Feeding the lactating mare unlimited forages benefits the newborn foal. Also the addition of a fat source such as oil or rice bran to the diet can be beneficial, Kentucky Equine Research (KER) reports.
The US horse research centre says that the neonatal foals get virtually all their nourishment from their dam for the first few weeks of life, and a large percentage of their nutritional needs for several months also come directly from the mare. To make sure the foal can grow the normal 15-20 pounds in the first month, it is essential to feed the mare properly to make this happen.
Lactating mares should have access to as much forage as they will consume, and this may reach an amount exceeding 3.5% of their body weight, KER recommends. Hay should be provided if good pasture is not available. Alfalfa (lucerne) hay is beneficial for broodmares that have trouble holding their weight, as it contains high levels of energy and protein.
For mares that begin to lose condition even though they are eating large quantities of concentrate, managers can add a fat source such as oil or rice bran to the diet. Fat contains many more calories per pound than grain and can deliver a high level of energy without greatly increasing the amount the mare must eat. Fat should be introduced gradually to the diet, beginning with a small amount and increasing over seven to ten days.
A broodmare in heavy lactation can produce four or five gallons of milk daily, so a constant supply of fresh water is essential. Mares should also have access to salt.