SFJ

Facebook  YouTube

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

The Broodmare in Fall

The Broodmare in Fall

by Frederick Harper, Extension Horse Specialist, University of Tennessee

In the fall, Broodmares are often relegated to the back 40 acres. At this time, foals have been weaned, and it is too late in the year to get non-pregnant mares bred again. An exception to this situation is the Tennessee Walking Horse breed that registers foals born in October, November and December as foals of the following year.

Mares are not the major emphasis in the fall since they have performed their task of foaling, lactating and being re-bred. They will not be center-stage again until foaling and re-breeding next spring.

After foals are weaned, most breeders tend to focus on weanlings and yearlings that are being prepared for shows, sales and/or performance in the case of long yearlings.

Fall management of broodmares is far more critical than some breeders realize and can directly impact foaling and re-breeding successes next year.

Weaning. Most foals are weaned between four and six months of age. Depending on foaling date, weaning can occur in late summer or early fall. If there are several foals, owners may wait until the younger foals are at least four months old to wean all foals at the same time. On large breeding farms, weaning may occur over several weeks to accommodate the difference in ages of the foals.

Weaning has been shown to be stressful to foals. Foals average daily gain decreases after weaning. Foals rebound from the stress of weaning in 10-14 days. Mares are also stressed at weaning but to a lesser extent than their foals.

A major management factor after weaning is getting lactating broodmares dried-up as rapidly as possible. Mastitis is not a big problem in mares, but a few mares do have mastitis.

It is not advisable to milk out mares after weaning. Milking out a mare only stimulates her udder to continue producing milk and prolongs the drying-up process. By not milking out mares, the natural process will result in mares drying up more rapidly and being less stressed.

Mares’ udders will be swollen, hot and feverish. If mares are uncomfortable, owners can use camphorated oil or udder balm, commonly applied to cows’ udders, to relieve their hot, swollen udders.

It is advisable not to feed grain to mares during the drying-up process. Eliminating grain feeding of mares a week before weaning may also be helpful. Even if mares are thin, (See: Body Condition Score), there is adequate time to properly condition these mares before they will foal and be re-bred next spring.

Exercise is also important in helping the mare dry-up properly and rapidly. Mares should not be kept in stalls after their foals are weaned. Mares can be placed on lower quality pasture that requires more time to graze. Mares not fed grain or hay will spend more time grazing, thus exercising more, which aids in the drying-up process.

Pregnancy Checking. Owners can more properly manage mares by pregnancy checking them in the fall. Even mares that were pregnant at 14-18 days and at 40 days post-breeding should be reexamined now. If mares were not pregnancy tested previously, it is imperative that they are checked in the fall. Fall pregnancy checking is a wise investment and pays extra dividends in saving feed and labor cost and results in healthier foals next year. While fall pregnancy testing is always important, it is critical when fall pasture is poor, there is a shortage of good quality hay for winter feeding or feed prices are higher than normal.

Classification of mares as pregnant and non-pregnant allows owners to fine-tune their management. Pregnant and non-pregnant mares need to be managed differently in the fall and winter. Feeding is one key area. There often is a tendency to feed all mares the same type and amount of feed. Barren mares require only a maintenance ration; whereas, pregnant mares need precision-managed feeding during their second and third trimesters.

One of the major advantages of fall pregnancy checking is the identification of mares that were previously pregnant and are now barren. Barren mares are often not given proper attention until late winter or spring just before being bred. This is too late to correct some problems and get mares pregnant in the breeding season. Fall is the time to make specific management decisions and actions regarding barren mares.

Barren mares selected to remain in the breeding herd may benefit from a uterine biopsy. A uterine biopsy of the mare’s endometrium, lining of the uterus, will indicate the probability of her conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy. Mares with a Grade III biopsy are not likely to maintain a pregnancy. The best time for a uterine biopsy is in the fall after the breeding season and before mares begin transition into winter anestrus. Do not biopsy pregnant mares.

