The Horse

FEB 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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18 THE HORSE February 2018 the pH reaches 6.5 or lower, there's high likelihood the mare will foal within the next 24 hours. These two tests combined add a little more precision for the mare owner or for the veterinary clinic. How- ever, not all mares drop their pH in the same way." For instance, maiden mares' milk pH levels tend to decrease very rapidly in the 24 hours before foaling, while those of older mares that have had foals previously tend to decrease more slowly (you can find these pH ranges in Eller- brock's research at "When using pH strip tests, it is impor- tant to use commercial strips providing readings in 0.1- or 0.2-unit increments," she says. "Test strips measuring pH in 0.5-unit increments won't be useful for identifying subtle changes that predict imminent foaling." Despite these tests, not all mares go by the book. "We've had mares that remained very high in calcium … for up to five days before foaling," says Tibary, noting that a likely reason was that their routines had changed; mares can delay la- bor for 24 hours or more. For that reason, these tests are probably more predictable at home, in the mare's familiar environ- ment, he says. Other things that affect these tests include high-risk pregnancies and abnor- mal mammary gland development. Some maiden mares or mares that have leaked milk prior to foaling might also throw off test results. "Mares that have been treated for placentitis or mares that have undergone surgery for colic during pregnancy or have had other stresses or disturbances of the normal hormonal changes will not have a reliable test," says Tibary. "Then we must fall back on watching them closely and using electronic devices." While monitoring calcium, electro- lytes, and milk pH levels in healthy mares is typically a more accurate predictor of foaling than evaluating physical changes alone, it does add an expense. Calcium tests and full panel electrolytes are going to cost more than ommercially available pH strip tests, adds Ellerbrock. Take-Home Message Gestation length varies so widely in mares that it pays to monitor them closely in late gestation, to watch for the changes that signal readiness for foaling. Careful observation, monitoring devices, and milk test kits are all useful tools for helping predict impending parturition. h Predicting Foaling Testing the calcium levels in a mare's mammary gland secretions can give you a good idea of when she will foal. In this test, if all five squares change to red, then she has a high likelihood of foaling within the next 12 to 24 hours. COURTESY DR. AHMED TIBARY Give them a healthy start! Monitoring levels of immunoglobulins (IgG) in newborn foals is key to ensuring they have received adequate transfer of antibodies from the mare's colostrum. Get results in 10 minutes with the IgGCheck for foals on-farm test. 856.231.8894 ❙

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