be bruised.
Allow the mare and foal outside for exercise in a small paddock or pasture the day after birth. Exercise may aid the mare in expelling uterine discharge and speeds the return of the uterus to normal condition.
A foul-smelling uterine discharge indicates a uterine infection, which requires medical attention. A swollen, feverish udder is an indication the foal has not nursed or the mare may have mastitis. If the foal has not nursed within the first 3 hours, there probably are problems that require medical attention.
Foaling is an incredible experience that is worth careful consideration. Allowing your mare to breed requires a strong dedication to the process. By ensuring that you are able to provide your mare with the necessary elements for a healthy pregnancy, you can aid your mare in the foaling process and reduce the risk of complications. Providing your mare with an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals, exercise, good quality health care and a safe sanitary environment will make the process easier and more enjoyable for both you and your mare.