This past year we have embarked on a pasture breeding project with our young stallion. He has taught US so much! Now, however, it is coming time for his first foal crop to be born, and we are getting tons of mixed messages about the proper way to foal out -- can the mares foal out in the presence of the stallion? How would this unfold? What kind of problems do we create if we take the mares away to foal and then attempt to bring them back. Obviously, need help!
Our (Equine-Reproduction.com) position on pasture breeding is that it is not a good practice, as it lacks safety for the animals, prevents accurate determination of when the mare was bred, and can result in lower pregnancy rates. Additionally, you are now facing another problem when it comes time to foal out. Mares will generally foal out without any trouble, but when trouble does occur, it happens quickly and a lack of monitoring of the foaling process by humans, such as will happen in a pasture foaling situation, may result in loss of the foal and/or mare, which we consider unacceptable. It is therefore, in our opinion, preferable to remove the mare from the pasture to a suitable stall where human monitoring can be accomplished. This needs to be done about 30 days prior to the anticipated foaling time, as the mare needs to build antibodies to pathogens that may be present environmentally in order to pass those antibodies to the foal in colostrum.
Returning the mare and foal to the herd may be accomplished without trouble, or it may be a major problem - or anything in between. Any time one plays with herd dynamics, one can expect to see unrest. Problems may stem from the stallion or other mares, or even the dam herself being protective of the foal.
This is, I am sure probably not what you wanted to hear! Overall, it might be a good idea to evaluate your set-up and see if you can switch your program around somewhat to avoid the above issues. I am sure that there will be posts from others who use the pasture breeding technique with no trouble, but - as has been stated on this board in the past - there is a higher incidence of accidents in pasture breeding situations when compared to a good in-hand or AI program, and if you happen to be one of the unfortunate that experiences an accident and you lose a stallion, mare or foal, you will quickly appreciate why the method is not approved of by most reproductive experts.
We are considering pasture breeding as well, and I purchased this awsome book called the Stallion A breeding guide for owners and handlers. It covers a chapter in there about pasture breeding and foaling out mares in the pasture with the stallion. I really liked the book. It states that pasture breeding may not be the best way to go for a larger breeding facility but for the smaller operation could be a good idea. It does say that a lot of the time pasture breeding gives better conception rates since the stallion and mare are not under stress and are in a natural enviroment. But it gives all the things you should consider when pasture breeding. And like Jos said you do not have as much control over when the mare was bred. I really recomend the book. it was written by James P. McCall. It is listed on this site under books, that is how I found it. After reading the book we are going to try pasture breeding the first couple of yaers and then hand breeding. Well just thought I would suggest that book.
As far as pasture foaling goes, I have pasture foaled out every mare that I have owned. BUT - here is the kicker - I start to check on them usually several days ahead of when I think they are going to foal. This means LOTS of sleepless night and tired days!!! So far I have not lost even one and have had no problems with any of my mares. I am not set up for stall foaling or electronics of any sort, so good old fashion horse management is what goes here. But the babies are worth it!!! Cindy Moore}
I used to foal out in pasture..but I don't do that anymore. It went well the first couple of seasons but then one year we ended up with a dead filly because of it. Horses are generally curious animals and when a foal is born, they want to be where the action is. Most mares are very fragile emotionally when it comes their time to foal. That's why most of them will foal in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness..it is their natural instinct to try to protect themselves during the foaling process when they are completely defenseless. I would NOT let a mare foal in a pasture with a stallion. I would be more in fear of the stallion really getting hurt by the new mother..or the mare being so stressed out about that stallion being near that it interferes with her being relaxed enough to have a safe delivery. Now of course if you have a 10 acre or bigger pasture, and a herd of only 5 horses, you're probably fine. The mare will be able to find a place far enough from the herd to foal and once the foal is on its feet and she feels safe, she will come back to the herd. My filly ended up being killed when one other mare had come too close to the new momma and the new momma kicked out at the other mare and the filly just happened to be right in the line of fire. The filly got a broken neck, was paralyzed and had to be euthanized. And she was the perfect filly, palomino near leopard Appaloosa, just what I had hoped for. You don't need a fancy stall, electronic monitoring devices or anything like that to give your mare a safe place to foal. It can be something as simple as creating a pen with some panels in one corner of your pasture.
