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The reality is that many of the foals left behind, after a


nurse mare goes off to be a surrogate mom, succumb to death. While some are adopted and go on to have a useful life, the number of foals that fall by the wayside is staggering. Their general rates of survival are minimal.


Alternative Solution For the ethical horse breeder who wants to provide a nurse mare for their orphan foal but doesn’t want to leave a biolog- ical foal behind, there is another choice. The simple alterna- tive to the traditional nurse mare production method is to bring a proven broodmare who is currently open with no foal at her side into milk production via hormone administration. Laura Phoenix is the owner of Nursemares of the North-


east, based in Walton, New York, and has a lifetime of expe- rience providing nurse mares for the orphan foal. (For more information, see www.facebook.com/northeastNurse mares/). Currently Laura provides more than 28 mares to act as surro- gate equine moms each year to a variety of equestrian industries: horse racing operations; commercial performance horse breeders, including many Warmblood breed- ers; vet clinics; and back- yard breeders. Laura has seen many changes in the nurse mare industry and agrees the status quo in the nurse mare industry is a challenge to change because of the expense of hormone-induced milk production. “Hormonal milk induction can be more expensive and


Mare and foal photos this page: Nurse mares from Nursemares of the Northeast check out their newly adopted foals, a process care- fully monitored in the beginning to make certain the mares accept the new foals. Above: Laura Phoenix and nurse mare So Sultry.


22 May/June 2018


requires a lot of knowledge. This is not something just anyone can do. For example, Thoroughbred farms like to use nurse mares so the dam is removed from risk of injury, risk of hurt- ing the foal as an inexperienced mother, and so they can get them back into their production line,” she explains. “They simply bring in a nurse mare and then rebreed them before they leave so the nurse mare operation is set for another ‘foal left behind’ the next year. This makes me very sad. The bottom line is probably the reason that many farms still operate with this old-fashioned approach. I would like to change all that. Hormonal milk induction is a kinder approach all around.” Laura’s experiences in the nurse mare industry began with


the traditional approach. “When I was young, there were no milk-induction meth-


ods available so there were a lot of orphan foals that had to be dealt with and it broke my heart. When I heard about hormonal milk induction, I jumped on it. I worked at first with some of my own mares who had foaled out and I knew were good mommas, and then once I realized how well it worked I started adopting mares who had also been good mommas in the past but needed new careers,” she says.


How it Works The mares are administered hormone injections and given oral domperidone gel. This protocol brings the mare into milk production. The mare may be milked by hand (or in some cases via special machine) to keep her in milk production in readiness for the urgent call for a surrogate mare. The nutri- tional needs of the mare must be carefully managed to help her body produce the milk quality and quantity required to


Photos courtesy Laura Phoenix/Nursemares of the Northeast


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