The gestation period for mares is about 11–12 months – longer than most other animals. While it’s important to optimize foal development by providing good horse nutrition to the mare during the first two stages of gestation, two-thirds of the foal’s growth happens during the third trimester, leading to greater nutritional requirements for the foal and for the mare.
Supplementing performance trace minerals throughout gestation can help ensure that the unborn foal receives enough nutrients to fuel their growth and development while continuing to support the mare as well.
Horse Nutrition Requirements During the Third Trimester
During pregnancy, a foal will be mining nutrients from the mare to feed their own development. If a mare is well-supplemented, this may not affect her, but if she is not, it will have a negative impact on her immune system and functionality. It’s the same as in humans. A pregnant mother will take a neonatal mineral/vitamin supplement to offset the nutrients required for infant development.
During the third trimester, the mare’s maintenance requirement increases and, therefore, will need a higher level of nutrient supplementation in order to maintain her body condition score while providing nutrients to the foal.
Performance Trace Minerals Provide Adequate Horse Nutrition for Mares and Foals
Zinc, manganese and copper are essential performance trace minerals to consider feeding to pregnant mares. These trace minerals are critical to supporting muscular and skeletal development. Zinpro Performance Minerals® improve the foal’s gut integrity and immune function to help them get off to a good start after they are born.
Performance trace minerals are more effective than inorganic trace minerals –— they enhance animal health and performance as they are absorbed into the body and utilized by the horse.
Colostrum Quality Vital for Foal Development
Colostrum is of utmost importance to a foal immediately after birth. This first milk provides the foal with immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies and nutrients that are essential to overall health, immunity and growth of the newborn foal. The volume and quality of colostrum that is absorbed during the very first feeding establishes the foal’s health for the rest of its life.
Since immunoglobulins will not cross the placenta during gestation, it’s important to get high quantities of quality colostrum into the foal during the first 24 hours. After the first 24 hours, the foal’s ability to absorb antibodies diminishes.
Supplementing a pregnant mare’s nutrition with performance trace minerals has been shown to increase the amount of IgG in colostrum and increase passive transfer rates in foals within the first 24–36 hours after birth.
Performance Trace Minerals and Complete Feeds for Foals and Mares
During the third trimester of gestation, mares will naturally have a higher dry matter intake due to the increased demand for energy and nutrients. In fact, trace mineral requirements increase by about 25% during the third trimester.
As a result, horse owners should consider feeding good-quality forages supplemented with a complete feed formulated with Zinpro Performance Minerals to balance the diet. A complete feed will be formulated to adjust the nutrients, vitamins and trace minerals in order to meet the increased demands of the mare and foal.
It’s important for horse owners to read the feed tag on their complete feed and follow the feeding instructions on the bag, because they have been formulated by a nutritionist. The bag will include instructions for feeding the product, along with forage, to horses of varying sizes and weights.
Some horse owners will buy a complete feed that already contains performance trace minerals but will still supplement additional vitamins and trace minerals. This can disrupt the balance of what the nutritionist had formulated in the complete feed. If performance trace minerals are included in the complete feed, they will be listed as amino acid complexes.