Nurse Mare Foals and the Nurse Mare Industry
Nurse Mares have been around for hundreds of years. They were used to co-nurse foals if another foal was rejected, or if the mother died while giving birth. This industry started out as a good thing…but it has morphed into something much darker and morally unethical.
Nurse mares are bred so that they will come into milk. The milk that is produced is used to nourish the foal of another mare – a foal that commercially is worth much more money than her own offspring. Farms have been established in key locations throughout the United States to supply “high end” breeders with nurse mares in a quest to support their expensive foals. Nurse mare farmers keep lactating mares on their premises before, during and after the foaling season. When a mare’s services are need for a client, the farmer separates the nurse mare from her own natural foal and ships out the mare. The natural foal is left orphaned.The Nurse mare’s own foal becomes what the industry terms a “by-product” and is destined for the feedlot.
Nurse Mares are primarily a creation of the horse breeding/race horse industry. The expensive mare is bred to an even more expensive stud. Eleven months later, she has her foal. Seven to ten days after she gives birth, she comes into heat again. To remain profitable she must be bred again immediately, so that she can have another foal in eleven months, thereby producing the most mature foal for the following year.
The Jockey Club requires that Thoroughbred mares be bred only by live cover, not artificially inseminated, and the mare must travel to the stallion, leaving her young foal behind.
The mare’s seven-to-ten day old foal cannot travel with the mare to the stallion’s farm, because travel is very risky for any newborn foal. Insurance costs are prohibitive for the valuable foal to travel with its mother. Rather than put the young foal on a milk replacer product, the farm rents a mare from a nurse mare farm.
In order for the nurse mare to have come into milk, it must have also given birth to a foal. Once a request is received from the more valuable foal’s farm, the nurse mare is taken away from her own foal to become a surrogate mother.
What happens to the nurse mare’s foal?
Some are killed immediately. Some are just left in the pastures to starve to death. These “by-products”, should they ever survive, will never know the comfort of their own mothers, they will never get to learn how to be a horse from her or receive the full benefits of her milk.
No foal should be without its mother. The Nurse Mare Program DOES exist. Here at H.A.L.O., we try to create the best situation possible for the foals by helping them survive and be nurtured in every way we can.
Did You Know?
It is illegal to send a foal under 6 months of age to horse slaughter. However, foals from one day to six months old are being skinned and sold for high-end leathers. Others who aren’t rescued are sent to slaughter houses. These foals have no chance at life from the start. Their meat is considered a delicacy in some countries. Even worse, some countries actually believe that if a foal is skinned while it is still alive its meat will be more tender.
Some nurse mare farms will occasionally give the foals away, but most sell them discreetly for profit. Most nurse mare foals are available in January and February, on farms where they have been often been birthed in brutally cold and harsh conditions. This is when the “season”, so to speak, starts and the foaling begins.
Adopting a foal is literally a life-or-death decision for one of these innocent nurse mare babies. Adopters are directly responsible for saving a foal from a brutal, tragic death. Sadly, not all of them may be rescued. Rescuers in most cases must purchase these foals and pay anywhere from $100 to $400 per foal. They also incur all costs of housing, feeding, vet care and training until the foals can be adopted out to their forever homes. Any support is welcome from those willing to help!
Where does HALO come in?
1. We work closely with farm owners to reduce the numbers of their herds…only made possible through qualified placement and adequate funding.
2. We provide necessary medical treatment and proper nutrition to all animals in our care.
3. We train and develop mares and foals so that they are better suited to adoption.
4. We provide continuous support and all the love in the world to these wonderful creatures and their new owners!