A mare’s pregnancy lasts an average of 11 months and during this time it’s essential to provide proper nourishment. Nutritional requirements will vary depending on the mare’s breed, age and overall health but special care and attention to nutrition is crucial in every case.
Changing Nutritional Needs
During the first part of the pregnancy, 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 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
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 fiber. 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 growth of mold 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 also require more calories and an increase in quality protein to gain lean muscle mass. A good legume hay can help add more protein to the diet. In addition, 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.
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.