The new year is an exciting time bringing new challenges and very soon new life in line with the breeding season. Correct nutrition becomes more apparent than ever to support optimal foetal development and milk production. During the last trimester 80% of foetal growth occurs and therefore correct feeding to the pregnant mare is vital.
Before looking at the mares’ nutrient requirements it’s important to access her body condition score (BCS). Broodmares should ideally be 3-3.5 on a five-point scale, meaning moderate to moderately fleshy. Her breed, age, metabolism type; good doer, fair doer or bad doer and previous foaling history should all be considered when developing a suitable diet.
Another thing to consider first is forage type and quality. Horses will need at least 1.5% of their body weight in dry matter of forage with lactating mares consuming up to 3%, ideally offer forage ad lib. Both hay and haylage needs to be of good quality, free of mould and fescue grasses. Remember when feeding haylage it has a lower dry mater content of 50-65% compared to hay, 80-95% and so more haylage needs to be fed to meet daily dry matter requirements compared to hay. Depending on foaling date, fresh pasture may be an option but again remember grass quality must be considered.
Key Points for Late Gestation
- Calorie demands increase from 71.13Mj/day early gestation to 87.86Mj/day by late gestation.
- Protein increases by 5-8% mid gestation over maintenance.
- Vitamin E and Selenium requirement increases over maintenance. These nutrients are often underprovided in a forage only diet, studies have shown that increased vitamin E and Selenium levels results in higher antibody levels in foals whilst also reducing the risk of afterbirth retention.
- The foetus stores trace minerals such as copper, zinc, iron and magnesium in the liver to help with growth during the first few months as milk has inadequate levels of these. If the mare lacks these nutrients the foal may be at an increased risk of developmental orthopaedic disorders and compromised immune system.
- At this stage, the mare’s appetite may decrease.
Key Points for Early Lactation
- The Digestible energy requirement is 132.63Mj/day which is higher to those in heavy work needing 111.29Mj/day.
- Protein requirement is at its highest at 1535g which is 41% over maintenance.
- Vitamin E requirement at maintenance is 500IU and then doubles to 1000IU during lactation.
- Lactating mares produce approximately 3% of their body weight in milk per day.
Good Doers – for those who do not struggle to maintain weight a low-calorie balancer such as Bluegrass Stamm 30 will provide all key nutrient requirements throughout gestation and lactation. If extra calories are needed during early lactation the addition of Bluegrass Turmash is recommended.
Poor Doers- for those who struggle to maintain their body condition score a high calorie diet will be required. Bluegrass Stud Mix and Stud Cube both contain high-quality cereals and flax oil formulated to meet the increased demands throughout pregnancy and lactation.
For any rations exceeding 2kg the feed should be split into several small meals spread throughout the day. Adding either Traditional Chaff or Garlic Chaff to the ration will help increase fibre intake whilst slowing intake which allows for better absorption of nutrients. Salt should also be provided from a free-choice source such as a salt block.
Contact the Bluegrass Horse Feed nutritional helpline to speak with one of our nutritional advisors for more information on feeding the mare during gestation and lactation or will out a Diet Request Sheet.