Home' Smart Farmer : November 2009 Contents NOVEMBER, 2009
BY JULIE PAUL
IT IS springtime, and all those darling
little foals are appearing in paddocks
throughout the hills.
You have a favourite mare, and just
maybe you start to think 'Wouldn't it be
Before you put your mare in foal, there
are three questions you should ask
yourself. Honest answers please.
Firstly: why do you want to breed a
Secondly: is your mare really worth
Thirdly: where will the foal be in 10
If your answer to question one is that
you have an 'old favourite', and would
like a foal of hers for your own use, to
take over from her when her working
days are over, then go ahead, and you
have probably also just answered
questions two and three.
If you think you will sell the foal and
make a profit, think again. Unless your
mare has superb
bloodlines or is a
performer, your chances
of making money out of
breeding are remote.
Think of stud fees, vet
bills, extra high-quality
feed and all the little
'incidentals' that add up.
Also, it is a buyer's
market.There are plenty
of horses out there,
more than there are good homes to
accommodate them.Those sad-looking
neglected animals just left in the
paddock were cute little foals once, and
unless you are going to take the time
and trouble to produce a healthy, well-
broken in and schooled horse, chances
are that its life may not be all that you
However, we are assuming that you've
considered all this and decided to do it.
Choose your stallion carefully, thinking
ahead about the career you envisage for
the foal, and checking the obvious things
like breed, size, performance and
temperament. If it's possible, try to see
some of the stallion's other progeny to
give you an idea of the characteristics he
is most likely to pass on. Also remember
to check with the stud about conditions
should your mare not produce a live
foal. In Australia, it is a common practice
for the studmaster to specify 'LFG' -- live
foal guaranteed, 'NFNF' -- no foal, no fee,
or 'NFFR' -- no foal, free return.
The gestation period for mares is 340
days, but this can vary by a couple of
weeks in either direction.
Your mare should have access to
ample grazing, good quality hay and
supplementary feeding throughout the
winter months.There are a number of
pre-mixed feeds designed specially for
pregnant mares -- if in doubt, ask your
vet what he/she recommends. It is also
important to worm the mare regularly
with the appropriate paste for in-foal
Check your mare each day, being
particularly on the lookout for any
vaginal discharge which could indicate
loss of pregnancy or 'slipping' of the foal.
Tetanus and strangles vaccinations
should be brought up to date a month
before the foal is due, to give it short-
term immunity until it is old enough
(about 12 weeks) to have its own shots.
If the mare will be foaling in the
paddock, choose a well-grassed area with
secure fencing and no obstructions that
could possibly be a
Most mares foal at
night, so if you can buy
or rent a foaling alarm
you will be saved plenty
of sleepless nights.
You should get some
indication when the
time is approaching
because of the mare's
appearance. A few days
before foaling, her udder
will swell and the teats will wax up.
Some mares show a definite change in
behaviour in the hours before labour
begins, becoming restless, sometimes
walking the fenceline, often sweating
Please have a bit of sensitivity about
your mare when she gets into labour. She
doesn't really want an audience and,
while you will want to keep an eye on
her, it isn't really the place for the whole
family, the neighbours and your children.
How would you like it?
The foaling process is often quite
quick after the waters break.The mare
will probably lie down at this stage,
although she may get up and down
Probably within 10 to 30 minutes, the
sac surrounding the foal should appear.
The foal's two feet should emerge
shortly after. One foot will be slightly in
front of the other -- this is quite normal
and, in fact, necessary to allow an easier
passage of the foal's shoulders through
Breeding your first
foal: what to expect
the mare's pelvis, so on no account try
to 'even up' the legs.
The feet should be presented with the
soles facing downward and, shortly after
they appear, the foal's nose should come
into view, lying along the forelegs.
Any other presentation is abnormal,
and you should contact your vet
Once the shoulders have emerged, the
rest of the process should be relatively
quick, although there will be little pauses
while the mare rests between
contractions.The amnion sac will
probably break on its own but, if not,
once the whole foal has emerged you
can break the sac if you wish, and the
foal will take its first breaths. Don't
remove the sac entirely though, it will
help keep the foal warm until its
circulation is established and the mare
will strip it off when she begins to lick
the foal. Just make sure there is nothing
obstructing the foal's breathing, and then
leave the rest to the mare.
The foal should be on its feet within
an hour and should be suckling within
about two hours.
Within three hours the afterbirth
should be expelled. If this does not
happen, it's better not to try to remove it
yourself, it really is a job for the vet to
ensure all traces are removed.
Keep an eye on the foal to ensure that
meconium, the foal's first faeces, is also
passed within about three hours. Once
again, it is a job for the vet if this doesn't
The only thing left to do is check the
mare for any vaginal tearing, and ensure
that she is comfortable and taking a keen
interest in the foal.
NEW ARRIVAL: Only a few minutes old and already the foal is sitting up and taking an interest
in life. Mum is still a bit bemused.
WORTHWHILE: It can be expensive, worrying and sometimes traumatic, but most breeders
think it's worthwhile when they see a healthy foal on its feet and suckling.
The feet should be presented with
the soles facing downward and,
shortly after they appear, the foal's
nose should come into view, lying
along the forelegs.
Need to know more:
Contact your local vet or PIRSA --
For further information or for a video demonstration, log onto
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