Hi, I have a serious question, well it is serious to me anyways. I have a 4 1/2 month old foal who has been seperated from her dam for 3 1/2 to 4 weeks now. Because we have limited space on our farm as far as shelter goes I had planned on reintroducing her into a pen with her 150 day pregnant 13 year old mother for the winter.
The problem is a friend says he did that, his foal was weaned for 5 weeks, the mare was dry, but after he put the foal back in with the dam who was 145 days in foal. The colt started nursing again or trying to nurse and 36 hours later the dam aborted. The mare who aborted was 15 years old at the time, current on all her shots, had been dewormed 3 weeks before hand with Ivermectin, was in good shape although just a little thin but not what I would call underweight, had no history of aborting or reabsorbing and had foaled 3 other babies.
My question is: Is it possable for a mare who have not been nursed off of for 4 weeks or longer and has dried up to start lactating again and will this cause her to abort a fetus? I am really looking forward to next years foal and do not want to lose it.
It is highly unlikely that the abortion was associated with the nursing. I'll "never say never", but this is one case where I'm tempted...!
Remember that the suckling action stimulates milk production, so if you put the foal back in with the dam and she allows the foal to nurse (some will, some won't - there's no way of predicting it), then milk production will start again. I've had mares do that 2 or 3 times over a period of months until I finally gave up and learned my lesson and stopped putting the foal back in with them!
As the pregnancy progresses, if the mare is also nursing, there will be a tremendous draw on the mare's nutrient resources, so weight loss may become a serious issue. If the mare is in a debilitated condition, then pregnancy loss is a possibility (although an outside one - pregnancies are remarkably resilient at that stage). Even if pregnancy loss does not occur, the prospect of weight loss and need for a huge amount of additional feed to maintain the mare's weight is inconvenient.
All things considered, although a threat to the pregnancy is highly unlikely, you're still better off keeping them separated.
Thank you for your prompt response. I do not know if this mare will allow the filly to nurse again, so I will play it safe. The hubby is just going to have to suck it up and help me build a new day shelter for the foal, won't he be happy.
Thank you Dorthy. That is something I will keep in mind for the future. I had someone else recomend a weaning halter, that has rubber nubs that irritate the mare and foal during nursing. I am just not at ease leaving a halter on an unattended foal.
If last years foal still thinks it wants to nurse when this years foal arrives keep them separated by more than a fence, or make certain that it isnt nursing through the fence. Colostrum is only produced for a short period of time and is nesasary for a newborns growth and developement. If last years foal nurses at all while the colostrum is being produced it can be detrimental to the new foal.
I would suggest in the future you don't take the foal off the mare to begin with until you are ready to thoroughly wean. Then you avoid the issue of the mare drying up. Was this mare bred on the foal heat? The nutritional needs for basic health care will increase with the foal and the pregnancy. Pulling the foal off then putting her back on can only cause her added stress. Adjoining paddocks are nice. Once the foal is completely weaned and eating well on her own, she should be able to go back out with mom without trying to nurse. This varies from foal to foal.
I bought a well-bred Dutch mare that I bred once. All went well until weaning and that is when she got really freaky. I moved her to the farthest pasture on the property, but she ran the field and fenceline and stressed. It was a good thing I had decided not to breed her back, because she would have lost the pregnancy.
The colt could have cared less about being separate. Because of her behaviour, we even took him off the property for 3 months to a neighbour's field to be with his weanlings. He did wonderfully. She took a while to settle but finally she did and we thought it would be okay to bring him back. Big mistake. The second he stepped off the trailer, she had a fit, recognized him right away and started right back up all over again. Even though he was in a completely separate pen and could not even touch noses with her, she was stressed and freaky. He couldn't have cared less and always ignored her, being much more interested in his playmates.
Fast forward a few more months and we sold the colt. He happily walked onto the trailer to go to his new home and the mare nearly exploded, started screaming and carrying on. In 30 years of this, I'd never seen anything like it. She nearly went through the fence after him. Good thing I have powerful electric lines, I'm sure that's the only thing that held her in and she did get snapped a few times as she challenged the fences. It took her a month to settle down again and she dropped a lot of weight. I sold that mare and told the new owners she should not be bred again since she is too difficult to separate from her foal and she pines for them for months and months. I'm pretty sure this is why she was sold in the first place, and that's definitely the reason why I sold her.
So you never know with some mares. Most mares are not like what I had. Most are quite accepting of weaning time.
On the other hand, I had another mare that once she was dried up, you could put her in with her foals and even other mares' foals and while she would mother them, she would not nurse them. She was a gem, because the youngsters continued to learn from her and they were always the best adjusted foals. It was a sad day when she died. Since we lost her, we just now keep all foals in their own separate pastures and they have their own entrance to the barn so they don't have to walk by the mares. I have just a little while ago picked up an old mare from people who used her as a foal babysitter. I think it's important for foals to have an older mare teaching them the ways of the world and I'm hoping she will satisfy this need.
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