Three things you need to think about during the final months of gestation
Did you know that most of a foals growth occurs in the final months of the mares gestation? It's hard to imagine that at approximately 215 days of gestation, your foal is only around the size of an average house cat (Murase et al. 2014). This means that the demands on your mare are increased during these final months in order for your foal to make such a significant change in size.
So what are some of the things you should consider when caring for your pregnant mare during this time?
Exercise should be reduced: We don’t mean stall rest! Movement is important for your mares health and mobility throughout her pregnancy. However, if you’ve still been hopping on her every now and then, it’s time to hang up the bridle. Let your mare enjoy her turnout and maintain an easy going lifestyle. The rapid weight gain during these final months will already be putting extra strain on her body.
Nutrition should be re-evaluated: Just like humans, your mare should have been consuming a nutritionally balanced diet throughout her gestation, but during these final months is it more important than ever. Rapid fetal growth means the foal will be demanding more nutrients from the mare and stores will be easily depleted if not replenished. We also want to make sure that your mare has ample milk production come foaling so we need to account for this increase in demand by making sure she is consuming good forage and possibly increasing grain to ensure appropriate protein, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A levels (KER. 2017). You mare needs to maintain her weight, support fetal growth and lactation, and have sufficient energy levels. Most feed companies produce a maternity ration which is formulated specifically for broodmares to meet these needs. The FoalPoint herd health feature allows you to log each mares diet, allowing everyone involved in her care to be aware of feed changes throughout her gestation.
Breeders should also consider pasture forage since some grasses such as tall fescue can be infected with a fungus that causes issues including a thick and/or retained placenta, poor milk production, and weak or stillborn foals (KER. 2017). Your mare should be taken off of tall fescue pasture 90 days prior to foaling. Breeding your mare when she is in a good body condition is your best bet to maintain a healthy weight gain throughout her pregnancy. Both underweight and overweight mares can compromise the development of their foals and have a reduced milk supply post foaling (KER. 2017). This is why we included a body condition scoring feature on FoalPoint, as it is a important part of breeding management.
Maintaining up-to-date vaccinations: Consulting your veterinarian on a vaccination schedule should be something you do as soon as you know your mare is in foal. Having this information ahead of time is a good idea especially because we all know how busy a breeders schedule is. This way, you can increase preparedness and reduce the chance of any devastating events occurring. Your mare should receive her Pneumabort vaccine at 5,7, and 9 months to protect her against equine herpes virus and Rhinopneumonitis. Pneumabort increases antibodies against EHV but most importantly, greatly reduces the risk of abortion by contracting Rhinovirus (Sertich. 2018). A month before foaling, your mare should also receive a vaccination booster for tetanus, Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis, and Influenza (Sertich. 2018). Foals are born without immunization but receive it passively through colostrum. This booster will make sure your mares body creates enough antibodies to protect both her and her newborn foal.
You mare should also maintain a regular deworming schedule to reduce the foals exposure to parasites. Her last treatment should be 4-6 weeks before the end of gestation and you should always check product labels to make sure the dewormer is pregnancy safe (Sertich. 2018). FoalPoint has the ability to log vaccination records and manage herd health as well as set reminders for important events such as the Pneumabort vaccine.
Breeding is an all around investment and there is still work to be done in the months between a positive pregnancy check and foaling. Staying informed and organized is your best bet to have a healthy mare and foal in the spring.
Kentucky Equine Research. 2017. Six steps to feeding the pregnant mare. Kentucky equine research: Equinews. Available at https://ker.com/equinews/six-steps-feeding-pregnant-mare/
Murase. H. et al. 2014. Ultrasonographic evaluation of equine fetal growth throughout gestation in normal mares using a convex transducer. Journal of veterinary medical science. 76(7): 947–953.
Sertich, P. 2018. Vaccinations in horse reproduction. Merck veterinary manual. Available at https://www.merckvetmanual.com/management-and-nutrition/management-of-reproduction-horses/vaccinations-in-horse-reproduction
Sertich, P. 2018. Parasite control during pregnancy in horses. Merck veterinary manual. Availale at https://www.merckvetmanual.com/management-and-nutrition/management-of-reproduction-horses/parasite-control-during-pregnancy-in-horses