Farm Ireland

Thursday 19 April 2018

Plan ahead to give newborn foals the best possible start

The foal will need a good start in life, so make sure you safeguard it.

Nutrition may need supplementing -- from the colostrum, the milk bank or the plasma bank. Your vet can test the foal for levels of protection against infection and for general health.

Mares also need a clean-up period -- the uterus involutes (womb shrinkage), tissues tighten and fluid is expelled. If foaling has gone well -- no history of previous post-foaling infection, no human interference of note at foaling, a healthy foal and early expulsion of the placenta -- it may be sensible to get a previously stitched mare re-stitched as soon as possible. If veterinary treatment is needed, it might be better to wait and stitch at the foal heat.

The foal suckling and the mare exercising is nature's way of aiding the clean-up so, provided their health allows, get the mare and foal out and about. The ability to conceive improves during periods of active weight gain, so have your mares in moderate condition at foaling and then push on with feeding to promote both fertility and milk production.

Think carefully before deciding to breed again. Be critical, thoughtful and take objective advice. Why are you breeding? Have you budgeted correctly for costs? Can you afford to do it properly?

How happy are you with this year's product? What is the market like, and likely to be, for what you can produce? Have you researched the stallion side well enough? Should you consider AI? What should you change to contribute to Ireland's aim of producing better, but perhaps fewer, horses than before?

Breeding at the foal heat is really only for the professional flat breeder who is subject to the commercial pressure to produce early foals year on year and has access to perfect facilities, lots of time and expert veterinary skills. Without these, you're likely to have an even later foal -- if any foal -- next year.


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Mares harbouring infection at the time of cover are more prone to losing the pregnancy or producing a small, weak foal after a prolonged pregnancy. For most of us, breeding during the following heat period (on average, 25-30 days after foaling ) with a cleaned-up, healthy mare gives about a 2:1 chance in favour of a foal born next year at the same time as this year.

Don't stint on swabbing to check for infection, scanning to detect the best time for cover (or insemination if mare is non-TB), and scanning again (and again) to check for pregnancy and twinning.

Irish Independent