There’s nothing more exciting and gratifying than producing a foal from your favorite mare. After all the care and consideration that has gone into researching the right stallion and that new filly or colt is romping around, it’s all about supporting the mare as she becomes a “food factory” for your new arrival. So how do the needs of a lactating mare differ from other horses. For the answer, there’s no better authority than Cindy Reich and here’s the benefit of her decades of equine reproductive experience.
Cindy explains, “Lactation is the most demanding time of a mare’s life in terms of nutrition. She is recovering from giving birth and is producing milk for a ravenous foal. She will require approximately twice the feed of a horse in any other category (working, racing, training, etc.) If she is not in good body condition to begin with, it will be difficult to maintain her weight and allow for milk production without a lot of high quality nutrition. The mare will sacrifice her body condition before it will affect the foal, but if the mare can not get enough nutrition to produce enough milk, the foal can suffer as well and it can affect the foal’s growth and overall health. Lactating mares will require approximately twice the feed of a horse in almost any other category.
A high quality concentrate of at least 12-14% protein should be fed, and should be balanced for calcium and phosphorous—two minerals essential for the lactating mare. Alfalfa is a good forage for lactating mares as it is higher in both calcium and protein than other types of forage. Mares may need as much as 14lbs/day of concentrate in addition to forage for adequate nutrition. An 1100lb mare will eat 2.75% of her body weight in feed/day, which comes to 30lb of feed in total (roughage and concentrate).
Simply feeding 30 lbs of forage/day with no concentrate will not provide the additional energy, vitamins and minerals essential to the lactating mare. Therefore a combination of high quality forage and a balanced concentrate is the best choice. Monitor the mare’s condition during lactation and adjust the feed program up or down to accommodate. Also, if the foal begins to eat the mare’s feed, as it will, fairly quickly, take that into consideration as well when feeding the mare, to make sure she isn’t being robbed of her fair share!
Cindy Reich is the Equine Specialist at the WK Kellogg Arabian Horse Center at Cal Poly.
Visit her website at http://www.cindyreich.com/