Nurse mares, why we need them, and how to stop the production of nurse mare foals: A rebuttal to Last Chance Corral
“About 17, 18, years ago, I found out about the nurse mare foals. They’re only born so that their mothers will come into milk. And that milk will nourish a thoroughbred baby so that its mother can go back and get rebred because her job is to have a racehorse baby every year. If it weren’t for the fact that we were here, all of these foals would be dead.”
– Victoria, President of Last Chance Corral
These are the opening lines for a new documentary entitled “Born to Die” produced by Sue Morrow Productions, LLC. It is being made to enlighten the masses on the nurse mare industry, and the work that Last Chance Corral does to secure these foals a safe and viable future.
It is a film to show how every thoroughbred mare is pulled off of her foal in order to be rebred, and how every thoroughbred foal is then placed on a nurse mare in order to get the milk that she is producing. It is a plea for the thoroughbred industry to allow the use of artificial insemination, as that would remove the need for these mares to supplement the foals while their mother is journeying to the breeding shed.
And it is complete and utter bull shit.
I have already written of the reasons for which the thoroughbred breeding industry does in fact use nurse mares. I have explained that in my experience, only roughly 0.05% of thoroughbred foals require the addition of a nurse mare. And these are for extenuating circumstances – a prolapsed uterus, colic, laminitis, and death. We as managers do not take this decision lightly, as the initiation of the maternal bond between nurse mare and foal can be devastating – physically, emotionally, and financially. It is not a decision we take lightly, nor do we gloss over it quickly.
And I have already urged many donors to this organization as well as others to truly investigate what they are donating to. The definition of fraud is “wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial and personal gain” and fraud is what this organization is committing. Their taxes speak volumes into where the money they are raising actually goes. The nursemare foals with which they are “rescuing” are actually bought from a provider that was neither killing the foals nor neglecting them.
And by purchasing the foals, they are perpetuating the problem.
So where are we at?
- Thoroughbred mares are not taken off of their foals to be rebred.
- Nurse mare foals are not murdered the minute that they are born.
- The breeding industry is not full of cold hearted crooks wielding clubs and mallets.
Still with me? Good.
Because now we’re moving into the science – just like my life. What once began as the story of a farm manager with a pitchfork and a tractor will conclude with a life surrounded with microscopes, mitosis, and DNA.
Because their solution to this problem is to allow artificial insemination. And I am here to tell you both why this won’t work as well as to add another option – one that Last Chance Corral will never support because it would drain their pockets and their salaries.
Artificial insemination, or AI, is legal in almost all breed organizations. It is the collection of semen from a selected stallion and then the deposition of that semen directly into the uterus of the mare through the administration by personnel using a pipette. Fresh, cooled, frozen – the options are limitless.
It was created for ease of use, in addition to the ability to breed a mare to a stallion that existed thousands of miles away. In addition, AI was created to allow the practitioner to manipulate the semen in a way that improves its fertility while also decreasing the risk of disease due to the addition of antibiotics and no actual contact between the stallions penis and the mare.
The Jockey Club does not allow this to take place in the thoroughbred breeding industry. And instead of going into why, or how to change this decision, let me stay on topic and make one statement that Last Chance Corral doesn’t want to hear:
Artificial insemination will only increase the number of nursemare foals produced, because it will only increase the number of mares bred.
One of the only limiting factors into how large of a crop that the thoroughbred industry creates a year is simply money. It costs a lot of money to breed a mare – this is true for all breed organizations. But the thoroughbred industry adds one factor that the rest do not – natural cover. And the majority of thoroughbred stallions live within a one hour radius of Lexington, KY. Therefore the thoroughbred mares need to either be within driving distance to this location, or reside here on a “breeding vacation” for weeks if not months surrounding their breeding date.
This limits who can feasibly do this. It isn’t just the purchase of the mare for hundreds of thousands or the payment of the stud fee for another $50k. It is not the vet bills or the treatments needed to clear up an infection. It is, quite simply, the expense of keeping a mare at one of these chandelier-draped farms that align the winding roads of the bluegrass. Something that can run an owner into the thousands of dollars per month for a single horse.
With the addition of artificial insemination, this becomes null and void. Semen will be able to be shipped across the world. The number of owners who will be able to afford to breed their cheaper mares, ones which most likely don’t deserve to pass on their genetics, will be bred. And the crop size will increase….dramatically. Just like it did in the quarter horse industry, one that produces 5x the number of foals that the thoroughbred industry does.
So no, the addition of AI won’t help lower the number of nursemare foals produced. Although it will help Last Chance Corral, and their thickly padded pockets.
So what will?
Because we as researchers have found ways to actually induce lactation in mares which are not actually producing a foal. We are able to simply add miscellaneous therapeutics like domperidone, estradiol, and regumate – and VOILA, a mare is producing milk within a few weeks.
So why aren’t we doing this, and why isn’t LCC proposing this instead?
It comes down, quite simply, to money.
We need to be able to have access to nursemares much more quickly than a few weeks after a mare dies. We need money in order to research the induction of lactation so that we can speed up the process. And LCC needs the money of donations from the bleeding hearts to keep pouring in. They know exactly what they are doing – and that AI will only exacerbate the issue, therefore providing them with more foals, and more income.
But we – both as scientists and industry – can actually solve this problem. While we can’t eliminate the need for nursemares, as the risk of a mare suffering a catastrophic injury or illness while pregnant or post-foaling will always be there, but we can stop the production of the nursemare foals.
And you can help. How?
Take the $5, $10, or $500 you would donate to this fraudulent activity and instead give it to an equine researcher.
Stop the need for nursemare foals to be produced here and now. Be a part of the solution, not the problem. And put your money where your newly knowledgable mouth is – in the right place, for the right people, and at the right time. And that right time is now.
The science, for your knowledge: (As per Equine Reproduction ed. Squires)
|Procedure for inducing lactation in the barren mare|
|Select a cycling mare who has previously delivered a foal and lactated successfully|
|Administer estradiol benzoate (50 mg/500 kg), intramuscularly once.|
|Begin daily administration of altrenogest (22 mg/500 kg) orally once her pay and a dopamine antagonist of choice:
• Sulpiride (1 mg/kg, intramusculary, twice daily)
• Domperidone (1.1 mg/kg, orally, twice daily, q 12 h)
|Start milking six times daily on the 4th to 7th day of treatment, when mammary gland development it noted|
|Utilize oxytocin administration (1-5 IU, IM or IV, 1-2 minutes prior to milking) to promote milk let down|
|Introduce foal after 3-4 days of milking, when production has reached 3-5/day in a 500kg mare|
|Discontinue altrenogest on day 7 of treatment and discontinue dopamine antagonist treatment several days after adoption|