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Disadvantages of foal heat breeding, and steps to take...
Disadvantages of foal heat breeding, and steps to take...

More on Foal Heat Breeding

There is the potential to breed the brood mare only ten days after she delivers a foal.  This period of sexual receptivity is called foal heat because it is the first heat period after foaling.  In our rush to have earlier and earlier foals, we are tempted to breed the mare at this time.  If successful, the mare will foal three weeks earlier next year!

All of us involved in reproduction are amazed the mare will deliver a package weighing 10 to 15% of her own weight, and be expected to become pregnant again in only nine to ten days.  It is obvious God is a man!  Even so soon after delivery and even though the uterus is still so heavy we can hardly lift it on rectal exam, about half of the mares will conceive on foal heat breedings.

The advantages of breeding the mare back so soon have been mentioned above and have to do with earlier foals.  If the mare delivered without complications, passed her placenta within an hour of foaling, and shows no signs of uterine infection, she may be a candidate for early breeding.  If you or your neighbor own the stallion, early breeding may also be considered because he is so convenient.

There are many disadvantages worth considering when deciding the best breeding time for the new mother.  In addition to the relatively low conception rate, there is a much higher rate of re-absorptions (miscarriages) with foal heat breeding.  The uterus is just not ready to receive the embryo always.  So, if you are hauling the mare and newborn some distance and paying a large breeding fee, it may be better to wait until after foal heat.  During a heat period the uterus is cleaned and prepared for receiving an embryo.  When the uterus is under the influence of estrogens, the blood supply and its defensive cells are present at a very high level.  They are cleaning the uterus of any debris and bacteria left from foaling.  It is almost impossible to culture a mare’s uterus between foaling and foal heat without finding growth.  After foal heat, we expect to find a clean culture!

If you have decided foal heat breeding is necessary for your mare, there are a few things we can do to help prepare the uterus.  By using medication to stimulate the uterus, the resulting contractions will help in removing the debris left from foaling.  Washing the inside of the uterus with a sterile solution also aids in removing debris.  Administered about a week after foaling, these procedures are a tremendous help in achieving a pregnancy.  To be sure of the condition of the uterus, we can ultrasound it for signs of fluid accumulation and, upon finding some, delay breeding or make plans to treat the mare immediately after breeding to remove it.  Limiting the times a mare is covered (bred) to one or maybe two times will decrease contamination of the uterus and reduce the amount of cleanup it has to do.

When is the best time for breeding the foaling mare?  Actually about any time other than foal heat.  The very best time is the heat which will be thirty days from the day the foal was born. By now the uterus has nearly returned to normal and is ready to accept another world beater foal!  The interval between foal heat and the thirty day heat can be shortened with the use of prostaglandins.  We commonly do this for artificial insemination, so we can have the mare come into heat on our schedule for ordering and receiving semen during the week.

Regardless of the other activities you have planned for the mare, one of the most important is reducing her feed intake drastically on day seven and feeding her only a token amount (one cup?) for the next week.  This will reduce her milk output and greatly reduce the chances the foal will break with foal heat diarrhea.  On day 14, she can be rewarded with an increase in feed and the baby rewarded with an increased milk flow.

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