Posted on Thursday, December 29, 2005 - 06:45 pm:
Another aspect to foaling out in the pasture that is often not considered until it becomes an issue is whether there is suffucuent light available in the event that something goes wrong. It's no fun trying to deal with a dystocia by the headlights of a pickup truck at best and flashlights at worse!!!
I guess I have been very lucky with my mares. I have 2 pastures and usually only 2 mares will go into the foaling pasture together - 2 that are buddies, whether they foal at the same time or not. My patures are 40 acres and 20 acres. I had a daughter foal out before her mother did this year and it was pretty amazing that daughter kept her mom away from the baby and mom is the alpha mare - no kicking, just mean, ears back "Leave my baby alone or else" looks. Foaling season is one of the reasons I have horses - seeing the babies and watching them grow and go on to be good riders is why I do it, year after year. Maybe someday when I get really old, the foaling stalls and cameras might get put up!! Cindy}
Rooty (Unregistered Guest) Unregistered guest
Posted on Friday, December 30, 2005 - 10:35 am:
Well, we have had 11 foals, and out of those 5 would have died had someone not been there (1 dystocia, 2 premature placental separations, 1 weak foal who couldn't stand and 1 sac that didn't open), so there is noooo way I'd consider foaling out in pasture. Too much can go wrong.
Cindy It sounds like you have the ideal for foaling in pasture, as far as your mares being able to separate themselves from the herd at foaling time.
When I used to let my mares foal in pasture I can remember the awful sleepless nights. Going out about every hour, walking around with a flashlight trying to find the mare and see what her condition was. It was such a pain. I finally built a foaling pen, nothing fancy, but it was big enough for the mare to foal comfortably in, plus I had it where I could hook up lights; it was just some big work lights at first on a long extension cord. As the Anonymous poster said, nothing is worse than trying to help a mare with a difficult delivery by the light of a flashlight! It was so much nicer going out there in the middle of the night, knowing right where the mare was and having plenty of light to see what was going on. But it was still a pain having to walk all that way in the middle of the night, sometimes in very cold weather. So, the following year I purchased a wireless camera system to place on the foaling pen. It was actually very inexpensive..$90 at a home improvement store. It came with camera and monitor with sound. I just attached it to a pole near the pen. It was so much nicer being able to watch mares from the comfort of my home. Since then we have built a new barn that has a 12X24 foaling stall with a 12X20 outside run attached. The same wireless camera is now inside the barn directed at the foaling stall. Foaling time is defintely one of the most rewarding and exciting times about owning and breeding horses..but it can be extremely stressful and heartbreaking too. But getting back to the original poster's question of whether she should let her mares foal in pasture with a stallion.. I would say that is taking a huge risk to all of the horses involved.
We are going to do the pasture breeding but we have set up a foaling barn next to our house and when a mare is showing signs we will bring her to the foaling barn and let her foal out there, then return the mare to the herd after the foal is strong enough. Our foaling barn has lights, and is fully enclosed with a 50x60 paddock attached. But I have decided not to let my mare foal in the pasture with the stallion present. I just feel it is to big of a risk to take. We only have 5 mares however so it is easier for us to watch over the mares and foal them out indoors. We have had two foals, one foald in the pasture due to the fact we did not know when her due date was since she was already bred when we purchased her and I thought she still had 2 months left. but that foaling did go very well with no problems, the mare went off on her own and had the little guy and she was a very good mother, the second foal was born in the foaling barn and that also went very well with no problems. So I guess you could go either way it just depends on you and what chances you are willing to take and not willing to take. We have done both with no problems but I like being able to watch the mare very close and monitor her 24/7. So we will be using a foaling barn. from now on.
