From Fescue to Foaling Stalls...30-90 Days Before Delivery.
Updated: Mar 2, 2020
It can be surprisingly hard to find info or a timeline for foaling out a mare, so we thought we would share a little information about how we prepare. By no means are we experts, and you should consult with your veterinarian to create a plan for your mares. We work diligently with our amazing veterinarians to develop a plan for confirming pregnancy, progesterone supplementation (if needed), nutrition, vaccinating, worming and otherwise caring for our expectant mommas. That's not what we are going to focus on here. We are simply providing a timeline for how we manage our pregnant mares.
First up: DUE DATES.
Good luck with that.
So, we all know that there is no exact due date when discussing mares. For years, the general consensus was that mares were "due" around 335-345 days after insemination. With more research and information available, we know that a range of 320-365 days is considered "normal"...a span of 45 days!! What is basically comes down to is that every mare is different, and what is normal for one is completely abnormal for another. If you have the same mares season after season, you will most likely begin to see that they tend to follow a pattern, though they can still surprise you. We will talk more about imminent signs, what we look for and when in a future post, but for now, know that we begin keeping a closer eye on things around day 320-330, depending on the mare.
Next: 90 DAYS NO FESCUE.
Who knew grass could be so bad?
We all love green pastures, right? WRONG. Here in the South, we know that oftentimes a green pasture in late winter/very early spring means...FESCUE. If you have a pregnant mare, this grass is NOT your friend. Mares need to be pulled off of fescue 90 days prior to foaling. At Prelude, we work hard to eradicate fescue in our turnout paddocks around the barn (for more information on fescue toxicity, see this article). At 90 days out, we bring the mares into the barn. From this point on, the girls have no exposure to fescue, and some of them begin spending the evenings in the barn to grow accustomed to daily handling in preparation for foaling.
Finally: LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!
As the mares get closer to their due dates, we will prepare the foaling stalls. Our foaling stalls are 15'x18' at one location and 12' x 22' at another - nice, large, matted stalls with windows to the outside so the mares are comfortable. Our stalls also have soft, indirect lighting available so we can peek in the stalls without disturbing the mares. Prior to day 320, we strip the stalls and thoroughly disinfect using a 1:8 bleach: water combination.
This year, two of our foaling stalls got new mats installed.
Between days 315-320, we usually update or test our cameras, making sure that we can monitor the mares remotely overnight from this point forward. While we keep a close eye on them starting at 90 days out, we check each mare's bag, feel around her tail and monitor any physical changes at least twice a day starting at 320 (maybe a few days earlier if we have a mare known to go early or an expectant pony).
Wyze panoramic cameras (available here). Inexpensive, easy to install and an absolute lifesaver.
It's sometime AFTER this point that we also begin monitoring PH levels of milk. Some mares are ready for this step earlier than others, but we typically begin checking them all no later than day 335 (though this is still very early for some mares). For instance, we have two maiden mares inseminated in mid-April 2019. One has been developing a bag slowly and steadily for the last several weeks, while one has no bag or milk at all yet. Mares are tricky at best, and maiden mares are their own special kind of torment. Again, we will talk more about PH testing in a future post.
Day 322 and no bag yet for maiden mare Tula (Washington x Lupicor), in foal to Arezzo VDL.
Once we feel that foaling is imminent (using a combination of signs and PH testing), we remove the shavings and bed the stalls DEEP with fresh, clean straw. While we are still trying to determine the best method to prevent the mats getting a bit slippery, we don't risk the bacteria that can be found in shavings.
We would love to hear how you pamper your mares and prepare for your foals!