Monitoring milk consumption not only involves observing your foal, but ensuring your mare is receiving the right combination of nutrients during lactation. In this article, we advise you on how to provide for the nutritive needs of both foal — and mare.
Let’s start with your foal.
Typically, foals will nurse for short periods at a time, often resting between drinks when they feel satisfied. In fact, a short, 30-second bout of suckling is considered normal.
Concern should be raised if your foal suckles for more than 30 seconds or is attempting to suckle all of the time. In such cases, your mare may not be producing enough milk, and a supplemental feed or milk replacer may be necessary.
A bright, active and alert foal is the best indication they’re receiving adequate milk to meet their daily energy and nutrition requirements. However, if you observe unusual suckling behaviour, or your foal seems lethargic or unwell, consult your veterinarian.
Now, let’s turn our attention to your mare.
It’s not uncommon for mare owners to attempt to hand express milk when in doubt about their foal’s milk consumption. However, this is not a solid indication of your mare’s milk production.
When collecting milk by hand, your mare may become stressed, tense or nervous, causing milk production to drop suddenly. Mare owners also shouldn’t rely on visual assessment alone. Even an udder that looks small or deflated it is still capable of producing rich, nutrient-dense milk.
Instead, consult your veterinarian for a thorough examination of your mare. They will be able to evaluate your mare’s milk production, body condition and diet to determine if your mare is indeed supplying adequate milk.
The importance of diet during lactation simply can’t be underestimated. Lactation takes a heavy toll on your mare. During lactation, mares require high levels of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals to meet their daily requirements and support healthy milk production for their growing foals.
As lactation peaks during the second and third month of your foal’s life, the energy and nutrition requirements of your mare practically double. Only with a forage-first, well balanced diet, including fresh, clean drinking water, can your mare and foal truly thrive.