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The Composition of Arabian mares’ milk

 

Author:  Magdalena Pieszka
Horse Breeding Department, Agricultural University, Al. Mickiewicza 24/28, 30-059 Kraków, Poland

 arabian horses

horseIn the first days of after birth, foals are normally with their mothers and their only nutrition is mare’s milk which is the best food for them, as it contains all the nourishment necessary for the proper growth and development of a young foal. Researchers show that the quantity of milk drunk by foals during the first weeks of life does not depend on the foal’s behaviour during suckling. One of the most important things that has an effect on the milk’s quantity and quality is the feeding of the mares. The most important thing for any foal is to receive the necessary components in the proper proportions and quantity, because the growth rate of young foals is at its most intensive during that time.

The level of particular components in mares milk is respectively low compared to the milk of other domestic animals. That is why foals duplicate their weight at birth later than is the case for the progeny of other domestically-bred animals.

Table 1. Building components in milk of domestic mammals and their growth rate. (by Krzymowski 1998)


Animal species

Number of days necessary to duplicate the weight at birth

Protein in milk (%)

Ash in milk (%)

Man

180

1,6

0,2

Horse

60

2,2

0,5

Cow

47

3,5

0,8

Sheep

10

6,5

1,0

Pig

8

7,3

1,0

Dog

8

7,1

1,3

Cat

7

9,1

0,6

Rabbit

6

14,0

2,2

elkhansaThe quantity and rate of all milk components affects the intensity and correct growth and development of all mammals, horses included.  Lambs and piglets fed with milk containing similar composition (about 1200 kcal, about 6% of protein and about 0,8% of ash) duplicate their birth weight after about 8-10 days but foals drinking milk with a 2/3 lower components content duplicate their weight at birth after 60 days of life.

            Mares’ milk composition changes during lactation. These changes could be connected to the physiological status of the mare, including the mares’ heat cycles and pregnancy. These changes could have an indirect effect on foals’ growth and development. In the first hours after parturition the mammary gland produces colostrum which is much richer in dry matter, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals (except calcium and phosphorus) but poorer in lactose. The main advantage of colostrum and the reason for its great value are the presence of immunoglobulins IgA, IgM, IgG and the enzymes catalase, lipases, lactases, proteinases, peptydases, phosphatases and reductases. Colostrum has a mild purgative effect on foals’ intestines which helps to clean up the intestines and excrete the meconium. The transformation of colostrum into milk takes place in the first 48 hours after parturition.
Milk’s components could be divided into 2 main groups: building components and energy components. Protein and ash are classified as 1 group and fat and carbohydrates as another group.

Table 2. Composition of domestic animals’ milk. (by Bobek 1989).


Animal species

Milk components [w %]

Water

Dry matter

Protein

Fat

Lactose

Ash

Cow

87,8

12,2

3,5

3,5

4,5

0,8

Horse

90,0

10,0

2,2

1,1

6,1

0,5

Sheep

82,5

17,5

6,5

6,1

4,5

1,0

Goat

85,8

14,2

4,4

4,4

4,6

0,8

Pig

80,0

20,0

7,3

8,4

3,3

1,0

            In wild horses lactation lasts for 8-9 months or even longer. Sometimes milk secretion does not stop even after the birth of the next foal and mares can feed two foals together for some time. But in domestic horses lactation lasts for about 6 months and its end is controlled by man. In the artificial conditions created for horses by man, a mare normally gives birth and rears one foal per year. Pregnancy in a mare normally lasts for 333 days, or about 11 months, so to fulfil the above mentioned condition the mare must be covered in the first heat cycle after she has given birth. So we can say the broodmare is pregnant nearly all the time (except the short period from parturition to covering). If man lets her feed her foal longer than 6 months, then the mare would be overexploited. That is why it is said that lactation should last no longer than 6-7 months, or in other words during the low pregnancy period when the fetal growth is not so intensive (compare to the last months of pregnancy).

Composition of Arabian Mares’ Milk:  

horseBecause foals normally drink only milk during the first month of their life it is necessary to know exactly the mares’ milk composition.

All the Arabian mares taken under consideration in my research were bred by Michałów Stud, Poland. All of them were able to secrete and produce milk and had a proper maternal instinct. Also all the foals had the normal instincts of searching for the teats and had a proper suckling impulse. On average the first suckling took place about 115 minutes after birth and about 65 minutes after first standing up (the fastest foal: 35 and 5 minutes; the slowest foal: 210 and 125 minutes). It is necessary to mention the first meconium excretion. Colostrum plays very important role in that process. On average the first meconium excretion took place about 180 minutes after birth and about 65 minutes after first suckling (the fastest foal: 5 minutes after birth before first suckling; the slowest foal: 245 minutes after birth and 155 minutes after first suckling). Nearly half the number of new born foals excreted meconium before first suckling. Young foals were drinking milk very frequently – more than once per hour – which means more than 24 times per day! Such frequent emptying of the mammary gland encourages that gland to produce more and more milk. In the studied mares the average daily milk production during the first 30 days after parturition was about 250 litres, which means nearly 10 litres per day.

 

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