Retained placenta… bad luck? Or is there more to it?
I am going to say there is definitely more to it. And if you look to the cattle industry they agree. And a lot of it comes down to one little mineral… SELENIUM!
I was recently at an Animal Nutrition conference at the University of New England. One of the speakers, Prof Michael Lee (University of Bristol) spoke about selenium. Here are a few photos I snapped of his slides:
Listed at the top of his list of symptoms of selenium deficiency in ruminants was retained placenta. And this is certainly what I see in horses too.
Almost the only time I see retained placenta as a widespread issue is on breeding farms that do not supplement pregnant mares.
The most recent case I dealt with was a farm with more than 100 standardbred broodmares. At the time of my first visit, the mares were not supplemented at all during pregnancy.
And retained placenta was occurring in 25 % of mares! 1 in every 4 mares were experiencing this potentially life threatening complication! Eek!!
I suggested that if they supplement with selenium (as part of an overall balancer pellet) that this shouldn’t be such an issue.
They decided they would experiment. And gave half the mares the balancer pellet. The other half they left unsupplemented.
The results were clear. The supplemented mares had one mare in 60 with retained placenta. That is less than 2%… a big reduction from 25%!
The unsupplemented mares had 2 retained placenta within the first 4 mares that foaled! This was enough to convince the farm that maybe we were onto something… so rather than keep going with the experiment they very quickly put all the mares on to the balancer pellet!
The interesting thing for me was that the incidence of retained placenta dropped almost immediately in this group of mares who were initially unsupplemented.
The nutrition of your pregnant mares is so important. This is just another reason you should pay close attention to mineral nutrition, especially because selenium is a mineral that is often low in forages and is therefore often deficient in diets.
For more about feeding pregnant mares click here to read our post ‘Feeding Pregnant Mares’.