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Mare Milk Production

February 14, 2011

Is your mare not producing enough milk for her foal? Dr. Jill Cook discusses ways to help increase a mare’s milk production.

Question:

I have a mare that doesn’t produce milk. When we bought her, she was pregnant at the time, and we later found out that the last baby she had died due to not having any milk. We are feeding her Calf Manna with her feed, and I’d like to know if there were any other types of supplements we could give her to get her to produce milk.  Anything at all would be helpful.

Thank you,
Erica

Answer:

Erica,

Thanks for the question. It sounds like you certainly have grounds for concern. I assume that your mare has not foaled yet. It is important that you address her nutritional needs, which increase dramatically in late pregnancy and even more during lactation. I find that alfalfa hay is a great basis for a mare’s diet in late pregnancy and lactation.

Look at her body condition carefully. You do not want her to rob from herself in order to feed the foal.  You will need to feed her a balanced grain during the last part of pregnancy and especially after she foals. A mare’s energy requirements increase 20 percent in the last month of pregnancy and up to 70 percent in early lactation.

Her protein and mineral requirements also increase, and it is important that they are balanced with her needs and not overfed as that can also cause issues with the growth of the foal. The type and quality of the hay that you are feeding will indicate how much supplementation she will need.

Most mares that have adequate body condition will produce adequate milk for their foal and will adjust their milk production based on how much the foal needs. It is hard to effectively tell how much milk a mare is producing as foals nurse frequently and most mares don’t have a large bag. It is critical that the foal is nursing well and receives the first milk or colostrum.

Observing the foal nurse and appear satisfied is often the best method to determine if it is getting adequate milk. Also the foal should grow and gain weight well. If you don’t think the mare is still producing enough milk, get with your veterinarian, as there is a medication, Domperidone, that will help hormonally with increasing milk production.

I wonder on the history of your mare whether she didn’t produce adequate milk, or whether the foal did not nurse adequately due to other issues. Sometimes a newborn foal appears to know how to nurse but is not actually sucking and swallowing milk well, and it can starve to death if not assisted. Watch it nurse carefully and make sure it is latching on and swallowing well.

Good luck with your new foal.

Dr. Jill Cook
Royal Vista Equine