What do I need in my foaling kit?
Tail wrap, scissors in case of a red bag, alcohol to clean scissors in case I need them, paper towels, palpation sleeves, sterile lube, umbilical clamps in case of a bleeder, enema, small scissors to cut off foalert, dilute chlorhexidine, 6 and 12 cc syringe casings to dip navel, respirator. Nearby in the lab – ob chains, banamine, oxytocin, refractometer for colostrum, mare milker for colostrum banking, semen filter to strain milk, whirl pak bags to store milk, sedation for problem mare. Clock on wall – I never wear my watch foaling.
No ob chains are necessary unless you know how to use them. Most supplies can be purchased at arssales.com or exodusbreeders.com. We highly recommend the resuscitator and the mare milker even if you only foal one mare per year.
What else do I need to know about foaling?
The arssales.com foaling kit includes umbilical clamps which you may never use. But we know of two foals at neighboring ranches that bled out and died in the past. If you have a bleeder and do not have an umbilical clamp in your kit, you do not have time to go get one. It had better be within reach because you cannot take your hand off the umbilical.
We keep bar towels on hand for retained placentas. We poke a hole in a corner of several towels 3 – 4 and put a zip tie through the hole. Then we wet them in a bucket of warm water and attach them to the highest point of the placenta right near the vulva. We will dip it in a bucket again if it dries out. If little of the placenta is outside of the mare post foaling we do this right away. Otherwise we give her a while to clean. We always tie up the placenta so there is a little weight to it. Nothing fancy – just get if off the ground. We throw the towels away after the mare cleans. Don’t even try to wash them…..
We use tail wrap if we have time and the mare does not object. If it interferes with foaling we do not use it. We use 6″ brown gauze and leave it on after foaling but it slips down on its own and you can pull it off later the next day. Everyone here knows that if a mare still has tail wrap on that she just foaled. Sometimes the mare is extra fussy and we have to put her in the stocks to pull it off. We don’t use vetwrap. Too expensive, too hard to put on in a hurry, too hard to get off in a hurry.
I have heard that live breeding or pasture breeding is better than artificial insemination. Will you breed my mare live?
No, our stallions are much too busy and much too valuable to breed live cover. We can monitor the mare’s cycles, the semen quality and amount inseminated, and the mare’s cleanliness and reaction to the semen much more closely in an artificial insemination program. While some people have better luck breeding live, it is almost always due to lack of experience with artificial insemination. Pasture bred mares may get bred at the optimum time but they also get no extra care or antibiotics if needed, and many times get less semen than with an artificial insemination dose. Poorly managed programs always have low conception rates whether artificial, live or pasture bred.
What is a foal heat?
The foal heat is the first heat after foaling. It averages about nine days post foaling but can be earlier or later than nine days. Many mares will not show signs of heat but the foal will have diarrhea of “scours.” We do not like to ship semen of foal heats earlier than 10 days because the live foal rates are decreased. You need to have your veterinarian check your mare to see if she is a candidate for foal heat breeding.
Should I breed my mare on her foal heat?
The mare MUST have good uterine involution, no cervical bruises, no fluid, no retained placenta (3 hours max), no discharge, etc. We never breed on the foal heat before day 9 because the live foal rate drops drastically before then.
Foal heats can occur anytime from a few days up to 20 days or more post foaling. Each day past 9 days adds to a higher live foal rate if bred on the foal heat. If a mare is not in heat at day 9, we keep checking her to see when she does have her foal heat. A mare that has not yet come into heat by 14 days post foaling is not unusual at all. We check routinely check mares at 9 days and 25 days post foaling, unless we short cycle them and then need to check them sooner.
Many mares do not show on their foal heat, but many farms do not tease mares at all and rely solely on ultrasound, so foal heats do not usually go undetected. Some mares do not tease until the day of ovulation. Foals usually, but not always, scour on the foal heat. Foal heats are not affected by the weather.
I was told not to feed my mare much until after her foal heat. What do you think?
Our standard answer for this is, did you eat after you had your own child? Were you hungry or did you go on a starvation diet the first two weeks? Mare need feed to produce milk and we give most mares grain starting about a month before foaling, and get all the hay they want. Some mares can get way too heavy and are not fed as much, but we do not want the average mare to lose weight after foaling. The older mares get a senior feed and all the hay they want.
What do I do about my foal’s diarrhea during foal heat?
Foals rarely have serious problems with foal heat scours and need only a little pepto bismol, if anything. They do start nibbling everything in the stall about this time and can pick up the surrounding bacteria so they do need to be monitored carefully. If the diarrhea associated with foal heat is very watery or profuse, the foal stops nursing, or has a fever, this is an emergency situation and you need to call your veterinarian immediately. Make sure you always check your mare’s udder when checking the foal. He may stop nursing before you can see something is wrong. It is normal for a foal to eat the mare’s manure but it is not normal for a young foal to drink a lot of water.
