Broodmare Nutrition Basics
Dr. Bill Vandergrift
Having a mare in foal means that you're taking on new
responsibilities. The most important may be your mare's
Proper nutrition during gestation is critical to producing a
There are three common mistakes in broodmare nutrition. They are:
1) Feeding too much protein and energy during gestation.
2) Underfeeding minerals and vitamins during gestation.
3) Underfeeding protein and energy during lactation.
Broodmares should be fed as much forage (pasture or hay) as
possible along with the least grain needed to maintain moderate
Nutrient requirements of non-lactating mares before the second
trimester of gestation are similar to those of mares at
Broodmares can usually get the protein and energy they require
from good-quality pasture. Feeding five or six pounds or more
daily of a properly fortified commercial grain mix, such as
Southern States Broodmare Special, should provide adequate
vitamins and minerals.
However, if you feed less commercial grain mix or plain oats than
that, you'll need to supplement your mare's diet with additional
minerals and vitamins, such as those found in Equimin, to support
proper fetal development.
Many people believe that in the second half of gestation, mares
require much more protein and energy. While mares require
slightly more protein and energy then, mineral and vitamin
requirements, especially for calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and
vitamin A, increase most.
Mineral deficiency is not as critical for the mare at this time
as it is for the developing fetus. Vitamin/mineral deficient
foals are born weak or susceptible to structural or health
You probably cannot determine whether a broodmare is suffering
from a deficiency simply by her appearance. So it is extremely
important during the second half of gestation that you provide
supplemental minerals and vitamins. (Note: Warmblood mares are
particularly at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies.)
When the foal is no longer developing in utero, the mare no
longer needs additional vitamins and minerals - assuming her
basic mineral requirements are being satisfied.
While the major nutrients you should supply during gestation are
minerals and vitamins, the major nutrients you should feed during
lactation are protein and energy. You will probably need to feed
grain to your lactating mare to maintain moderate body condition.
It's best to make a slow change in her ration before she foals.
But remember not to overfeed the mare during gestation.
Calcium and phosphorus are also critical to the lactating mare,
and she must be able to use them efficiently. Add yeast cultures
to the ration to improve the digestibility of calcium and
phosphorus in your mare's diet.
The amount of grain you feed should closely follow the mare's
When her milk production reaches maximum levels 6 to 8 weeks into
lactation, she should receive the most grain.
Gradually decrease the amount of grain following peak lactation
in order to prevent the mare from becoming over-conditioned.
Key elements in broodmare nutrition:
Don't overfeed protein and energy during gestation.
Increase protein and energy during lactation.
Feed mares as much forage as possible, along with the least grain
needed to maintain moderate body condition.
Give mares adequate minerals, and vitamins A and E during
gestation. (This requires five to six pounds or more of properly
fortified feed such as Southern States Broodmare Special, or
other feed supplemented with Equimin.)
Use a feed that contains yeast cultures and mineral proteinates,
specially for lactating mares.
One way to help keep mares healthy and in foal
Many pregnant mares exhibit problems during the first 60 days
Early embryonic death can be associated with improper nutrition,
reduced stress resistance and increased susceptibility to disease
in the mare. The inclusion of mineral proteinates in the diet has
been successfully used to reduce the frequency of these problems.
Also, current research has demonstrated that mares receiving
mineral proteinates produce a greater number of viable embryos
each ovulation cycle, and the health of their uterine tissue is