Winter Health Checks - Broodmare Care Schedule

Pregnant white broodmare running in fall pasture.
Pregnant white broodmare running in fall pasture. Anastasija Popova

Newsdate: Monday November 14, 2022, 10:00 am
Location: LEXINGTON, Kentucky

Now that cold weather has moved in, most broodmares are out to pasture, gestating until their expected foaling dates next spring. It’s a good idea this time of year to recheck all of your broodmares by ultrasound or palpation to confirm that their pregnancy is progressing normally. 

Mare and newly-born foal resting in stall.

Mare and newly-born foal resting in stall

Double-check your broodmares in early winter for the health and safety of mares and their foals.
© 2016 by Sarah Ahrens New window.

Too often, a mare owner doesn’t know a mare lost her pregnancy until she doesn’t foal in the spring. Unfortunately, each year, up to 15 percent of broodmares that were checked safe in foal at 45-60 days lose their pregnancies by late fall.

This is often so late in the breeding season that there is not sufficient time for a veterinarian to determine the cause of the lost pregnancy, treat and correct the problem, and rebreed the mare. As a result, the owner loses an entire year.

There are a number of things you can do to protect your investment and improve the odds of producing a healthy foal next spring. 

Broodmare Body Condition Score

Many mares drop in body condition at the start of fall and winter, because of decreased availability of good pasture and the onset of cold weather. The demands on the mare by the fetus won’t require an increase in feed until the last one-third of pregnancy, but the energy required to keep warm will increase. 

  • A mare in moderate to fleshy condition will be better prepared to provide adequate milk for her growing foal and will breed back quicker than a thin mare. 
  • A mare should have at least a body condition score of 5. She should have a level back and slight fat cover over the ribs, and fat should be evident along the sides of her neck and behind her shoulder. (Learn more about body condition scores.)
  • A mare should not be rolling fat, because fat mares tend to produce less milk than moderately fleshy mares, and their foals gain less weight. 
  • In the last trimester, a mare’s nutritional requirements accelerate, as does the unborn foal’s growth. Her feed ration should increase accordingly. 
  • A healthy mare in good flesh will gain 9-12 percent of her original body weight during pregnancy. For example, an 1,100-pound mare should gain roughly 100-130 pounds during the course of her pregnancy. She should gain roughly two-thirds of the weight in the final three months prior to foaling.

Vaccinating and Deworming Schedule for Broodmares

Once your mare is in good flesh, check her vaccination and deworming schedule

  • Deworm: The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends fecal egg count testing as a basis for parasite control. Consideration should also be given with respect to the grazing seasons in your climate. Your veterinarian can help you design a deworming program for your broodmares. In general, a minimum of spring and fall treatments should be considered for all of your pregnant mares.

  • Four to six weeks prior to the expected foaling date: Mares should be vaccinated for tetanus, Eastern and Western Equine encephalomyelitis (sleeping sickness) West Nile virus, Rabies, Equine influenza and equine herpes virus This not only benefits the mare but also the foal, as the mare will pass antibodies to these diseases through her colostrum to the newborn.

  • Mid-to-late pregnancy: Pregnant mares should receive rhinopneumonitis (EHV-1) vaccinations. A typical rhino vaccination schedule is to vaccinate pregnant mares during their fifth, seventh and ninth months of pregnancy with a EHV-1 vaccine that is labeled for abortion protection due to EHV-1. An alternate program is to vaccinate every other month once the mare becomes pregnant. 

  • Other common vaccinations that might be necessary: Strangles, Potomac horse fever, and botulism. Contact your local veterinarian about a good vaccination program for your area of the country. 

Using Lights to Shorten Broodmare Gestation 

If you want to hasten the transition to estrus in open mares or slightly shorten the gestation period in bred mares, start lighting programs on or before December 1. 

  • The lights should be bright enough so that you can easily read a newspaper in the stall. 
  • Lights should provide at least 16 hours of total daylight. 
  • Mares will begin to shed their hair after about 90 days under lights. 
  • Be prepared to blanket your mare if you live in a cold climate.
Click HERE to read entire article for more important advice about keeping broodmares healthy.

Press release by AQHA

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