Broodmares Need a Fortified Diet to Produce Healthy Foals

As Featured on EquiNEWS Powered by Kentucky Equine Research and Nutrition Daily
In mares, the majority of fetal growth occurs in the last three months of pregnancy. Because they do not have to support rapid fetal growth, mares in early pregnancy can be fed much like a horse at maintenance. This doesn’t mean they should be turned out and forgotten, however, as they have important vitamin and mineral requirements that may not be met by forage alone. Mares can be fed a fortified grain product unless they tend to become too fat. For easy-keeping broodmares, a balancer pellet is a better choice to provide fortification without adding calories.

During the third trimester of pregnancy, trace minerals are stored in the fetal liver, so feeding mares a properly fortified ration is extremely important at this time. The need for energy and protein also increase during the third trimester when the fetus is growing quickly. A feed formulated for pregnant broodmares will supply the necessary nutrients if it is fed at the recommended rate.

Ensuring healthy skeletal development for the newborn foal begins well before birth. Some of the minerals necessary for correct formation of cartilage and bone must be provided as the fetus is maturing and thus can come only through feed offered to mares. An example is copper, which plays an important role in preventing cartilage lesions. Pregnant mares ingesting the correct amount of copper have foals with only half the rate of these lesions compared to mares that do not get this fortification, even if they are supplemented during lactation. Broodmare feeds are designed to meet the mare’s mineral requirement, allowing her to produce a foal that is prepared to grow well.