Draft Horses Biennial Breeding

Draft Horses Biennial Breeding

Draft Horses Biennial Breeding in some countries it is the custom for owners of brood mares to have them covered biennially, in the expectation of obtaining stronger and better-developed foals.

In England, however, such a course is unnecessary and unprofitable, as it is always desirable for mares to be supplied with auxiliary food support during the period of lactation, and when the foals are weaned, as they should be at five or six months old, the fetus in utero has not become sufficiently developed to create an inordinate drain upon the mare’s nutritive functions.

The profit of yearly foal-bearing is not only as a rule greater, but also more certain; for it is a recognized fact, though subject to exceptions, that those mares which are annually served become more surely fecundated than those covered every alternate year.

In this respect, as in many others, the owner must exercise his discretion, and be guided by the circumstances peculiar to his individual situation: if the demands for team work upon the farm are likely to render it impracticable for him to allow the rest needful for the well-beings; of all his mares when it is required, it will be better to adopt the biennial system, and employ only half his mares as breeders at one time; but under most other circumstances the annual method will be more advantageous and profitable.


Sterility in the mare may be due to age or prolonged continence, especially where associated with high condition; or it may arise from abnormal conformation, or diseases of the womb, or the existence of painful wounds, or diseases of the feet: it is, however, usually induced in mares prone to accumulate fat, by a superabundant supply of highly-stimulating food and the absence of sufficient work.

Medicinal treatment or surgical operations in some rare cases may cure sterility arising from a suspension of the uterine functions, or abnormalities of the organ; and the operation of neurotomy has been adopted with success upon mares rendered sterile by acutely painful foot diseases. The treatment for over-plethoric mares must be that of reduction to low, or even poor condition.


With the exception that the venereal excitement usually diminishes or disappears, and the animal becomes lazy and quiet, the signs that a mare has been impregnated do not become apparent for some time, nor is the periodical reappearance of ‘heat* to be regarded as conclusive evidence of non-conception. It is not impossible for cestrum to co-exist with impregnation.

The inconstancy in appearance of the objective symptoms of pregnancy renders that condition problematical (especially in mares, which ordinarily show only slight appearances of ‘ cestrum’) until the sixth or seventh month, when the fetal movements may usually be discerned in the flank, unless manual exploration of the uterus by vaginal examination is adopted for the purpose of ascertaining whether conception has taken place.

Valuable as the operation is for determining the state of the uterus during the primary months of gestation, it should never be employed except in cases of urgent necessity, on account of the danger and possible death of the fetus, which may be apprehended to follow its adoption with an irritable mare.

The period of gestation in the mare occupies, as a rule, from 330 to 360 days, during nearly the whole of which time it is of immense importance that opportunity is afforded for a sufficiency of daily exercise, especially needful for mares which are not suckling a foal.

Work.—When intelligently organized, regarding the different periods of gestation, ordinary farm-work is exceedingly beneficial to both mare and fetus. Throughout the whole period it is better that the labor should be continued and uniform, than violent or irregular.

Shafting heavy loads, especially when much backing or turning is required, should not be permitted. Towards the end of pregnancy all work necessitating unequal movements, or even excessive effort, should be discontinued, and with the appearance of the signs that parturition may be expected to take place within a week or ten days, it is advisable, but not essential, that work should be entirely suspended.

Pregnant mares should be stabled with due regard to security against annoyance, compression, or injury by other horses, and especially guarded against the accident of being ‘cast’ in their stalls.

Medical or surgical treatment should, as far as possible, be avoided; when absolutely necessary, the utmost possible care in its administration is required.

Food. —The food and feeding of mares-in-foal are of great and important interest, the science and practice whereof must be carefully studied by breeders who would be successful in maintaining their mares healthy throughout the period of gestation, and over the act of foaling, and reap the reward of stout and vigorous foals.

The quantity and nutritive quality of provender supplied to a pregnant mare should be in strict accord with her individual requirements; the establishment of a just balance between food and the demand for it can be determined by an accurate perception of condition, as exemplified by the possession of vigor and evidence of efficient nutrition.

The two opposite extremes of obesity or plethora and excessive leanness or debility are to be avoided; the former predisposes to abortion and difficult labors, the latter (of the two the least evil) prejudicially influences the nutrition of the fetus and deteriorates the subsequent secretion of milk.

