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Feeding the Pregnant & Lactating Mare

by Emma Short BSc (Hons), Baileys Horse Feeds - Breeding

The Pregnant Mare
The development of the foal begins right from the point of conception so it’s very important to feed appropriately from this time onwards.  It is often suggested that a high fibre, low energy feed, such as a cool mix, will meet a pregnant mare’s requirements through the first two thirds of the pregnancy but, while these feeds may be sufficient to meet calorie requirements, alongside forage, the levels of other nutrients are likely to be insufficient. 

Minerals, like copper for example, are vitally important in a mare’s diet because they, and other essential nutrients, are needed to build the cells and tissues that create a foal.  Research has shown that the foetus accumulates stores of minerals in its liver on which it can draw once it is born and growing very rapidly.  Without these reserves, Developmental Orthopaedic Disease (DOD) can occur as the foal grows.  Lower energy feeds and those formulated for adult equines rather than breeding or growing ones, will leave the pregnant mare and developing foal short.

Mares who are good-doers often put on too much weight if fed a stud mix or cube during pregnancy.  For these types, a specially formulated stud balancer, containing all the essential nutrients they need but with a negligible calorie content, is ideal and should ensure that the development of the foetus is supported without promoting weight gain in the mare.  Because a balancer is so concentrated, only small amounts need to be fed which is particularly useful for mares that are heavily pregnant as they often have a reduced appetite.
Find out more about Baileys Stud Balancer.

For mares who don’t hold their weight particularly well, a stud mix or cubes should be used, as they contain extra calories alongside the essential nutrients required.  Whatever you choose it’s very important to feed it at the manufacturer’s recommended levels to ensure the mare is receiving all the nutrients she and her growing foal need.

The Lactating Mare
The primary aim of feeding the lactating mare is to provide good sources of energy and protein for her to produce enough nutritious milk to support the foal during its first three months, when the growth rate is especially rapid.  To prepare the mare for the energy requirements of lactation it is therefore essential that she is fed correctly during gestation.  Once she has foaled and is lactating, her energy requirements will increase by as much as 44% and nutrients such as protein, calcium, phosphorous and vitamin A will be in particularly high demand. 

During the first three months of lactation a mare will give 3% of her body weight daily in milk production so, for example, a mare of 454kg will produce in the region of 13.6kgs of milk per day.  Not providing the mare with enough feed at this stage will reduce milk production and quality and compromise reproductive efficiency, which could eventually affect the foal’s health and growth rate.  For those who maintain condition during lactation on grass/forage alone, the additional source of vitamins and minerals provided by a low calorie stud balancer is ideal.  Mares who require additional calories however, are best suited to a stud/mare & youngstock mix or cube, containing 15 -16% crude protein and fed little and often to the manufacturer’s recommendation.

The composition of mare’s milk changes rapidly during the first days of lactation with further gradual changes thereafter.  Within the first 12hrs after birth the mare must pass adequate passive protection to her foal via the colostrum.  At this point the foal’s small intestine is permeable to large protein molecules, such as the antibodies contained in colostrum which will help build up its own immune system.  Ideally the foal needs to be suckling within the first 2 hours after birth, as the antibody content of the colostrum is at its highest during this period.

If the mare has not received a balanced and energy dense ration, her milk is likely to be of a poor quality or she may not produce enough milk to support the foal’s growth. Should this be the case, the foal’s diet will need to be supplemented with a milk-based creep feed to provide the extra calories and other nutrients that will be deficient.  3 - 5 weeks into lactation the mineral levels in the mare’s milk drop naturally by 40-60% and at this time a creep feed is ideal to help counteract any short falls. 

For information or advice, visit, contact Baileys’ team of qualified nutritionists on 01371 850 247 (option 2) or

The Northern Stallion Showcase on Sunday, April 5th, 2020 has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Stallion Entries are open for the 2020 Northern Stallion Showcase

Information for studs and stallion owners about the 2020 Northern Stallion Showcase can be found and downloaded here (as a PDF file)

The 2020 Stallion Entry Form can be found and downloaded here (as a PDF file)

The 2020 Trade Stand information and booking form can be found and downloaded here (as a PDF file)

The 2020 Northern Stallion Showcase will be the sixth running of this high profile opportunity to view a large number of stallions representing a wide range of breeds, types and bloodlines.

The Showcase is once again being held in association with Baileys Horse Feeds and will take place at the now familiare equestrian centre at Newton Rigg Collage, Penrith, Cumbria.

This is a compact site, with easy access from the Junction 40 of the M6, ample parking for horseboxes and visitors, spacious indoor stables and some outdoor stables for viewing of the stallions, which are all located immediately adjacent to the main 60 x 21m indoor showcase arena with tiered seating. There is also a 60m x 20m outdoor warm up arena just a few metres away, where visitors will be able to watch the ridden stallions working in. Both arenas have high quality waxed sand/fibre surfaces.

Please follow the links on the left for more information about every aspect of the Showcase and to ask a question if you can't find what you're looking for, either telephone the Northern Stallion Showcase office on 01228 675000 or email


Newton Rigg College Equestrian Centre, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 0AH