When the mare is at severe work during the summer months, the ration should be wide, - one to seven or one to eight.1 As the work lightens and time of parturition approaches, the ration may be narrowed; about one to six is appropriate. The bowels should not be allowed to become constipated, neither should they be lax. The system should be kept free from fever and the muscles fully supplied with water by feeding some succulent foods and those which tend to cool the system and soften the striated muscles. For one or two months previous to parturition, the mare should never be allowed to work on soft plowed ground or on muddy roads or be driven at a rapid pace, nor should she be used for heavy draft work. Unless she be free in the pasture, she will be benefited by regular, light work.
1 A ration is said to be wide when the heat and energy constitu ents of the food exceed the muscle-sustaining constituents more than seven times; when less than five times, it may be termed a narrow ration. These figures are not arbitrary. Nutritive ratio means the proportion which the proteids, muscle-sustainers, bear to the heat and energy-producers. (See Appendix III.).
Brood-mares, when nursing their foals, should be fed much as dairy cows are, - that is, for the production of milk. Timothy hay and corn are not good and economical milk-producing foods when fed alone. (See Appendix III.) The ration of brood-mares and colts should be narrow, about one to five if the stables are comfortable. If the temperature in the stable remains down to zero or below for considerable periods of time, then the ration should be widened to one to seven, or even one to eight, by adding concentrated carbonaceous foods. Rather wide rations should be fed in the stables which are over-ventilated - draughty. It is wise to feed some succulent food (carrots are best), even if the mare is not giving milk. Matured apples, potatoes and good corn silage may be fed in limited quantities. Bright mixed clover and timothy hay, if fed with judgment, should provide all the needed roughage. Better feed bright straw with nitrogenous grain rations to balance it than to feed overripe or musty and dirty hay.
For a mare of 1,100 pounds, nursing a foal, the following would constitute a good and sufficient daily ration as long as the foal subsists entirely on its mother's milk: (When it has passed that period, it should be tied during feeding time and fed in a separate manger.)
Mixed hay.................15 pounds.
Wheat bran (or its equivalent).......5 pounds.
This ration should be increased or diminished as the condition of dam and foal seems to demand. If the hay has a large proportion of bright clover, it is all the better, and, in this case, cracked corn may well be substituted for part of the oats. Roots are desirable in this ration, both because they tend to stimulate the flow of milk and because they are conducive to good health in dam and foal.
The colt, up to the time it is called on to perform service, should receive a narrow ration, - one of about one to five or one to five and a half.
There are two critical periods in the life of the foal, - the transition period when its food is being changed from the mother's milk to a partial or entire ration of solid food, and the time when it changes its milk-teeth for permanent ones.
If the dam becomes pregnant on the ninth day after she has brought forth young, or soon after, her milk will decrease, as time goes on, more rapidly than it would if she had not become so. Therefore, if the dam becomes pregnant, the foal should have its milk supply of food supplemented by an extra portion of palatable, easily digested, green and dry food. The foal should be weaned when it is three to four months old, if the dam is pregnant; if she is not, it may nurse somewhat longer. If, for any reason, the colt begins life in the spring, then the time for weaning it will be when the flies are most annoying, the sun fiercest, pastures scant, the grasses dry and more or less iunutritious. It is cruel to separate the young things from their dams and turn them out at this time of the year to fight for their lives. Far better, place them in darkened box-stalls until the flies have departed.
Water should be offered in the winter twice and in summer thrice daily. The drinking water in the winter will be most acceptable if raised to a temperature of 98 degrees Fahr., though this is not imperative.
A roomy box-stall should be provided for the mare and foal; one ten by fifteen feet in the clear will suffice, except for large draft-mares. When the foal is a few days old, its dam may be led out of the stall daily. At first she should not be separated from her offspring but for a few minutes at a time; the time of each successive separation may be increased until it will be safe to use the mare for two or three hours at a time. The blood of the mare should not be overheated, nor should the foal be allowed to nurse when the mare is over-warm. A good plan is to allow the mare a liberal breathing spell at the far end of the field, with her head away from the barn, a half-hour or so before she comes to the stable. If this does not result in her cooling off, then it will be better to relieve the udder of some of the milk before returning her to the stable and her foal.
The foal should not be allowed to follow its dam when she is at work. The mare and foal Would better be turned into a field or paddock during the pleasant weather a few hours each day in the winter, and at night in the summer after having eaten their usual grain ration in the stable. Mr. F. S. Peer, in his interesting book on "Soiling, Ensilage and Stable Construction," recommends soiling brood-mares and foals during fly time and turning both out at night. He recommends feeding oats and peas, also alfalfa.
In summer, darken the stables and exclude the flies as far as possible. Preserve the rotund appearance and the "colt flesh" of the foal until it disappears naturally, when eight to nine months of age. A stunted colt means a handicapped horse.
The fall colt. - By the middle of May, or before, will have been weaned, will have all of its incisor milk teeth, and will make rapid growth without concentrated food when turned out to pasture.
We may now sum up the transaction: The broodmare has earned by her work her own and her foal's food and, in addition, enough to pay an ordinary bill for services of stallion. The value of the colt, when weaned, will usually range somewhere between thirty and one hundred dollars, the larger part of which will be profit. After the foal has been turned to pasture, it will require but little attention or grain, either summer or winter. The cost of its food will usually be between fifteen and twenty-five dollars per year. The colt, unless thoroughbred or trotter, may be made to earn its keep after it is three years of age.
Note. Colt - the male offspring of the mare when less than five years old. At five, the name changes to gelding or stallion. Filly - the female offspring up to five years of age or less, afterward a mare. The word colt is also used generically for a male or female, under five years of age. Foal - a young colt of either sex.