We can advise on and help care for stud stallions and pregnant mares.
Pregnancy checks - when should they be done?
Pregnancy loss without any overt signs is not at all uncommon and therefore failure to return to heat after covering cannot be taken as confirmation that the mare is in foal or has maintained her pregnancy.
It is essential that mares receive one or more veterinary examinations for pregnancy, usually by ultrasound scanning.
How do we test for pregnancy?
This is by far the most common method of determining pregnancy, and is preferred by most vets. Scanning is generally very accurate, causes no more than minor discomfort to the mare and allows the identification of twin pregnancies.
Your mare will normally have been scanned at least twice, at 15-16 days and again at 25-30 days. A third examination at six weeks is advisable, as early foal loss up to this date is not uncommon.
Checking the mare again on or around the 1st October is important for two reasons:
· Many stud fees are due at this time and are paid if the mare is confirmed in foal by 1st October
· It is as well to know whether your mare is still pregnant so that you can plan her winter feeding regime
If you mare has been returned from the stud without any veterinary confirmation of pregnancy it is essential that she is checked at least once by us to confirm that she is definitely in foal.
Blood tests are occasionally used instead of scanning but in general are less accurate, do not allow the identification of twin pregnancies, must be carried out over a narrower time frame, are more expensive and do not produce an instant result.
However they are useful in very small pony mares where scanning is not possible.
When should brood mares be wormed?
It is both safe and important to worm pregnant mares.
In late pregnancy the mare's natural resistance to worms is lowered. At this time the number of worm eggs in the mare's droppings tends to rise and when these develop on the pasture they are an important source of redworm infection for the foal.
In addition, the threadworm strongloides westeri is passed through the mare's milk and is an occasional cause of diarrhoea in young foals.
Please contact us for further advice should you wish to worm your pregnant mare.
What about vaccinations?
Keep up the mare's normal vaccination course against tetanus and flu.
If the mare receives a booster vaccination four weeks prior to foaling the concentration of antibodies to these infections in the first milk will be significantly increased and the newborn foal will obtain immediate protection as soon as it suckles.
In addition we recommend that all pregnant mares be vaccinated against equine herpes virus (EHV) at the fifth, seventh and ninth months of pregnancy.
EHV is becoming an increasing problem in the UK. Affected mares abort in late pregnancy or give birth to weak foals that die in the first few days of life.
Vaccinating against EHV is money well spent.
Routine foot and dental care
These are sadly neglected in many brood mares.
Although most brood mares are unshod, regular trimming at six to eight week intervals is important to prevent foot abscesses, which are all too common in mares with overgrown feet.
Dental care is important too. Mares live on a largely forage-based diet, and each kilogram of hay requires 5000 chews before it is swallowed.
To ensure that this feed is utilised with maximum efficiency and without discomfort to the mare it is essential the teeth are checked annually.
What should I feed?
First eight months
Mares are commonly overfed during this period. Although grass and hay will meet the mare's energy requirements at this stage she is likely to be deficient in good quality protein and some vitamins and minerals.
A stud balancer should be fed, but avoid allowing the mare to become fat.
In-foal mares with a foal at foot will need to be fed to meet their lactation requirements until weaning. We recommend you follow the feed company's advice.
Last three months
The foetus gains 65% of its bodyweight during this period.
It is important therefore that a balanced ration is fed. A purpose-made brood mare diet will provide all of the necessary calories, protein, vitamins and minerals a mare needs to supply to her developing foetus.
This should be fed in conjunction with good grass or hay/haylage. The amount to be fed will depend on the manufacturer's recommendations and the quality of the grass or hay available.
The temptation to feed a home-mixed ration should be avoided, as it is very likely to be unbalanced and inappropriate for the mare and her foal.
Mares in early pregnancy can be ridden lightly for the first four to five months.
In late pregnancy mares should spend as much time out of doors as possible as exercise is important at this stage.