Iowa State University Extension and Outreach recently published a new guide that will help horse breeders determine the dietary needs of their mares during gestation and lactation.

The gestation period of a mare is approximately 11 months and according to Peggy Auwerda, Iowa State University Extension Equine Specialist, the animal’s dietary needs change significantly during gestation and lactation. These changes are critical to the health of both the horse and her foal.

“This publication provides some background and definition as to what the gestating and lactating mare needs, and illustrates it with both tables and figures,” said Auwerda.

Nutritional need of gestating mares

During the first eight months of pregnancy, Auwerda says the foal doesn’t gain much weight. According to the guide, by month seven, the fetus may only weigh between 8.8 and 16.5 pounds. The fetus will gain around 75 percent of its birth weight during the second half.

According to the guide, during early gestation, energy and protein requirements increase 10 percent from a horse at maintenance weighing 1100 pounds. During late gestation, this number increases to 20 percent.  If fed too much energy, she will gain weight and will lose weight if not fed enough.

Courtesy ISU Extension
Courtesy ISU Extension

Nutritional need of lactating mares

Lactation is nutritionally draining. In early lactation (1-3 months), the energy and protein requirements increase about 31 percent from a horse at maintenance weighing 1100 pounds. In late lactation (4-6 months), the energy and protein requirements of your mare will start going down to a recommended 28 percent.

If nutritional needs are not met, the mare will start depleting her nutrients which will put her in a negative nutrient balance. This will reduce the nutrients in the mare’s milk, affecting the foal. However, it is important to not overfeed the horse for it can cause colic and digestive issues.

To read the full publication, click here.

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