- 28th July 2021 by Rowen Barbary
Feeding the Lactating Mare and Foal
There are a number of factors to consider when caring for the broodmare and later when she has a foal at foot, with the nutritional well-being of her and her foal being at the foremost of every owners mind. The last three months of pregnancy the mare’s nutrient requirements will increase, so a well-balanced concentrate should be fed to help meet with the higher nutritional demands. After birth, the foal will rely on the mare for the nutrients crucial for healthy growth and development, but as they grow older they become more independent exploring the paddock and spending more time away from their mothers side.
Feeding the Mare
It is important the mare is receiving a well balanced and energy dense ration, to ensure she is producing plenty of quality milk for her foal. Fibre should still be the forefront of the diet and good quality forage will contribute significantly to her nutritional requirements. To ensure she is receiving all the nutrients, a high calorie nutrient dense feed is recommended. Mares within the first three months of lactation should be monitored to ensure they are maintaining their own condition and does not drop below 5 on the Henneke, 1-9 scale. If the mare is losing condition she requires more feed to meet the energy requirements. The mare can be fed up to 3% of her body weight, this includes the forage and concentrates.
The first few days of lactation are vital for the mare to pass on protection to her foal via Colostrum. Colostrum is a rich source of anti-bodies which helps the foal to build up its own immune system. Colostrum is higher in energy and protein than an equal amount of normal milk. Ideally the foal should be suckling from the mare within the first two to three hours after birth.
Lactation is physiologically demanding for the mare, particularly in the first three months as she will produce 3% of her body weight a day in milk. The mare’s energy requirement is higher and her appetite is likely to increase to be able to support the milk production. It is vital to provide enough energy, nutrients such as protein and micronutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, iron, copper and zinc. If your mare is in good condition, good quality grazing and forage with 11-14% protein will contribute significantly to her needs but may require additional supplementation such as Rowen Barbary’s Stud Mix to meet the mare’s high nutritional requirements.
During the fourth month of lactation the mare’s milk production will start to decrease to around 2% of her body weight and therefore her nutritional demand will also start to decrease. At this stage the milk may only provide up to 30% of the foals energy requirements and depending on its growth and condition it may require a creep feed to be added into the diet.
Feeding the Foal:
The mare’s milk will support the foal up until weaning. Foals will nurse between 50 to 60 times a day however you may want to introduce a feed if the foal is not receiving quality milk to support growth or if the foal will be going into Breeding Futurity young horse evaluations.
Foals will begin to explore and nibble at grass, hay/haylage and the mare’s feed between 10-21 days old. The foal may not require a stud ration if its growth and development is on track and it has access to good quality grass and forage. Owners may want to introduce their foal to a creep feed in the weeks before weaning. The gradual introductions to a creep feed can be beneficial for growth and development but also the gastrointestinal tract will mature and this gradual introduction will help to prevent any digestive upset when the foal is weaned. Creep feeds are usually milk-based to begin with as it is more palatable and easier for the foal to consume and digest however, typically foals are introduced to concentrate feeds at around 10 - 14 weeks of age, at a rate of 1% of the foals body weight per day (1kg/100kg of body weight).
Rowen Barbary’s Ready Mash Extra is a high calorie, palatable, soft textured mash which is ideal for weanlings and young stock for growth and development. It contains essential oils and milk-powders for condition and highly digestible fibre to support gastric health. Ready Mash Extra is also fully balanced so will not require any further supplementation and only takes 5 minutes to soak.
If you are looking to make the change onto hard feed from a soft textured feed you have the option to gradually introduce the stud mix and reduce the Ready Mash Extra until the feed just consists of the Stud Mix. Rowen Barbary’s Stud Mix is a multipurpose ration and this means it is suitable for Broodmares, Weanlings up to Two year-olds. The Stud Mix is nutrient dense and highly palatable. High levels of oils are supported by anti-oxidants to maintain and improve condition including good quality protein sources which ensures healthy growth and development. The Stud Mix supplies a natural source of B Vitamins, amino acids and Brewers Yeast alongside essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements for health and vitality.