Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Babies - Cute Little Growing Machines!

Spring is so fun, nice weather and new babies arrive for us to enjoy! Mike has been posting the new arrivals at Longview Animal Nutrition Center so I thought I'd share mine. Our own broodmare mare, Dottie (Do It Stylish), a Quarter Horse mare, had her second foal for us on Friday, March 11. She had a bay stud colt and mom and foal are doing great. The first foal we had out of Dottie last year was a chestnut filly, a full sister to this year's colt. Dottie is bay and the sire, Freckled Leo Lena, is chestnut. It's always interesting to see what you get come foaling time.

Dottie has been eating Purina Strategy GX Professional Formula horse feed throughout the pregnancy. We choose to feed Strategy GX because my husband trains horses and we have over 20 horses including mares and babies, yearlings, and performance horses of all ages and levels of work. Purina Strategy GX is formulated to meet the nutritional needs of a wide range of horses and works exceptionally well while letting us have a pretty simple feeding program. It is also a great nutritional value, which is important when you are feeding so many.
During the last 3 - 4 months of Dottie's gestation, we gradually increased her feed about a pound a month so that by the time she foaled, she was eating 7 lbs per day. In addition, she eats 15 lbs of Coastal bermudagrass hay and 6 lbs of alfalfa. Dottie is 18 years old this year but her teeth are in great shape and she is doing very well eating Strategy GX and good quality hay. We don't like to let her get overweight, which she has a tendancy to do, so we are careful not to over-feed her. Dottie was a body condition score of 7 - 8 when we bought her, which is 50 - 75 lbs overweight. We adjust her feeding rate to keep her in a body condition score of 5.5 - 6.

If you aren't familiar with the body condition scoring system, go to the Purina horse website at horse.purinamills.com , click on "Products" at the top of the page, then click on "Body Condition Score Chart" on the products page. This chart is a tremendous management tool. With very few exceptions, horses should be maintained in a body condition score of 5 - 6. This is very important with broodmares because when they are thinner than a score of 5 they will tend to cycle later in the year, take more cycles to become pregnant and be at higher risk to lose a pregnancy if they do become pregnant. Mares that are fatter than a body score of 6.5 don't seem to have foaling difficulties but with advancing age, the overweight mares seem to become harder to get in foal as well. This may be related to developing insulin resistance due to being obese. So, not too fat...not too thin, but just right (5 - 6 body score) is the goal for optimal reproductive efficiency in broodmares.

When Dottie foaled on Friday and her baby began to nurse, Dottie's calorie requirements increased to nearly double what they were just the day before she foaled. That is a big increase but you don't want to drastically change a mare's diet soon after she foals because mares seem to be at higher risk for colic soon after foaling. So, we already had increased her feed some before she foaled and we will gradually increase it, about 1 lb per week, until she is eating 10 - 12 lbs of Strategy per day. That is the amount that maintained her body condition well last year. These cow-bred Quarter Horse mares are pretty efficient. The amount of hay offered also increases after foaling since the baby is now out on his own, the mare has more capacity to eat more hay. The amount of Strategy she needs may be on the lower end if our hay is better quality than last year's or it may be on the higher end if we don't have as good quality hay. We'll adjust her feed as we get new hay and evaluate the quality of that hay.
Did you know that the average foal weighs 10% of their mature weight and stands at 60% of their mature height the day they are born. That means that over half of their skeletal development has already taken place before they arrive. Then, they take off from there. By the time they are 6 months old, they will have grown to around 50% of their mature weight and nearly 80% of their mature height...talk about growing machines!! This growth must be supported by sound, steady nutrition.
Dottie's foal is already showing curiosity about his surroundings and even at a few days old, he has "eaten", actually "gummed", a few Strategy pellets at feeding time. That is one of the good things about Strategy GX, it works very well for mom and it provides balanced nutrition for her foal as well. As he gets older and does begin to eat, we will adjust the amount of feed offered so he will be able to eat one pound of Strategy GX per month of age per day (1 lb at 1 month, 2 lbs at 2 months, etc.). This will provide the nutrition to support growth and development that mom's milk will lack. We don't want to over-feed him and make him overweight either, just want to make up the difference between the nutrition he needs to grow properly and what mom's milk provides. Keeping the growing foal in a body condition score of 5 means you are meeting his calorie requirements for growth but not over-doing it so they are laying down excessive body fat. We want to achieve his genetic potential for growth but not try to push him to grow faster than his body should.
We haven't named Dottie's foal yet, but when we do I'll post new pictures and an update on his nutrition program as he grows.

1 comment:

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