The Pregnant Mare: Nutrition for the Final Three Months
By Juliet M. Getty, PhD
During the first eight months of pregnancy, a mare may be fed like any other horse, with a balanced, high quality diet. But things are changing rapidly during the final three months of pregnancy: The mare now requires more calories, more protein, more omega 3s, and balanced vitamins and minerals, not only for the unborn foal but also to prepare for milk production.
Grass hay or pasture should be provided ‘round the clock; she should never run out. If allowed to self-regulate her intake, she will likely consume 2.5 to 3.5 percent of her body weight as forage. Alfalfa hay should also be included to balance her protein needs. Alfalfa should never be fed exclusively (due to potential mineral imbalances). Strive for a 60:40 ratio of grass hay to alfalfa hay.
The fetus gains one pound per day during these final three gestational months. Hay alone will not meet all the mare’s caloric needs. Furthermore, hay is missing many vitamins that would be found in living, fresh grass, likely not available during these late winter/early spring months in most of the country. A quality commercially-fortified feed designed for broodmares will meet her nutritional needs as long as it is fed according to recommended amounts. Or you can mix your own feed by offering beet pulp, hay pellets, ground flaxseeds or Chia seeds, and other whole foods, along with a comprehensive supplement that provides balanced levels of vitamins, and minerals such as copper, zinc, and manganese, as well as selenium and iodine.
Attention to nutrition will help the mare maintain strength and health in this final stage of pregnancy, and prepare her for the significant demands of milk production and nursing.
Dr. Juliet Getty is an internationally respected equine nutritionist available for private consultations and speaking engagements. At www.gettyequinenutrition.com, sign up for her informative — and free — monthly newsletter, Forage for Thought, read articles, join her nutrition forum, enroll in upcoming teleseminars and purchase previously recorded events. Contact Dr. Getty directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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