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Nutrition for the Lactating Mare

mareandfoalHello and welcome, with the foaling season fast approaching, we here at Allenweld thought it would be an ideal time to begin our blog!

Nutrition plays a fundamental role in all aspects of life. It will define how a horse (or you) will feel, look, perform and reproduce. As a third year student of Equine Science in the University of Limerick Ireland, I found broodmare nutrition to be very interesting and indeed tricky, to get right that is. Lactation is one the most physiologically demanding stages for broodmares as their nutritional requirements drastically increase in order to maintain weight while providing nursing foals with enough critical nutrients. With the foal growing most rapidly during the first three months, the mare will give up to 3% of her bodyweight daily in milk production. If a lactating mare’s diet is restricted, she will sacrifice her own calorie, protein, and mineral stores for milk production, hence it is important to monitor body condition score.The quality and quantity of the mare’s milk is directly related to foal’s growth rate, bodyweight and condition.

Good quality forage is necessary for the mare’s nutritional requirements but it will not provide all the vitamins and minerals needed, hence supplementation is essential. Good pasture management will maximise grass quality and quantity whilst pasture analysis will assist in determining necessary supplementation.High-quality protein is vital to delivering essential amino acids to the foal. The mare’s dietary requirements for lysine, the first limiting amino acid in growth and development, increase from about 38 grams per day in late pregnancy to 85 grams per day in early lactation for an average 500kg mare. When choosing feed, check the feed tag and ingredient list to ensure they include guaranteed levels of lysine. Dividing this into two or three meals per day can help increase nutrient digestion and absorption while reducing risk of digestive upset.

Overall its best to:

  • feed high quality forage with appropriate supplementation
  • ensure the lysine requirement is met
  • divide feed into 3 meals per day where possible
  • monitor the mare’s body condition score.

Please share with us your thoughts on this blog and any advice you would like to give. If there is anything you would like us to post about in future please ask!

Thank you for reading,

Yours,

Clare