In preparation for the upcoming breeding and foaling season Tennessee Equine Hospital would like to offer some tips to make it go as smoothly and successfully as possible. The first mares to get pregnant last year are the first to have their foals this year. Many of those mares are getting really close to foaling. They waddle down the barn isle with their barrels swaying from one side to the other. Their bags are starting to swell, and they may have edema in in front of their udder. The foal is coming soon. Are you ready?
Management practices in Tennessee for the pre foaling mare will be discussed below. It is important in the last 60 days of pregnancy to take these mares off fescue. Fescue has a fungus in the seed head that can prolong gestation, make the placenta very thick, and inhibit milk production. Mares should not be allowed to eat fescue hay or graze on a fescue pasture. It is a good time to deworm these mares at the time they are taken off fescue. Often times the pasture changes to a smaller paddock and or more stall time and the worm burden might be higher.
Four to 6 weeks prior to foaling we recommend vaccinating with a core set of vaccines. This will make the colostrum full of antibodies to protect the foal for the first 4 months of its life. At this time if a caslick is in place it should be opened. This is also a good time to make arrangements for where the foaling will happen. Prepare a nice big stall at home or a small clean paddock that can adequately be monitored. Tennessee Equine Hospital provides foaling services at our facilities where the mares are monitored very closely. Call one of our offices to find out more information on costs and services provided.
The last four to six weeks of gestation the mare’s udder and vulva should be monitored. Ensure that she is making a good bag and no excessive off color vulvar discharge occurs. Eminent signs of foaling are elongation of the vulva, wax on the teats, changes in milk pH, and restlessness to name a few. If foaling at home this is a good time to give the veterinarian a heads up to be on standby. If all goes well during the birthing process, we like to do an examination eight to twelve hours post-delivery to make sure all is good. At this time, we will discuss in detail how to keep the new addition alive and healthy until the first set of foal vaccinations at 4 months of age. In the meantime, it is time to prepare for breeding.
Breeding season 2021. It’s here let’s do this. First step is to pick a stallion that is most suitable for your mare. Many stallion owners offer incentives for early bookings to their stallion. It also incentivizes you as a mare owner to make plans early to get your mare ready. Are her vaccines current? Are her teeth good? These are some of the herd health practices that will keep your mare healthy while she is pregnant and keep her from getting sick during the breeding process.
Next determine when you want your mare to foal. This will determine when an optimal time is to breed. Some disciplines benefit from having a foal born as close to January 1st as possible. Some do not. If the plan is to breed in February for a January foal the mare will need to be under lights for 16 hours a day to speed up their transitional period and encourage normal February cycles. Owners that choose to foal when the weather is more conducive choose to breed starting late March through June.
A breeding soundness exam should be performed at the start period at which the breeding process will begin. The mare’s ovaries, uterus, and cervix will be imaged with an ultrasound machine to assess for any abnormalities. A determination as to where she is in her cycle will be made and a plan for timing of breeding will be formulated. A good breeding history will be noted at this time and if the mare has been bred successfully or unsuccessfully in the past a uterine culture will be taken. Maiden mares may or may not be cultured depending on the initial ultrasound exam.
Most mares in our practice are bred with cooled shipped or frozen semen. Timing of ovulation, insemination at an optimal time, and ensuring the uterus is clean and healthy during the breeding process are the keys to success. We work hard throughout the breeding season to make sure all of this happens seamlessly. Contact any of the Tennessee Equine facilities for details and prices of the breeding services offered. We are excited for the upcoming season and look forward to working with you and your mares to make the process as successful and cost effective as possible.
- Dr. Matthew DeLisle and Dr. David Dunlap