Breeders must decide whether they are going to keep or cull barren mares. Mares, 16 years of age and older decline in their ability to maintain a pregnancy. Older mares become pregnant at about the same rate as younger mares, but fewer will be pregnant at 40 days post-breeding and in the fall.

Two key factors help breeders make this decision. Is the mare an economical producer; in other words, are her foals profitable, and is she a genetically superior producer? Any mare that is not an economical producer certainly must be considered for culling. Those that produce below-average-quality foals will not contribute to a breeder’s success.

Fall pregnancy checking is important in mares that grazed endophyte-infected fescue pastures during breeding and were not pregnancy tested earlier. Mares grazing endophyte-infected fescue pastures in the breeding season have a tendency for early embryonic death.

Artificial Lights. Barren mares with high probability of maintaining a pregnancy need to be managed to have the greater possibility of becoming pregnant next year. This includes proper nutrition, body condition, health and reproductive management. It is advisable to place these mares under artificial lights in November or at least by the first of December. Artificial lights will cause these mares to come into estrus and ovulate about six to eight weeks after being placed under them. The advantage of this process is the barren mare can be mated earlier and more often during the breeding season which enhances her chance of becoming pregnant. Mares placed under light in November have one or two estrous cycles to combat infections and eliminate difficult problems before being bred.

Placing pregnant mares due to foal in March and April under artificial lights will shorten the length of their gestation by 10 days. By foaling earlier, they can be re-bred sooner in the breeding season.

Body Condition Score. Another management tool is to body condition score all broodmares in the fall. Owners cannot only separate mares into pregnant and non-pregnant groups, but also place them into groups based on their body condition score. For example, pregnant mares could be grouped as thin (BCS 4 or below), moderate (5-7) or fat (8 & 9) for proper management.

Body condition is stored body fat. Stored body fat is used later by the broodmare as an energy source for the rapidly growing fetus in late pregnancy and for milk production in early lactation. Because of the large size of the fetus, it is difficult for pregnant mares to consume adequate feed to meet both the nutritional needs of the fetus and the mare herself. The fetus has first priority over feed nutrients. The fetus makes 75 percent of its growth in the last trimester. Early lactation has a greater nutritional demand than late pregnancy.

Mares will store body fat until about 270 days of pregnancy. After which, their BCS will decline slightly as the stored fat is used for fetal growth. This decline continues into lactation, especially if the mare is a good milker. Lactating mares tend to lose body condition during the first 120 days of milk production.

Pregnant mares with a BCS of 4 should be managed differently from those with a BCS of 8 or above.

It is possible to add one BCS unit to a mare in 30-45 days. Heavy grain feeding increases the risk of colic and laminitis. Caution and good judgment are required in this process. Mares need to be in the proper body condition desired at foaling (5.5-7.5) at the start of their third trimester. Mares that have a BCS of 4 or less and are late in their second trimester may need to accumulate body condition faster, which will require feeding more grain. It is normally safe to feed 0.5 pounds of grain per 100 pounds of body weight. A 1200 pound mare would be fed six pounds of grain daily. If more than six pounds of grain are fed daily, mares should be fed twice per day. These same mares (BCS 4) early in their second trimester have longer to reach a desired body condition, so they can be fed less grain.

Pregnant broodmares make about 70 percent of their weight gain of pregnancy in the second trimester between 111 and 222 days. Mares in their second trimester should be fed to reach a BCS of 5.5 to 7.5 by the start of their third trimester at 220 days of pregnancy.

Mares with a BCS of 5.5 to 7.5 foal without problems and are easier to get pregnant than mares that are thin with a BCS of 4 or below. There is no reason for broodmares to have a BCS of 8(fat) or 9 (obese). These fat mares do not milk as well, and their foals do not grow as rapidly as mares in a moderate BCS range of 5-7.5.