Kassie - please be sure to note my observations above about the importance of bringing that mare in around 30 days prior to the anticipated foaling date! You can bring her just at nights if that is desired, but it is important for the antibody production, as well as getting her comfortable with the location.
Oh yes, when I say she starts showing signs I mean the first sign of her showing any mamary production. That is usally about a month before foaling. so we bring them in about 1 to 2 months before foaling. I don't mean in the last stages. I want the mare to be comfortable with her enviroment and we do not turn her back out in the pasture she stays in the 50x60 paddock and foaling barn until she foals. But I do agree with you on having plenty of time in her new enviroment before foaling.
I foal mine out 'in pasture' which I'd MUCH rather do than in stalls, because I have seen more problems with mares in stalls than out by themselves - we do not leave them out in a huge pasture, you do have to make sure the fences are gates and areas of the pasture are safe, and maybe just having one other mare out there, or just the stud is better than having a huge amount of mares - however all other situations being taken care of ... the original question was about foaling out in the presence of the sire. I had one foal in 05 that foaled out with his dad there, but my stud is a confirmed sweetie and is VERY good with his babies, or other people's babies, and has proven that to us over the years - he also is used to pasture breeding, but has impeccable in-hand manners also, and likes his kids - he learned enough from the older more crotchedy mares he first 'had' about being mannerly and letting the mare decide what she wants - that he listens to them, and is no danger to the foal. This year he was out with a maiden mare he bred last year and was living with all year, she was already 8 and they had been introduced late winter '03, started living together summer '04 when he was to breed her, and he lived out with her even though he was also bred in hand that summer, we did give her her own space right at foaling (nights only becuase of the lack of light problem mostly - it was for our conveniece) with just a fence in between them so she had a large chunk of space and the trough and barn access she was used to, and things went off without a hitch. He was right there to help clean off baby that morning, and hung out with the two of them very closely, there was no fighting, no problems with them. Now that colt has been weaned and lives out next to his parents, and the only issues I see between sire and dam as far as raising baby goes is that mom is far too leanient with the colt, he is not rude by any means but she'd let him get away with anything, while dad tends to tell him not to be rude, LOL, we'll see how next baby turns out this spring, if this one iwll be as spoilt by mom!
You just have to know the stallin, and honestly, making a horse go inside to foal can be more dangerous than foaling outside, but in either case there are 'safer' ways and in any case things can go wrong!
Just be watchful and try not to interefer unless you have to! They know what to do! Good Luck! Jenn
My mare had her foal out in the pasture (10 acres) I had been checking every night. She was in with the rest of the herd, 1 colt, 1 stallion, 2 mares and when i went to check again at 4 they were all surrounding the baby and protecting her, the colts were interested but didnt touch her. I think the mom was less stressed to have them in the field with the her and the herd would protect the baby from coyotes or anything else that would try to get it. As I was not there for the birth, I don't know if the mare went off by herself and the herd joined after but our field is big enough for her to go off on her own like horses do in the wild. My horses have a very calm manner about them though and I am sure some stallions could cause damage or have damage caused to them. I am doing stall foaling this year for 2 of my girls because it will still be too cold outside for a pasture foal.
I guess in a way that would be ok, but what if the mare went too far and you needed to be there when the mare was foaling. you would have for surely lost the foal. It is hard enough to catch a mare foaling in a stall, but on 10 acres.
I understand where you are coming from, but that is taking too much of a chance for me. even with having your own stud that would mean making sure she could be bred again, breeding her and then waiting another 11 months if something bad happened.
We had a mare last year that had her own pasture (about 2 acres) with a 20x20 foaling stall. She chose not to have the baby in the stall but in the pasture and yes we missed it by about 20 minutes. But our gelding who is my 5 yr old son's horse and the gentlest horse anyone could ask for, tore down 30 foot of fencing just to get a look at the alien. LOL. funny now, but could have been really bad. Then all the others...stallion, mares and the gelding was running the poor maiden mare and baby to death.
