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Preparing foaling for both brood mare and foal Logo PaskaCheval

Foaling is a key event for any horse breeder. It’s the moment of truth, when they discover the outcome of their choice made 11 months earlier with respect to which stallion to mate with their broodmare. It is an event that requires close monitoring, both for the well-being of the broodmare and to ensure a strong, healthy foal.

In horses, gestation theoretically lasts 11 months. In reality, foals are born between 320 and 360 days after conception. All breeders are well aware of the difficulty involved in knowing the exact date. In 80% of cases, mares have their foals at night.

Foaling preparation: one of the keys to success

It is important to prepare the box stall or stable where the foal will be born. Bedding - either wood shavings or straw - must be changed regularly to guarantee optimum conditions for foaling. This will help prevent the development of pathogens from manure or the release of ammonia from urine. The use of drying bedding conditioners helps trap and dry ammonia and sanitise the stall.

There are a number of markers to help determine the foaling date. The mare’s udder swells and she begins to produce secretions that are initially clear before turning yellowish and, finally, milky. The calcium concentration or pH of these secretions can be measured to determine more accurately the exact stage. However, the time between observation of these secretions and foaling is highly variable. Only extremely close monitoring can help determine the actual date.

Jument et son poulain dans un champ

How to secure the first hours of the new foal's life

Foals are born without any immunity of their own. To ensure they acquire passive immunity, they must receive colostrum [1] as soon as possible. After 24 hours, the immunoglobulins [2] contained in this colostrum no longer cross the intestinal barrier. It is therefore crucial that they receive a sufficient amount of good-quality colostrum (minimum 1L and IG > 60 g/L) very soon after birth (ideally within 6 hours).

Graph showing the evolution of immunoglobins a few hours after foaling

Foals are also born without any intestinal flora. It is essential to promote the development of beneficial flora in the gut to the detriment of pathogenic flora. Consequently, it is recommended that maternal colostrum be supplemented with pro- and prebiotics. Blood tests can be performed to check that the foal has acquired a good immune status. But observing the foal’s vitality is just as important. It allows the observer to detect any neonatal abnormalities, such as colic caused by a foal not passing meconium [3].

Graph showing the evolution of immunoglobins a few weeks after foaling

What are the risks to the mare following foaling?

Mares also need to be monitored to detect any complications. It is very important to ensure mares have a balanced diet at the start of lactation. Milk production leads to changes in a mare’s energy, protein, vitamin, mineral and trace element requirements. The risks related to a poorly balanced diet include inadequate milk production, osteoporosis, reduced immunity, etc.

Just like the foal, it is useful to observe the mare. Her teats may develop mastitis, for example, which could stop enough milk being produced for the foal. Total delivery of the placenta (passing of the entire placenta) must be achieved within 3 hours after foaling. Otherwise, metritis problems may develop. These are synonymous with incorrect involution of the uterus and may be complicated by endotoxaemia, septicaemia and laminitis.

[1] Colostrum: this is the mare's first milk. This milky secretion contains a very high quantity of immunoglobulins (IG).
[2] Immunoglobulins: these are an integral component of the immune system. They help control pathogens to prevent the development of diseases.
[3] A foal’s first faeces.

Successful foaling and the first days of a new foal’s life are events that require careful preparation. Bedding conditioners and feed supplements must be adapted to take into account the main problems affecting broodmares and foals during this period. Find all the products in the Paskacheval range at your nearest distributor.

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