Beginners Guide to Feeding a Pregnant Broodmare

Essential Advice for Feeding a Pregnant Broodmare 

From a nutritional point of view, the most important months of a foal’s life are the three months right before it’s born and from birth through to two years of age. It’s during this period that a young horse can reach 90% of its adult height and 80% of its adult weight, and as bone mineralisation begins in the last three months of pregnancy, a good nutritional start in life is absolutely essential.

While pasture certainly provides plenty of nutrition, it is simply not enough to sustain a pregnant broodmare and her unborn foal. We discuss how to ensure appropriate nutrition for pregnant and lactating broodmares.

Grass Alone is Not Enough

In many parts of the world, including New Zealand, the breeding industry has its foundations in pasture farming as spring grass is rich in energy and protein at the time of the year when most mares are pregnant or lactating. However, not all pregnant broodmares have adequate access to good quality spring grass in abundance during foaling time – which the unborn foal requires – and if the mare foals in late spring or early summer, the grass is of substantially lower nutritional value. It therefore becomes clear that relying on grass alone to nutritionally sustain a pregnant mare is risky business.

What Does a Pregnant Broodmare Require?

The two most important time periods to consider are the last three months of the mare’s pregnancy and the first three months of lactation. The nutritional requirements of your broodmare during the first eight months of her pregnancy are no different than that of a mare that is not pregnant, but a broodmare can gain 50kg in weight over the last three months of pregnancy. You will most likely have to supplement your feed budget at this stage with proceeds from Bitcoin betting!

From the ninth month onwards, the energy requirement rapidly increases to support the growing foetus – 20% higher than what it was at eight months – and a broodmare in the final months of pregnancy requires 1kg of protein and 40mg of calcium per day. As a kilogram of good quality spring grass is made up of 25% protein and 1.4mg of calcium, essentially this means that a 550kg mare requires 30kg of pasture to meet these nutritional requirements. Unfortunately in many cases this abundance of spring grass is simply not possible, especially if the mare is foaling after the spring growth has slowed.

What Does a Lactating Broodmare Require?

While the final three months of pregnancy are nutritionally taxing on the mare, lactation places the greatest nutritional strain on the broodmare and their nutritional requirements increase to that of a racehorse in full training. The amount of energy in the diet influences how much milk the mare can produce and it’s important that the mare’s milk is in abundance as the foal initially relies completely upon this milk as their source of energy, protein, and minerals. A mare in early lactation will produce 15-20L of milk per day and in order to do this she needs 70% more energy in her diet than she did at eight months of pregnancy, and 40% more than she did in her final months.

A lactating broodmare will therefore require 45kg of pasture per day otherwise she will rapidly deplete her fat reserves and start mobilising calcium and minerals from her bones. As such, it’s absolutely imperative that additional energy and mineral sources are supplied to the mare to supplement standard pasture feeding.

About Doreen Cohen