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Pregnant mare management

Here are some reminders on what to think about during a mare’s pregnancy.

On average, a mare’s pregnancy takes about 335-342 days. Foals born before 320 days are usually premature and non-viable.

The rapid growth of the foetus takes place in the last three months of pregnancy and the mare’s nutritional intake should be adjusted accordingly.

Energy and protein requirements increase as well as the requirements for vitamins, minerals and trace elements. For this reason, pregnant mares will benefit from supplementation with a product designed for their requirements such as mare balancer nuts. If you’re unsure about your mare’s nutrient uptake, give us a call for a nutrition check.

Selenium plays a role in fertility and should have been supplemented in known deficient mares before pregnancy. If selenium levels haven’t been tested, we can do this for you. Selenium deficiency in pregnant mares can lead to problems in the foal.

Body condition of the pregnant mare is also important and should be assessed. Mares should be in good condition at foaling, so they can meet the high demands of early lactation. This is especially important if the mare is to be rebred following foaling. However, care should be taken that pregnant mares do not become obese. Both obesity and pregnancy may lead to laminitis, whichmeans that the mare would require drugs that may end up in milk, and the mare wouldn’t be able to move around with the foal freely.

Good dental care should be given to ensure that pregnant and lactating mares can digest their feed properly so they can take up the nutrients they need and maintain body condition.

Booster vaccinations for tetanus, strangles and preferably salmonella should be administered 4-6 weeks before foaling. Equine Herpes Virus 1 (EHV1) can cause abortion storms in unvaccinated mares. For this reason, we recommend that pregnant mares be also vaccinated against EHV1. Maiden mares or those not previously vaccinated should be vaccinated in the 3rd, 4th and 6th or 4th, 5th and 7th months of pregnancy. If the mare has had a primary course such as this, then only a yearly booster is required. The best time for this booster can vary so please discuss timing with Totally Vets. Getting the mare’s vaccinations up-to-date should ensure that the newborn foal receives colostrum which is high in antibodies against these diseases. At vaccination time, the mare can be examined to see if a caslick has been performed and if so, this can be opened.

Worming the mare with a broad-spectrum drench in the last month of pregnancy will also reduce the exposure of the newborn to parasites (see your vet for the best option – not all drenches are equal!).

The importance of the pregnant mare’s feet cannot be underestimated. A mare in foal with neglected feet is susceptible to a wide range of foot conditions including laminitis and foot abscesses. Please keep in regular contact with your farrier for continued regular hoof trimming and care. For a foal to develop into a strong individual it needs to be able to run around, therefore the mare should be able to do so as well to stimulate this in their foal.

It is advisable to introduce the mare to the foaling environment 4-6 weeks before foaling to minimise stress close to the time and to allow her to acclimatise. This will also expose the mare to any pathogens present in this new environment and give her time to build up antibodies. These antibodies will be passed on to the newborn via the colostrum and provide the foal with protection.

In the last trimester the mare’s udder and vulva should be observed for changes. Early udder development and early lactation may be a sign that something’s wrong with the pregnancy and foal. Vulval discharge is not normal and may be a sign of an infected placenta.

If you have any queries regarding the management of your mare in the run-up to foaling, please contact us.

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