Foaling will be well under way for mares covered early the previous year. Just before mares go to be covered, the vet will take a further clitoral swab to ensure the mare is clean (free from infection); this is often faxed directly to the stud where the mare is to be covered.
Some think late February/early March is the optimum time for a foal to be born. Once safely delivered, the mare & foal should be examined by a vet, the foal’s IgG level tested, and the mare’s milk and colostrum checked.
During the first 24 hours after giving birth, the mare produces thick milk called colostrum. Colostrum is very important because it is rich in antibodies, protein and calories. The mare transfers her antibodies to the foal primarily through colostrum, rather than through the placenta like humans; these antibodies protect the foal against environmental disease. These proteins are also called Immunoglobulins (IgG).
Reference: The Care of Newborn Foals by Dr. Tracie Hill Hulse, DVM
Merlin - The Teaser!
Some mares will be covered on their foal heat, i.e., when they come into season very soon after foaling, but this is often not satisfactory and generally they come back into season within a month of foaling and are ready to be covered. Occasionally mares require a little help and are given prostaglandin (PG) to speed up the process.
Thanks to scanning technology, a vet can see exactly when a mare is ready to be covered and can be “walked in” to the stud where the selected stallion stands. Ovulation can be checked 48 hours later either by a vet or by a lack of interest from the mare in a teaser.
At 16 days a conceptus can be seen on the vet’s screen – should there be two, the vet will squeeze one to ensure a single pregnancy.
Foals will still be arriving and mares still being covered. Any that did not conceive the first time will return to the stallion and the later producers will be covered for the first time.
Foals can now be blood sampled and micro chipped as soon as required after birth but it is often done at about a month old. Weatherbys issue veterinary practices with microchips which are implanted into the foal’s neck and at the same time the vet will make a note of the foal’s colouring, marks, whorls, etc. The paperwork and blood sample are sent to the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket for DNA sampling and then passed on to Weatherbys.
At 40 days post covering, the vet should be able to detect a heart beat in the growing foetus.
It is a good idea to start making Stud Book Returns to Weatherbys as the foals arrive. The final date for submission of completed paperwork (Stud Book Return Form and Covering Certificate) to benefit from the most economical registration fee is 31st July and there is a tremendous rush then. Early registration reveals any discrepancies in the paperwork in time to sort them out before the due date.