Mare Care

This year has absolutely flown by and nothing drew my attention to that fact more than when I realized we had 3 mares already due for their 5th month EHV-1 vaccinations. Could it really be? Are they seriously in their second trimesters already??

Guess so.

Organizing – and keeping up with – a vaccination schedule for a large group of horses is a big chore. There’s much more than just the annual doses of EEE / WEE / tetanus / influenza / Strangles / and West Nile Virus to look after. In southern Saskatchewan, Rabies is a big concern. And with each new crop of foals coming up every year, there are boosters to keep in mind. Not to mention the frequent rotational dewormings required for a herd of 40 horses (this year we got even more aggressive with parasites by collecting fecal samples from many of our herd – this allowed us to have fecal egg counts done by one of our veterinarians and really combat our farm’s parasites accordingly.)

All that aside, there are then the specific needs of our broodmares to keep in mind. Proper nutrition, dental care and farrier work are essential to the health of the broodmare. And in my opinion, it is absolutely vital to protect broodmares (and unborn foals) from Equine Herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1). According to www.foalcare.ca, the “EHV-1 strain of Equine Herpesvirus is the leading cause of infectious viral abortions in mares. EHV-1 is typically associated with late-term abortions and the delivery of a well-preserved fetus and outwardly normal placenta. Most horses become infected with EHV-1 during the first year of life. In the majority of cases, the virus becomes latent, just waiting for stress-induced reactivation. Sources of infection for pregnant broodmares include: clinically ill horses shedding the virus in nasal secretions; asymptomatic horses experiencing reactivation of latent infection; or virus laden uterine secretions and placenta/fetus from mares aborting due to EHV-1.”

My 3 most important tools to protect the health of our broodmare herd.

There are 3 very important things that I keep in the barn to help us organize and safeguard the health of our broodmares. These include:

1) Breeding Management & Foal Development textbook from Equine Research. This book features 700 pages of vital information for anyone who is serious about equine breeding and production.

Pneumabort-k vaccines.

2) Equine Pneumabort-k Vaccines – This is a killed (or inactive) vaccine from Fort Dodge designed to prevent abortion in horses. It is given IM at the 5th, 7th and 9th months of pregnancy and does not present any risk to the fetus.

My Mare Care wheel.

3) Mare Care Wheel – This handy little wheel is possibly one of the greatest things I’ve ever picked up! First off, it was free from Foal Care (an Intervet program) and it has been an aboslute lifesaver. With anywhere from 7-11 mares to care for every year, keeping all those vaccination dates on track has proven to be one of the trickiest aspects of herd management. This wheel literally, spells it out for me. I simply spin the wheel to the mare’s breeding date (we take careful notes every time an ultrasound is performed in our breeding lab, therefore there are no mistakes for discerning a last known breeding date) and this starts the vaccination process for each individual mare.

Next, the wheel will point out the dates for the mare’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd vaccinations for EHV-1. It also tells me a 15-day window to organize the mare for her pre-foaling booster vaccinations (which stimulate the mare to produce high levels of protective antibodies at a time during late pregnancy when she is also producing antibody-rich colostrum.)

Then I record the wheel’s dates and print up a document for each mare accordingly. These documents (as below) are then kept in the mare’s individual medical file at the barn, so I can record every time something is administered to her.

The great thing about my Mare Care wheel is that is also provides me with a 340-day guesstimate from the mare’s last known breeding date. Hence, I have a pretty good idea as to when the mare will foal out. Of course, there is no exact science to predicting a mare’s due date but we usually come pretty close. And because we watch each mare’s signs and behavior closely as the wheel’s predicted date approaches, we are usually present during her parturition.

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