BSC of non-pregnant mares is also a helpful tool, but not as critical as with pregnant mares. An owner has several months to get non-pregnant mares in the desired body condition (5.5-7.5) before the next breeding season.

No detrimental breeding problems occur in mares with a BCS higher than 7.5; however, these fat mares are at greater risk of colic and laminitis, and it is not economically good management to have them above a BCS of 7.5 Many non-pregnant mares will have a BCS of 5-7.5. They must be managed in the fall and winter to maintain this level of body condition without getting fatter. Non-pregnant mares with a BCS of 8-9 in the fall should be placed on a diet to reduce their BCS to at least a 7.5. Owners have several months before the breeding season to accomplish this feat. These mares should be on lower-quality fall pasture without grain. In winter, they should be fed an average or slightly lower-quality hay without grain.

Foaling Date. Pregnant mares can be further subdivided depending on when they will foal. Mares that foal early in the year, especially if they have a BCS of 4 or less, need immediate intense management to increase their body condition before foaling. Likewise, overfat mares (BCS 8 and 9) need critical management. If they foal early in the year, they should be managed so as not to gain any more body condition. It is not advisable to have mares lose body condition in their last trimester. If such mares (BCS 8 or 9) are early in their pregnancy, owners have time and options to better manage them. Use of pasture and forage with little or no grain could result in these mares having a BCS score of 7.5 or less when they foal. These mares can graze on lower-quality fall pasture without grain so they will be nearer a body BCS of 7.5 at the start of their last trimester.

Feeding. As noted, feeding of broodmares is important in the fall and winter. The general tendency is for broodmares to be overfed. Allowing mares to get too fat in early pregnancy is especially a problem. Mares that do not milk well and those that are not pregnant have a tendency to be too fat.

Fall pasture should be the basis of the feeding program for all broodmares. Pregnant mares with BCS of 5.5-7.5 need to be maintained at this level. Normally, high-quality fall pasture will be sufficient. Pregnant mares may even improve their BCS on good-quality fall pasture. Pregnant mares are more efficient than non-pregnant mares.

This may not be the case if pasture is limited or of poor-quality. Mares may require some grain to maintain their body condition. Always feed the smallest amount of grain to accomplish the nutrition level required.

Thin mares or those on lower-quality fall pasture may require an increase of 10-15 percent in grain fed above their nutrient needs. Non-pregnant mares can be well maintained on good-quality pasture alone. Different nutrient needs are the reason that pregnant and non-pregnant mares should be managed separately. The best-quality pasture should be reserved for weanlings.

Astute mare owners know the reproductive and lactational histories of their mares. Mares that are known to be heavy milkers can be preconditioned in the fall and winter. These mares can have a BCS of about 7.5, since heavy lactation will reduce their body condition.

While the mare can store body fat for later use, she has little reserves of protein that can be used for fetal growth and/or milk production. In the second and last trimester, from 111 days to foaling, protein intake is important. The total ration should contain 10-12 percent protein, especially in the 9th, 10th and 11th months of pregnancy. If legume forages are fed, a 10-12 percent protein grain mix is adequate. One should feed a 12-14 percent protein grain mix with grass hays. Since the mare cannot store much protein, feeding a 16 percent protein ration is not recommended during pregnancy. Proteins are made up of a series of amino acids. Protein quality is having the correct amounts of essential amino acids in proper rations to each other. Research indicated that protein quality may be more important in early pregnancy than was previously thought. A high quality protein such as soybean meal, alfalfa hay or milk by-product sources should be fed in the last three months of pregnancy as well as in early lactation.

It is important that all mares have an adequate source of clean, fresh water and trace mineralized salt at all times.

Deworming. Deworming is important in broodmares. In the Southeastern states, it is recommended that mares be dewormed from September to March. The major internal parasite of horses is the small strongyles. The infective stage of the small strongyles is not active in hot, dry summers. Since there is no need to deworm broodmares in summer, broodmares should be placed on a strategic deworming program in the fall.

