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Preparing the mare for foaling, part1
Preparing the mare for foaling, part1

PREPARING THE PREGNANT MARE FOR FOALING, Part one

The time for the 1998 foals is here!  This is a very exciting time of the year.  The vast majority of the births go without a problem, other than the loss of sleep by the owner as we futilely try to catch the mare in the act of delivery!   Several of the potential problems associated with foaling can be addressed by a few preventative measures taken during the last three months of pregnancy.

Now is the time to critically evaluate the mare.  Is she in the body condition she should be to foal easily?  Many are heavy, as indicated by the fat layer over the rib cage.  If you lay your hand flat over the rib cage and do not feel the ribs, the mare is probably overweight.  Obesity can lead to early fatigue during the foaling process, as well as  interference within the birth canal from fat deposits.

If you feel the hardness of the ribs, she probably deserves a little grain along with a better quality hay.  The ideal condition here at the end of winter is when you can lay your hand on the rib cage and feel the ribs through a soft layer.

Regardless of the body condition of the mare, during the last two months of pregnancy she should receive a minimum of four pounds of grain per day.  This is the time of greatest growth in the foal, and the mare can use a little help feeding it.  If she is a little thin, the mare can safely be fed up to one percent of her body weight in grain.  If she is already eating this amount, or she does not respond to that amount of grain, then other grain formulas need to be considered.  A grain mix higher in fat, and maybe protein, should be beneficial.

Your regular deworming schedule should be followed. This of course depends on how many horses share how large an area of pasture, as we have discussed in the past.  If you are unsure how often your horses should be dewormed, please contact us for additional information.  Parasite control is important in the broodmare, as the parasites compete directly with the foal for nutrients.  The  heavily infested mare will be thin and unable to build reserves.  She will need those reserves to feed the rapidly growing foal during the late stages of pregnancy.   The heavily infested mare will also produce a smaller amount of milk after foaling.  Whatever the frequency of deworming, be sure to have a tube of ivermectin based dewormer (Eqvalan, Zermectrin, etc.) on hand by the foaling day.  On the day of foaling, deworm the mare to help eliminate the migrating worm larva from the udder.  This will prevent the foal from receiving a dose of half grown worms with it’s colostrum and early milk.

If your pregnant mares are still a few months from foaling, you will want to  be sure they receive their seven and nine month rhinopneumonitis vaccinations.  This is the critical time for the prevention of this viral abortion disease.  Most “rhino” related abortions will take place between the seventh and tenth months of pregnancy.

 The ninth month is the time to move the mare off fescue pasture.  If they are taken off fescue pasture and fed a non-fescue hay during the last two months of pregnancy, the effects of fescue will be greatly reduced.  An injection of vitamin E with selenium is very beneficial to both the udder and the uterus.  It helps with the development of the udder and also strengthens the uterus to speed recovery following delivery. These are both areas affected by the endotoxin associated with fescue grass.

More on the final preparations for foaling in our discussion next week.  Now would be an excellent time to double check your records, to confirm the breeding and foaling dates for your mares.

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