Now that spring is here, thoughts turn to this year’s crop of newborn foals that will soon be seen enjoying the sunshine in roadside fields across the country. It’s important to remember when feeding your pregnant mare that you must also feed for the requirements of the foal.
Foals ‘in-utero’ grow extremely quickly so require a high energy, protein and mineral supplemented diet to cope with this. You must make sure that the mare receives what she needs so that she can provide for the foal too. Her nutritional requirements vary tremendously between the first and third trimesters of her pregnancy and just when she needs those extra nutrients the most, her appetite is likely to be poor due to the space taken up in her abdomen by the foal.
Research has shown that the calorie requirements for a pregnant mare are 28% higher, protein is 42% higher and phosphorus/calcium are 80% higher than normal. You can see that it’s no good keeping her on her usual mix and just increasing the amount you feed her; this could lead to a deficiency in protein and minerals for both her and the foal. Pregnant mares can become very picky about their feed as pregnancy progresses and often go off their feed altogether, usually at a time when their nutrient needs are highest.
In order to meet the foal’s needs, your mare may compensate for feed deficiencies by using calories, protein etc from her own fat stores, bones and other tissues. This is not a good situation especially as her nutrient requirements are going to increase even more when she begins producing milk after the foal is born.
The mare’s requirements really increase during the final trimester of her pregnancy as this is when 80% of the fetal foal’s growth occurs. She will need the majority of nutritional support when she first gives birth and is lactating heavily as she not only has to provide for her foal but must support her own requirements too.
Good digestive health is very important for your mare and the best way to ensure this is by feeding unlimited grass hay with a small amount of straight feed to supplement it. If you have the hay analysed by a feed nutritionist or your local vet, they will be able to tell you if any additional supplementation is required so that you can choose a suitable additive offering protein, calcium and phosphorus.
Most of the big feed manufacturing companies have free help lines and will happily offer advice as to the best feed regime to suit your individual mare’s requirements.
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