When should she come in again after the foal heat?
We like to palpate the mares at day 25 post foaling. Many mares do not show heat well with a foal on their side and we don’t want to miss them. They should come back in heat about 14 days after their foal heat.
Can you just give her a shot and make her come in heat?
The shot is prostaglandin and will make your mare come in heat, if she is in the right phase of her cycle. We always palpate mares prior to giving prostaglandin to make sure they are not in foal and to see if the prostaglandin will be effective. It does not work on mares in winter anestrous.
Do I need gloves to give Regumate?
The label on Regumate strongly warns against skin contact and gloves should be work by anyone administering it. It is also important to follow the correct dosage of 1cc per hundred pounds and not just automatically give 10cc to mares that weigh 1300 pounds. And do not try to inject it – it is given orally.
How soon can you pregnancy check my mare?
We ultrasound the mares at 14 to 16 days, and again at 25 days to check for a heartbeat. It is important to check the mare to see the progress of the embryo and also to check for twins. Mares usually go home after this. We will continue to check mares again at 30 – 35 days, 45 days and 60 days. We will keep checking every 30 days until we no longer will breed the mare. In the fall we will check any pregnant ranch mare acting like she is in heat or exhibiting any signs to make us think she is not in foal. We will check all the pregnant ranch mares in November to see if any have slipped so we can get them under lights by December 1st.
My mare was pregnant and now she is not? I never saw an aborted foal. What happened?
This could be caused by many different things. Most of the time you will not see anything – no fetus, no afterbirth, no blood. You have no idea your mare is open until the November check. About 10% of mares will lose their foals each year and many will get right back in foal and never have a problem again. Mares that abort a 9 to 10 month fetus need to be checked to determine the cause, but sometimes it is difficult to tell. You need to get your veterinarian to check the mare and the fetus if you find one aborted. There can be mechanical problems, such as an umbilical cord problem or a twin, a congenital defect, bacterial problems, or it can be a hormone problem. Some mares will need to be put on Regumate the next time they are in foal if this is not their first loss or if they are 20 years old or older.
I was told to give my mare a shot and then order semen six (or however many) days later. Will this work?
This is a big red flag telling us that you are not getting good advice and that this mare will probably not get in foal with shipped semen. You cannot predict when you will need semen using the calendar. You need to have a competent equine reproduction veterinarian checking your mare regularly for shipped semen to work.
My vet said the semen had poor mobility and it was only 40%. What is wrong with the semen?
This is another big red flag. First, the word is motility, not mobility. This means that the semen is moving. Usually the semen is put on a warm (37C) slide on a warmed microscope (again 37C) and evaluated when the semen is warmed up. If the motility is 40%, and we initially shipped you a dose of 1 billion, have more than enough motile semen to breed your mare. Sometimes it takes about 5 minutes to get a true idea of the motility. Many stallions will have little or no motility until the semen is warmed up. You cannot evaluate it cold. On the other hand, if you warm it for too long, you will cook it and it will all be dead. You cannot evaluate it when cooked. Sometimes even a new microscope slide will have something on it that kills the semen. Try another slide or wash one with distilled water and then dry and try again.
If the semen does have a problem, we want to know immediately. Call us when it is under the microscope and we will be happy to listen to your veterinarian. If the semen is all dead (no motility) we need to figure out why and we need your veterinarian’s help to determine what went wrong with the shipment. We do not ship semen if we think it has a problem. Do not wait until the next heat or the next year to tell us the semen was bad. We will not believe you unless you call us when you are looking at it or shortly thereafter.
How soon should the foal stand and nurse and how soon should my mare lose her afterbirth?
The best way to remember is 1-2-3. The foal should stand within an hour, should nurse within two hours and the mare should lose the placenta within three hours. These are only guidelines but if any of these events take longer, you need to call your veterinarian and get his advice on what to do next. Make sure you find all of the placenta. Mares with retained placentas can founder or even die. If your mare has retained her placenta for more than six hours, this is an emergency situation and you need to call your veterinarian immediately. The mare will need some help and some drugs to help her from developing a serious problem.
Do I need to bring you last year’s records for my mare?
Yes! It makes our job easier and saves you a lot of time and money if we do not have to reinvent the wheel. We are surprised at how many mares show up with no reproductive history at all. Any reputable breeding farm will be happy to give you your mare’s records or send them to us. It is professional courtesy and most of us respect each other’s work. We need to know either what worked or what didn’t work so we don’t repeat it. Sometimes we run out of technology and breeding mares turns into an art. We need to see if all the available technology has been used. Sometimes it take a couple of breeding seasons to try all the different things and it really helps to see what was done last year or the last several years.
When do I need to give rhino shots?