Grass unaided by artificial food is insufficient for the sustenance of breeding mares subjected to labor; to ensure the yearly production of strong foals a daily allowance of corn should be continuously supplied, but, except in the depth of winter, or for incredibly young or very aged mares, green food, chop, and pulped roots suffice for the requirements of non-workers.

Most farmers usually feed their pregnant mares, when not suckling, on the same ration as that supplied to the other working horses. With good keepers the practice suffices to maintain adequate conditions, but when the ordinary provender is of low quality the mares should receive an auxiliary allowance.

Mashes or bruised oats or barley associated with pulped roots and chopped hay or straw, moistened with linseed-cake water, are the best adapted foods for working mares-in-foal—so constituted, they afford a substantial and at the same time a nonexciting and easily assimilated diet.

Maize is not a suitable grain for in-foal mares; when it constitutes a chief part of their corn allowance, their newly dropped progeny always exhibits general weakness of muscle and abnormal relaxation of the ligaments of the joints.

For mares pastured during the day a short supply of rack or manger food given in early morning renders their digestive organs less susceptible to the possibly deleterious influences of dew saturated grass.

More than any other farm animals, brood mares require to be supplied with diet of the best obtainable quality; every description likely to undergo rapid fermentation, or to produce indigestion, must be scrupulously avoided.

Long fasts are exceedingly prejudicial, and in cases where they are unavoidable or have been occasioned through neglect, small quantities of tepid water, and diminished rations of easily digestible food, should only be allowed at intervals, until the hunger and thirst have been reduced to their normal standards.

Pregnant mares should not be exposed to the influences of very excessive heat, or very severe cold, nor be pastured or folded with store oxen or young horses.


Abortion is produced by any cause operating to disconnect the fetal membranes from the uterus. These causes are very various and may be obtained at all periods of pregnancy. Predisposition to abortion is to be found in peculiar conformations of the pelvis, enlargements of the iliac bones, diseases of the womb, constitutional irritability, the influences of too stimulative diet or the reverse, wet seasons, a previous miscarriage, and all circumstances opposed to efficient nutrition and respiration.

The more direct mechanical causes are falls, blows, compressions of the abdomen, violent and spasmodic exertion. Functional disorders, severe illnesses, large draughts of icy water, or eating iced grass, may be considered as the most frequent physiological causes.

The symptoms of abortion vary with the term of gestation at which it occurs. When it follows shortly after conception, the precursory signs, as well as the occurrence of the fact, are frequently unnoticed, and the proprietor is led to believe that the mare has not been fecundated; on the other hand, when miscarriage takes place towards the end of the gestational period, the premonitory symptoms are almost identical with the signs of normal parturition, but the pains of abortion invariably precede the changes in the appearance of the external organs of generation, which in normal foaling are noticeable some time before the labor pains come on.

The usual signs of the fetus being dead, and not expelled immediately afterwards, are symptoms of ill-health in the mare, accompanied by an offensive discharge from the vulvae.

The prevention of abortion is the avoidance of all causes which may tend to produce it. In advanced pregnancy, when a symptom of approaching miscarriage has been manifested, the greatest care in the subsequent management of the mare is necessary. She should be placed in a roomy, darkened loose-box, left perfectly unmolested, and the services of an experienced veterinary surgeon immediately sought.

Whenever a mare has ‘picked her foal,‘ the cause should, if possible, be determined, and means adopted to prevent other pregnant mares being exposed to similar conditions. They should also be removed to a distance from the place, on account of the mysterious sympathetic influence exercised upon the organism of pregnant animals by the mere occurrence of abortion in one of their companions.

The attention required by a mare after abortion materially depends upon the indications of her general health. It very frequently happens that the placental membranes are retained in the uterus \ these should be removed before decomposition of their component parts is possible, and the mare should not be covered again until every appearance due to the mishap has entirely subsided.


The characteristic signs that the gestative period has been fully and naturally completed, and that parturition may be shortly expected to take place, are very pronounced, and so familiar to all persons who have had any experience in the management of brood mares that they need not be enumerated.

The natural instinctive desire for shade and solitude experienced by the mare at this crisis should be indulged by placing her in a warm, roomy, and well-littered loose-box, so arranged that the progress she makes can be constantly ascertained without causing her annoyance by interruption. Normal parturition in the mare is very rapid; at her full time, and with the fetus naturally placed, the act is accomplished in a short space of time, and without assistance.

