Changing Nutritional Needs
During the first part when your mare is pregnant, following a normal, healthy diet and exercise regimen is acceptable, but the mare’s nutritional needs change dramatically in the last trimester. During this time the fetal foal grows quickly. In fact, it doubles in size and weight during the last four to six weeks of pregnancy. This leads to a delicate balancing act because although the pregnant mare needs substantially more nutrition, the rapid growth of the foal during this time reduces space for the digestive tract and the broodmare isn’t able to eat as much.
The mare needs to receive enough nutrition to maintain her own body weight and health as well as that of the foal. If a mare doesn’t gain a healthy amount of weight or doesn’t receive proper nutrition during this time, she will use her own body energy stores to support fetal growth. This will put the mare at a disadvantage after foaling, a time when she will need body energy stores for milk production. Deficiencies also can cause long-term health issues for the mare and the foal.
What to Feed Your Broodmare
When your mare is pregnant, what you should feed your broodmare depends on where you live, what’s available and what you can afford. Your broodmare will need a constant supply of fresh water, salt blocks, and fibre. Experts recommend encouraging good digestive health and keeping your mare eating small meals throughout the day by feeding as much as you can through quality hay and grazing, and using supplemental feed only as needed. When choosing feed, pay close attention to the ingredients. For example, if the feed contains corn, be sure to dry it properly to avoid the growth of mould and bacteria. Also, be aware that local mixes may periodically change depending on what’s available and this could upset the nutritional balance as well as the mare’s digestive system. A bran mash or higher-quality feed are options to consider to ease in the digestive process.
In the third trimester, mares require more calories and quality protein to gain lean muscle mass. A good legume hay can add more protein to the diet. Also, increased calcium aids with bone formation and milk production. The most natural source for calcium is through alfalfa hay, which should be fed in addition to grass hay.
Herbs also can benefit the when your mare is pregnant in the last trimester. For example, raspberry leaves help strengthen the uterus and aid with delivery. Small amounts of garlic cleanse the blood and combat infection, and fennel seed aids with milk production. On the other hand, avoid herbs that may be considered a muscle relaxant or stimulant, or that promote cycling. Devil’s claw, rosemary, thyme, and wormwood are among a list of many herbs that could negatively impact the pregnancy. To be safe, consult an expert before giving herbs to a pregnant mare.
Where feed is lacking, you can provide your mare with the necessary nutrition through supplements, but experts advise against adding too many to the food. Some natural supplements include alfalfa pellets, beet pulp, and cod liver oil. There also are a variety of high-protein and balanced-mineral options available that will round out your broodmare’s diet. You should look for supplements that provide sufficient protein, calcium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc.
Consult with your veterinarian or nutritionist to determine the best nutritional plan.