Choosing the right diet for a pregnant mare is an essential component in achieving optimal growth and development of the foal, which ultimately impacts upon the potential of their future athletic career. During the first few months of pregnancy, it is sufficient to feed at maintenance requirements. However, as pregnancy advances, changes in energy and nutrients are required to maintain the body condition of the mare and to assist her in the creation and maintenance of gestational tissues.
Throughout pregnancy, on average a mare will gain 12-15% of her initial body weight, with most of this increase occurring during the last few months of gestation. Regular body condition scoring is vital to be carried out throughout gestation to avoid under or overweight mares as they reach their last trimester.
- Underweight – Can lead to prolonged gestation and depleted nutrient stores negatively impacting foetal development. Underweight mares can also struggle to produce high quality and sufficient quantities of milk during lactation.
- Overweight- Can lead to increased risk of dystocia, insulin sensitivity and decreased colostrum quality.
Along with a rise in energy and calorie demands, key nutrient requirements will also increase from mid-gestation to support foetal development and fulfil vital stores required for the first few months of life. Throughout the last trimester, the foetus stores trace minerals such as copper, zinc, magnesium and iron in the liver to help with sustaining growth during the first few months of life as there are inadequate levels within the milk. Without appropriate nutrition supplied to the mare, these trace minerals may not be stored in adequate levels which can lead to increased risk of developmental orthopaedic disorders and compromised immune system.
Protein will increase from mid-gestation by 5-8% above maintenance along with key nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and selenium requiring increased levels. Studies have shown that increased selenium and vitamin E resulted in higher antibody levels in foals and a reduced risk of afterbirth retention.
“Providing a balanced diet and correct nutrition throughout pregnancy is a fundamental aspect of supporting optimal growth and development to the foetus and neonatal foal. Getting it right from an early stage can impact them for the rest of their life”, stated Ashley Neely, Nutritional Advisor for Bluegrass Horse Feed.
The Kentucky Equine Research recommended daily allowance for a 570kg thoroughbred in early pregnancy for calcium is 42.8g and phosphorus 28.5g per day. This significantly increases during the last trimester to 55.6g for calcium and 37.1g for phosphorous. Providing a balanced diet to meet all these increasing energy and nutrients requirements can be provided through a fully fortified stud feed such as Bluegrass Stud Mix fed at the recommended feeding guidelines.
How to know what feed to choose?
- Good Doers – For pregnant mares that aren’t struggling to maintain body condition, a low-calorie balancer such as Bluegrass Stamm 30, if sufficient to provide all the key energy and nutrient requirements throughout all stages of pregnancy and lactation.
- Poor Doers – To help with maintaining a good body condition throughout pregnancy and lactation, some mares require a high-calorie diet. Bluegrass Stud Mix and Stud Cube both contain high-quality cereals and flax oil formulated to meet the increased demands throughout pregnancy and lactation.
High-quality forage should be the foundation to the diet, providing a minimum of 1.5% (dry matter) in body weight per day based on a 500kg horse, ideally, ad-lib forage should be provided to promote gastrointestinal health.
For more information, visit www.bluegrasshorsefeed.com and complete the diet request form to receive a tailored diet plan form our nutritional consultants.