The sense of uneasiness created by the presence of the fully developed fetus determines contraction of the abdominal muscles and diaphragm, as well as the walls of the womb itself; at the same time the orifice of the latter organ becomes dilated, succeeding efforts of expulsion push the muzzle and fore feet of the fetus further through the neck of the uterus, in which situation they may be recognized, immersed in the fluids of the yet unruptured membranes. More violent pains then force the head and shoulders through the pelvis, and another last contraction expels the posterior parts and completes the act.

If the labor is protracted and the pains are very strong, a quiet and careful examination should be made, for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is sufficient room for the fetus to pass through the pelvic arch, and also to determine whether the foal occupies a natural position. In the first case more time may be allowed, in the second the fetus will require to be adjusted.

To judge accurately of either of these conditions the attendant must be an experienced man, and know the exact time when interference is necessary. Very great harm is occasioned by premature and unnecessary meddling. He should make re-examinations from time to time, and if increased room is but tardily provided, he must take care, by securing the parts presented, that the fetal position does not become changed from a natural to a malpresentation through the continued and violent throes of the mare.

Dilatation of the passage may be assisted by gentle and well-applied traction upon those portions of the fetus that are naturally presented. The causes of difficult labor, and the means to be adopted to overcome obstructions to delivery, with the treatment of the patient after parturition, are so numerous, and belong so intrinsically to the science of veterinary surgery, that they have no place here.

Whenever serious obstacles to delivery exist, the aid of an experienced veterinary obstetrician should be promptly sought, and no violent tractile efforts employed until his arrival; but if the membranes are ruptured, as they probably will be before it is considered necessary to obtain skilled aid, it is wise to secure with cords the head or legs of the foal when easily practicable.

It sometimes happens, especially with old and debilitated mares, that the act of parturition becomes protracted from weakness alone. Such cases not only demand the administration of powerful internal stimulants, but require the employment of well-timed, gentle, and firm traction upon the fetus coinciding with the throes of the mare: spasmodic, jerking efforts, which do not correspond with the parturient pains, in all cases do much harm, and are of little or no assistance to the act.

After an easy labor strong mares require nothing but attention to their comfort and ordinary wants, and protection from currents of cold air; but if the accouchement has been prolonged and painful a stimulant should be immediately given: debilitated mares under the last-named circumstance require frequent alcoholic stimulants, nourishing gruel, and good nursing.

The fetal envelopes, or after-birth, are usually expelled in a short time after natural labor; when retained for a day or two no danger need be apprehended, so long as the mare does not strain, and her health continues unimpaired; but surgical interference for their removal becomes necessary when retained sufficiently long to render putrefaction probable.

Aged mares, having exceptionally large and pendulous abdomens, derive much comfort from a wide bandage passed several times round the body, adjusted evenly, and with a view of affording support without exerting undue pressure.

After-pains continued for more than an hour are to be regarded as evidence of possibly some important derangement of the womb and requiring skilled aid. The application of a mustard and linseed poultice over the region of the loins is always consistent treatment in these cases, and may be adopted at once, to economize valuable time before the arrival of the veterinary surgeon.

When a mare foals in a standing position, the fetus glides down the thighs, and reaches the ground unhurt; the umbilical cord is severed, and dangerous hemorrhage thereby prevented. When the act is accomplished in a recumbent attitude, and the mare remains down, the cord must be divided between two ligatures previously tied round it a couple of inches apart; but if the mare rises immediately the cord will be ruptured in a safe and satisfactory manner.

Many foals are lost through want of attention at the moment of birth. When the functions of respiration are not promptly established in the new-born foal, efforts must be made to excite them by blowing violently upon the muzzle and into the mouth, and by briskly rubbing the body with a wisp. If breathing is but slowly promoted a few teaspoonsfuls of brandy and water, given after the first few respirations, will be of material service to invigorate the low vital powers.

As soon as the mare has recovered from the shock, the maternal instinct should be encouraged by allowing her to perform the office of nurse to her progeny, which will be physically benefited thereby. If the dam refuses to dry and caress her offspring, a little flour sprinkled over the back of the latter will sometimes attract her kindly to it; should this means fail, the foal must be dried with soft flannel, conducted to the teat, and assisted to obtain its first aliment.

It is sometimes necessary to protect the foal from the ill-intention of a peevish dam; but after the mare has permitted the foal to suck and has evinced maternal solicitude for its welfare by licking and caressing it, no fear need be entertained that she will subsequently injure it willfully.

Best Wishes

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