Feeding the Pregnant and Nursing Mare Late Winter and Early Spring

Many mares today are foaling in less-than-ideal body condition. Short hay supplies and available pastures are partially to blame.

Unfortunately, this is the time of year that maintaining or gaining desired body weight is more difficult to accomplish. Spring grasses have not yet started to grow. Dormant grass (what little is left) is of low quality and poor digestibility. Mares cannot, or will not, consume enough of the standing dormant grass at this time year. If no additional feed is fed, the diet will be calorie, protein, and mineral deficient for the pregnant mares. To make sure nutrition is not a limiting factor in your breeding program, be sure your selected feed is:

  • Formulated and recommended to be fed to pregnant and nursing mares
  • Used per feeding directions (amounts) to ensure all of the mares’ nutritional needs are met
  • Given free choice – remember, mares do their best when they have access to free choice and adequate quality forages (a relative feed value over 100)

Mares foaling with a Body Condition Score (BCS) of less than 5 and a Topline Evaluation Score (TES) lower then ‘B’ are very vulnerable to weather and suckling stresses, and owners/managers must provide an improved feeding program to avoid:

  • Poor conception rates
  • Reduced quality and quantity of milk produced for the foal
  • Mares should foal in moderate to good condition (BSC between 5.5 and 6.5) with a TES of ‘A’ to promote:
  • Healthy fetal development
  • A strong viable foal at birth
  • Good rebreeding efficiency of the mare

Ideally, mares should be maintained in good body condition throughout their pregnancy and be gaining body weight during the rebreeding phase after foaling. The goal of all prenatal feeding programs should be to achieve the ideal “visual” scores of both BCS and TES by making the maximum use of the available forages first, then adding only what the mare needs to make up the difference between what nutrients are in the forage and her prenatal needs.

After foaling, increase the calories in her diet by providing a Grade 1 or 2 premium-quality hay free choice (a RFV above 125 is ideal) and a high-calorie horse feed until the spring grasses grow enough to provide the additional calories and protein the lactating mares need. Then adjust the amount of calories added, while ensuring adequate amino acids, minerals, and vitamins are fed. This can be managed very easily by adding one of our Diet Balancers as you reduce the amount of the horse feed fed per day. The feeds (grain mixture and hay) are higher priced this year and the costs of breeding will include:

  • Stud fees
  • Shipping of the mare or the semen
  • Breeding the mare
  • Ultrasound to determine pregnancy

This becomes very expensive if the conception rates are low.

For assistance, call Progressive Nutrition® today at this toll-free number: 1-888-239-3185. Ask for the name of our Equine Specialist/Account Manager in your area. They will be able to help you set up a feeding program to promote optimal health and reproduction of the mare, as well as growth and development of the newborn.