Stopping the Flow

Q.  I have a mare that is still lactating heavily months after weaning her foal. What is the cause of this? And how can it be cured or prevented?

Michelle, via email

A. I have no information on specific disorders of the mare that would explain this. That leaves us with a concern for management failure as an explanation for this situation.

Milk production is linked closely with mare nutrition. As feed intake is reduced, lactation slows. As lactation slows, foals seek nutrition on their own (such as additional nutrition via a creep feeder). Reduced nursing also slows the response of the mare, who essentially dries up. That's the way Nature intends this to happen.

Good managers make this happen prior to weaning by slowly reducing the energy-generating feeds from the mare's ration, and after weaning by not milking the mare after the foal is weaned. High-energy feeds such as grain and/or rich legume hay should be reduced or eliminated from the mare's diet after weaning if possible.

About the Author

A.C. Asbury, DVM

A. C. (Woody) Asbury received his DVM from Michigan State University in 1956, then spent 21 years in California in breeding farm practice and at UC Davis. He joined the faculty at the University of Florida in 1977 and was involved in teaching, research, and administration until 1996. An Emeritus Professor at Florida, he lives in Kentucky, where he and his wife are developing a small farm.

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