Vaccination. Mares are normally vaccinated in the spring for the common horse diseases. Equine herpesvirus Type 1 causes virus abortion, which is the single most important infectious cause of abortion. Pregnant mares should be vaccinated for Rhinopneumonitis (virus abortion) in their 5th, 7th and 9th months of pregnancy. Depending when a mare became pregnant, possibly the 5th, probably the 7th and certainly the 9th month of pregnancy will occur in the fall or winter.

References.
Harper, F. 1995. Nutrition and Management of the Pregnant Broodmare, Especially the Second Trimester. Planned Parenthood conference. University of Guelph. Guelph, Canada.
Harper, F. and E. Green. 1995. Broodmares and Tall Fescue Toxicosis. Tennessee Horse Express, 14:2 Agricultural Extension Service. The University of Tennessee.
Harper, F. and C. Reinemeyer. 2002. Internal Parasite Control in Horses. Tennessee Horse Express, 21:2 Agricultural Extension Service. The University of Tennessee.
Henneke, D. et. al. 1983. Relationship Between Condition Score, Physical Measurement, and Body Fat Percentage in Mares. Eq. Vet. J. 15:371
Henneke, D. et. al 1984. Body Condition During Pregnancy and Lactation and Reproductive Efficiency of Mares. Theriogenology. 21:897.
Kowalski, J. et. al. 1990. Weight Gain of Mares During the Last Trimester of Gestation. J. of Eq. Practice. 12:6
Kubiak, J. R., et. al. 1987. The Influence of Energy Intake and Percentage of Body Fat on the Reproductive Performance of Nonpregnant Mares. Theriogenology. 28:587.
Lawrence, L. M., et. al. 1992. Changes in Body Weight and Condition of Gestating Mares. J. Eq. Vet. Sci. 12:355.
National Research Council. 1989. Nutrient Requirement of Horses. National Academy Press. Washngton, D.C.

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

Russian Dacha Gardening

Russian Dacha Gardens

by:
from issue:

Russian household agriculture – dacha gardening – is likely the most extensive system of successful food production of any industrialized nation. This shows that highly decentralized, small-scale food production is not only possible, but practical on a national scale and in a geographically large and diverse country with a challenging climate for growing. Most of the USA has far more than the 110 days average growing season that Russia has.

The Forcing of Plants

The Forcing of Plants

by:
from issue:

It is always advisable to place coldframes and hotbeds in a protected place, and particularly to protect them from cold north winds. Buildings afford excellent protection, but the sun is sometimes too hot on the south side of large and light-colored buildings. One of the best means of protection is to plant a hedge of evergreens. It is always desirable, also, to place all the coldframes and hotbeds close together, for the purpose of economizing time and labor.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 3

What goes with the sale? What does not? Do not assume the irrigation pipe and portable hen houses are selling. Find out if they go with the deal, and in writing.

Swallow

Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

The Best Kept Secret, Revisited

The Best Kept Secret, Revisited

by:
from issue:

At the same time that U.S. commercial beekeeping is circling down in a death spiral, hobby beekeeping is booming and almost every beekeeping club in the country has at least twice as many members as it did twenty years ago. What this means is that if you are fortunate enough to live in a place with relatively clean and varied sources of pollen and nectar, the potential for a successful family-sized commercial apiary is better now than it has been for many decades.

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

LittleField Notes Hay

LittleField Notes: Hay

by:
from issue:

Farming never fails to dish up one lesson in humility after another. Despite having all the weather knowledge the information-age has to offer, farmers will still lose hay to the rain, apple blossoms to frost, winter wheat to drought… If we are slow to learn humility in Nature’s presence we can be sure that another lesson is never far off.