Your pregnant mare needs to be vaccinated at the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th month. She should be given Pneumabort K + 1b, which protects her from EHV 1 infections that can cause abortion. This shot does not give her rhino and does not cause abortion. This is one of the simplest things you can do to protect your pregnant mare and the most often overlooked.
What is a Caslick?
A Caslick is a procedure to prevent aspiration of air into the mare’s reproductive tract (windsucking), which causes irritation and infection. Mares with poor vulvar conformation need to have this procedure to get and stay in foal. The area is numbed and then a small strip of tissue is removed from either side of the vulva. The vulva is then stitched together to prevent air and/or feces from entering the vulva. It is important to sew down far enough but also to allow enough room for urination. Once the two sides are healed together, the stitches can be removed, usually in about 2-3 weeks. The Caslick must be opened prior to foaling so the mare will have enough room to foal without tearing. Usually a mare that needs a Caslick will need one every year. Your veterinarian will recommend this procedure if he or she feels it is needed.
What color is my foal?
A roan must have a roan parent; a gray must have a gray parent; a palomino or buckskin must have a palomino or buckskin parent; and a dun or grullo must have a dun or grullo parent. Most blue roans are born grullo or “taupe” colored. Unless they have a dun or grullo parent, the grullo color will turn either blue roan, brown or black. You should start to see either roan or black underneath the grullo coat at about two months of age. Sometimes you can part the hair and see the roan hairs. Bay roans are usually born bay. Sometimes it is hard to see the white hairs until they are a month or two old. Red roans (sorrel base coat) are usually born with a lot of white hair throughout the body are the easiest roan to see. Palomino roans have a palomino hair coat with white hairs. Sometimes it is very obvious in a newborn and sometimes you cannot tell until start to shed and are very white underneath. Buckskin roans and grulla roans are hard to see at birth, also. They usually start to shed out at about two months and then you can see the roan hairs. Sometimes that will be the only time in their life they look roan. Most roans shed off to be almost white and then turn darker the next time they shed. They do not get lighter with age but change seasonally. Some get lighter in the summer and some get lighter in the winter. Grays usually have white hairs on their eyelids and around their eyes even if there are no other white hairs. They get lighter each year until they turn white or “flea bitten.” It is hard to tell a roan from a gray before they lighten up and sometimes they are both. Palominos can come in several different shades. Some look obviously like a palomino at birth. Some look like a light sorrel or “apricot color” and their mane hair does not turn white until about two months of age. Buckskins are pretty easy to tell; they have a yellow body and black mane and tail. Their legs are usually light and turn black when they shed. Sometimes buckskins are born almost bay and do not look buckskin until they shed.
What is plasma and why does my foal need it?
All of the major breeding farms throughout the United States have a bacteria in the soil called Rhodoccus equi. While there is some debate about how foals acquire this bacteria, it is thought to be shed by the mare, both by the dust in her coat and in her manure, and the foal can pick up the bacteria within a few days of foaling. This disease can cause gastrointestinal problems but mainly causes respiratory problems that can be deadly. The bacteria can cause golf ball size abscesses in the lungs and can cause abscesses in other parts of the body as well.
Unfortunately, the symptoms can be difficult to recognize until the foal is extremely ill and it is too late. Symptoms include coughing, snotty nose, increase respiratory rate and elevated temperature. The blood work may not reflect the actual severity of the disease until several weeks later but the things we look for in an inflammatory panel are an elevated white count and high fibrinogen. Many, many foals can have pneumonia and still have normal temperatures and normal bloodworm. Some veterinarians will use ultrasound and radiography to diagnose the disease. The bacteria is very resistant to the usual antibiotics and the antibiotic of choice, clarithromycin, is very expensive. Some foals will require banamine to reduce the temperature and the inflammation and Ventipulmin to help the foal breathe. Sometimes another antibiotic, Rifampin, is added if the foal does not improve with clarithromycin alone. And foals usually need Gastro Guard while on antibiotics. Once a foal is 6 months to a year old, they usually develop immunity and the bacteria is not a danger to them. Since the bacteria resides in soil, reducing dust is very important.
We feel prevention is cost effective and definitely better than the heartbreak of a dead foal. To help the foal’s immune system, a liter of R. equip plasma (taken from an older horse that has developed resistance to the disease) is administered intravenously when the foal is 24 to 48 hours old. While the plasma does not reduce the incidence of Rhodococcus 100%, is does reduce the mortality rate and seems to reduce the severity of the disease if they do contract it. We administer plasma to all of our own foals at Oasis Ranch and feel that it gives the immune system an overall boost in addition to helping prevent Rhodoccus equi. We also are very diligent about controlling dust.
We hope these answers helped you. These are only our opinions and are in no way a substitution for veterinary advice. Please contact your equine veterinarian to help you raise a healthy and valuable foal. And check back as we add more questions and answers.