I own a six-year-old Mustang mare (700 lb or 318 kg) and her foal. She is very underweight. I have been feeding the mare and foal two times each day with 4 lb (1.8 kg) of a fortified forage pellet and two flakes of a Bermuda grass/alfalfa (lucerne) mixed hay. Should I be feeding her more?
As a rule of thumb, we recommend that a horse gets 1.5 -2% of its body weight in forage/feed. Mares that are lactating have even higher demands for calories and usually need 2.5% -3.5% to maintain weight and make enough milk for the foal. If the mare is underweight, then it would indicate that you are underfeeding the pair, even though the mare is a Mustang and they can be easy keepers.
Looking at just the mare, she should be offered at least 17.5 lb (7.8 kg) total of the pellets and hay (700 lb x .025 = 17.5 lb) per day. You can weigh out the flakes of hay to see what amount she is getting and you know that you are feeding 8 lb (3.6 kg) of the pellets. Because you probably want the mare to gain at least 100 lb (45 kg), then she should be getting a minimum of 20 lb (9 kg) per day (800 lb x .025 = 20 lb). You should consider that the foal might be eating a significant portion of the pellets, and the mare would not be deriving calories from those pellets.
I would suggest feeding at least 12 lb (5.4 kg) per day of the pellets to the mare in two or more feedings. If they are finishing off all of the hay as well, I would suggest adding an additional flake at each feeding to see if they clean that up. You may need to offer four flakes per feeding if they will eat it. Weighing a couple of flakes to get a general idea of their weight is a good idea so that you know how much you are feeding.
As the foal grows, it will consume more and more of the pellets and hay. The foal can be fed his pellets separately in a creep feeder so you can be sure he is getting what you want him to have and keep him from taking too much of the mare's feed. Creep feeders come in many designs to fit the many different types of paddocks and enclosures that mares and foals are kept in.
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