The ten acres is all around the barn (2 fields made into one. Its not hard to find a palomino coloured horse in the dark especially when you can see her from the barn, its easy to see the herd. I made sure to have everything I needed in a tub in the tack room and it was easy access to everything. Yes if you cannot see the horses from the barn in the ten acres it could be dangerous I agree.
One of my father-in-law's mares foaled in the same pasture as the sire. . .and abt 6 other horses. Of course, they were on about 70 acres, so they were hardly crowded . She was fine with no intervention and has a beautiful healthy filly. I am by nature very neurotic when it comes to my horses. I'm sure that they would be fine without me checking them every 15 minutes for 2 months before they foal, but I like to do this "just in case." Our land does not allow me that pleasure, so we have stalled this one. We have not had very good luck with some of our horses in pasture (one lost an eye and another shattered his cheek bone), so I am always afraid that if there is even a slight chance something could go wrong, it will .
I am also having to make this decision for next year. I have a small barn, but really not enough room for foals to be born. I was thinking about getting a good sized round pen and putting it up in the pasture. I have a stallion, but he is kept separately from the mares. So I would have a mare in the round pen (who is due to foal) and the other out side of it. It would be at least a 60ft pen on nice grass. Would it be a problem if it was made of pipe panels? Should I put a solid 3ft or so base around the bottom? I did not want to build foaling stalls as price is much and I am hoping to build a barn in the next few years, so didn't want anything permanent. Any suggestions?
Jayme, i would definately put something solid around the bottom. I know a man that had a mare foal while in a turnout pen. The baby slipped under the fence, couldn't get to mom, and died. As for one mare being in and the other out, I don't know. I would think that this would stress the pregnant mare as she would want to get to her friend, but perhaps it depends on the horse. Maybe the others will have more advice.
I had a maiden mare foal out in the pasture one year and one of the older more experienced mares tried to steal her foal,so since then I will put the foaling mare in her own area,be it a stall or foal-proof paddock and close enough she can still see and or touch her buddies.I also had one mare foal in a pasture that ended up having her filly on the wrong side of the fence and luckily the foal had just been born and I could get them back together and that was a chore because mom wanted to eat me for breakfast.There are pros and cons either way,a pasture is safer than a stall when it comes to germs but a stall is safer if you dont have foal-proof fencing.I have also had a mare foal with a stallion in the pasture with no problems,but that was by accident as I didnt know the mare was even bred and didnt look in foal. Any mare that has just foaled can be pretty mean whether they are the lead mare or not and other mares will not challenge them.I have found that most horses are curious when it comes to a birth and some even get down right excited over the event( I have a mare in question there,LOL,she talks to the new babies,and tries to protect them from others,I believe she would take on an orphan if you let her,she starts taking to her baby as soon as her water breaks,LOL).I had a filly one year darn near break her neck trying to see her mother foal,she couldnt see where she was standing so went like lightening to the outside of the barn and stuck her head in her mothers stall window to get a better look.It can be dangerous though to let a stallion be present(in the same pasture) during a foaling,I have heard some horror stories on that subject,and some stallions will kill newborn foals if they get a chance.Some of them just cant handle the smell of blood and they snap,it is best not to let them be in the same pasture at foaling time.As for re-introducing a mare/foal back to the herd and I take it you are planning to rebreed her,I would wait till she was in heat before I put her back in,it makes it easier sometimes ,as some stallions will chase new mares and try to breed them anyway,this way the mare is in heat and will stand and he will get his job done and things are fine,that is how I usually put my mares back in with the stallion after she has been out for a few weeks.Hope some of that helps,I am not a pro by far but have many years of life experience with my horses,breeding and foaling,although there are some things that still baffle me,LOL.Good luck.
Ps.I know this is an old topic but still quite intersting.
Please note that opinions, product information, advice or suggestions posted on this bulletin board are not necessarily those of the management at Equine-Reproduction.com nor does the maintenance of the post position indicate an implicit or any endorsement of that information, opinion or product.
Further, although we have the greatest respect for the posters offering assistance here, you are advised to seek a consultation with your veterinarian prior to using information obtained from this board if it is of a veterinary nature.Proud to be sponsored and supported by: