The first eight weeks of nursing are as strenuous an activity as your mare will ever undertake and will have a lasting impact on how well her foal develops and matures. You must therefore ensure mares have the nutritional support they need through a well-balanced ration designed for pregnancy and lactation.
Unless your pasture is of excellent quality, mares will benefit from the addition of a protein forage such as
alfalfa while they’re nursing. A good choice is 100% natural alfalfa in a chop and or a natural alfalfa pellet that can be used as a creep feed and fed dry or as a nutritious mash.
Owners often increase feed after their mare is tested in foal, reasoning that she’s now “eating for two”. This is unnecessary and may lead to obesity and foaling difficulties, especially if the mare has access to good grass during early pregnancy. The foetus’s nutrient requirements are minuscule, so your mare can be fed essentially the same as if she were not pregnant. The nutrient requirements increase significantly only after foaling.
During the first three months of lactation, mares produce milk at a rate equal to about 3% of their bodyweight per day. This is rich in energy, protein, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins, so the mare should receive enough balanced feed to meet her greatly increased requirements. Research has shown that adding extra trace elements to a lactating mare’s diet doesn’t actually increase the trace mineral content of the milk. Calcium and phosphorus are the minerals of primary concern during lactation.
Finally, remember that the most common mistakes are overfeeding during early pregnancy and underfeeding during lactation.
For a full diet assessment email Jo on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact 07970 165479.
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