Breeding a healthy foal is only the beginning of the story. The aim of every breeder is to maximize the genetic potential of the offspring, enabling well-reared Youngstock to develop into adults with long and fulfilling lives.
Good nutrition for the mare is vital to give the foal the best possible start to life. The gestation period for a mare is 11 months, this period can be divide into two stages. Early gestation, covering the first 8 months of pregnancy, and late gestation covering the last three months of pregnancy.
In terms of feeding for these two different phases, during the first eight months of pregnancy feed, a good quality balanced maintenance diet e.g.. Spillers Horse and Pony Cubes or Mix. This will aid fetal development without allowing the mare to get fat. The only exception to this is if the mare is lactating or if she is in particularly poor condition, if this is the case feed a quality stud ratio.
The last three months of pregnancy is when 60% of foetal development occurs. To support this growth the mare’s nutritional requirements increase. Research has shown her energy requirements increase by up to 20% above maintenance. Protein, calcium, and phosphorus also increase as the foetus develops. Trace element nutrition is also vital in late pregnancy. To meet all these requirements move the mare slowly over to a stud ration.
If you have a native mare or a good doer they will not require the nutrition of a stud feed. In these cases continue to feed at a maintenance level, but make sure the extra requirements for amino acids and trace elements are met by adding in a broad spectrum supplement to provide the necessary requirements for the mare and her growing foetus at this important time.
During lactation, your mare will we working as hard as she would if she were running a race everyday. Poor nutrition during the first three months of lactation can have an adverse effect on the mare’s body condition, fertility, and foal growth. At this time the stud ration can be used up to 50% of daily intake especially if hay or grazing is poor.
Once the foal is born, he will gain all his nutrition from his mother’s milk in the first few weeks. After this, energy from the milk will not fully meet the foals requirements as milk quality decreases. To aid normal foal growth, and to provide the extra amino acids, vitamins, and minerals essential for muscle development and normal skeletal growth, a good rule of thumb is to give a pound of feed per month of age for thoroughbreds but restricted to half of this for smaller or slower growing breeds.
Aim for constant growth avoiding sudden spurts, and avoid overfeeding as this may predispose the foal to Developmental Orthopaedic Disease (DOD).