Food Energy The Fragile Link Between Resources and Population

Food-Energy: the Fragile Link Between Resources & Population

by:
from issue:

Now, after a one lifetime span of almost free energy and resultant copious food, the entire world faces the imminent decline (and eventual demise) of finite, fossil-fuel capital. Without fossil fuels, food can no longer be produced in one area and shipped thousands of miles to market. To suggest that the world will be able to feed the UN projected population of nine billion by 2050 is totally incomprehensible in the face of declining oil.

Birth of a Farm

Birth of a Farm

by:
from issue:

“Isn’t it nice?” I offer to my supper companions, “to see our beautiful horses right while we’re eating? I feel like I’m on a Kentucky horse farm, with rolling bluegrass vistas.” I sweep my arm dramatically towards the view, the rigged up electric fence, the lawn straggling down to the pond, the three horses, one of whom is relieving herself at the moment. “Oh, huh,” he answers. “I was thinking it was more like a cheesy bed and breakfast.”

Congo Farm Project

Congo Farm Project

by:
from issue:

I was at day one, standing outside an old burnt-out Belgian plantation house, donated to us by the progressive young chief of the village of Luvungi. My Congolese friend and I had told him that we would need to hire some workers to help clear the land around the compound, and to put a new roof on the building. I thought we should be able to attract at least 20 workers. Then, I looked out to see a crowd of about 800 eager villagers, each one with their own hoe.

How To Get Into Farming With No Money

How To Get Into Farming With No Money

by:
from issue:

Let’s assume the beginning ‘farmer’ has absolutely nothing. Nothing but a will to farm and a reasonably normal body. The very first thing you must do is search out a farmer, preferably a farmer who farms close to the way that you want to farm. You must watch him, ask questions, do as you are told and learn everything you can. Very shortly you will be on your own and you will find that the more you learn now, the better you will be when you have only yourself to rely on.

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

by:
from issue:

Most sugar cane is processed in refineries to give us molasses, brown sugar, and various kinds of white sugar. However, some South Georgia farms that raise sugar cane still process it the old way to produce the special tasting sweetener for their own food. One such farm is the Rocking R Ranch in Kibbee, Georgia. It is owned by Charles and Patricia Roberts and their sons. The process they use has not changed in the past 100 years. This is how it is done.

TMAHK Tripod Haymaking

The Milk and Human Kindness: What I’ve Learned of Tri-Pod Haymaking

by:
from issue:

I have no doubt that when the time comes we are going to need to know how to make hay this way, whether it be this Proctor Tripod method, or the French rack method illustrated in André Voisin’s great book “Grass Productivity” or the Scandinavian “Swedish Rider” method of tightly strung wire “fences” for hay to dry on. Each method has its pros and cons, and it’s my belief that the “Swedish Riders” is the easiest to learn and the Proctor Method may be the most difficult.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 2

How do you learn the true status of that farm with the “for sale” sign? Here are some important pieces of information for you to learn about a given selling farm. The answers will most probably tell you how serious the seller is.

Horse Farming and Holistic Management

Horse Farming and Holistic Management

by:
from issue:

Holistic Management was developed by Allan Savory who was a wildlife and ranch biologist in Africa who was concerned that the advice he could give farmers didn’t work in the real environment and even when the advice was good it wouldn’t get implemented. He developed a program which helps farms create a clear Holistic Goal and then use the farms resources to move toward the goal while being ecologically sustainable.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 4

Assuming that you’ve found a farm you want to buy, next you’ll need to determine if you can buy it. If you have sold your property, and/or saved your money, and have the means to buy the farm you are sitting pretty. If you do not have the full price of a considered farm, in cash or any other form, you will likely have to look for financing.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate Part 2

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 2

Finding just the right cover crop-tillage combination for crops planted the last half of June has always been a real challenge in our location. While surface-tilling mature rye and vetch in May works well for fall crops established in July and August, this cover crop-tillage combo does not allow enough time for decomposition and moisture accumulation for end-of-June plantings.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT