Correct nutrition is essential for the broodmare as nutrients are not only required for the growth of the foetus, but the development of the uterus, mammary glands and the placenta. Insufficient nutrition can lead to a long-term loss of nutrients and have an impact on the development and growth of the foal. So, what should you be feeding your broodmare to help the foal get the nutrients it requires?
Prior to the broodmare being covered it’s important that she meets the desired body condition score. Ideally the mare should be on a rising plane of nutrition to increase her chances of conceiving, so more conditioning horse feeds may be required. For an overweight mare, it may be necessary to reduce her forage intake, but ensure that it never goes below 1.5% of her bodyweight per day. Maintaining appropriate nutrition for the broodmare is imperative for the support of immunity and fertility and it will provide her with a better chance of conceiving the first time.
Good Nutrition that Comes From Conception
Over-feeding the mare can result in excessive weight gain which can sometimes increase the risk of problems during foaling. The mare needs to consume a balanced and nutritious diet including essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Even if your mare is looking well at grass, she should receive supplementary nutrition, such as a stud balancer, alongside alfalfa to ensure that she is receiving all the essential nutrient requirements. It is a good idea to analyse your forage so you can address any mineral deficiencies before they cause a problem further down the line.
As the pregnancy progresses, continue to feed chopped fibre to your broodmare as this will increase the chew time and the amount of saliva produced to help keep the digestive tract healthy. If your mare needs more support to hold her weight you can use a fibre and oil-based feed that contains as much energy as a stud cube but without the same level of starch.
The last trimester of pregnancy is when the most growth occurs, and the broodmare will often require more energy. Those bred artificially early will require more supplementary feed, as opposed to those foaling when the grass has improved in May or June which will largely support their increased energy needs. By feeding high quality fibre you can provide energy, but not an increase in starch. Sometimes, during this trimester the mare’s appetite may disappear as the foetus is growing faster and there is less space available for her digestive system. Therefore, by dividing her feed into small meals throughout the day, this will help to allow the calories and nutrients to be consumed in a small volume.
Nutrients For Lactation
During lactation a higher demand of energy and nutrients is needed from the mare to support the foal’s growth. Calcium, protein, vitamin A and phosphorus are significantly increased. For the first three months foals are completely dependent on the milk from the mare. Therefore, it’s important that the energy requirements of the mare are met in order to fuel the production of milk. Make sure the mare has access to plenty of water during this time too. It’s important that the mare doesn’t become deficient in calories, protein and minerals as this can result in her losing weight, muscle, top line and her bone and liver stores can be sacrificed to support the foal.
Hopefully this guide will help you to feed your broodmare before being covered up to lactation. If you require more information regarding maintaining the correct nutrition for your mare during pregnancy, get in touch with an equine nutritionist or vet for guidance.