In the April 2013 issue of Equus magazine, a new, simple, and inexpensive foaling prediction technique was described. Researchers in Japan discovered that measuring the pH of the mare’s milk was a reliable predictor both of foaling not being imminent and foaling happening within 72 hours. Specifically, a pH result above 6.4 “was almost 100 percent reliable in predicting that the mare would not foal within the next 24 hours.” And “once the pH value dipped below 6.5… there was a 98 percent chance the mare would deliver her foal within the next three days.” (1)
When I was at the Colorado State University Equine Reproduction Lab open house last month, I had the opportunity to speak to the professor in charge of the foaling class. I asked her about this research, and she said their preliminary testing indicated that it was indeed a reliable indicator. This endorsement was an added incentive to put the test to a test here at Willowtrail Farm.
I thought the value of this test was in predicting when foaling would happen, but in hindsight now I know the real value is knowing that foaling won’t be happening because I didn’t need to be up during the night needlessly. I have confirmed, with one data point, that the test is indeed very helpful.
I was not very knowledgeable about pH testing going into my experiment, so when I got on-line to shop for litmus paper I was quite overwhelmed with the choices. There are many, many products on the market to test saliva and urine, and it wasn’t initially clear to me whether these products would work for testing mare’s milk. They all explicitly state that they are only for testing saliva and urine. I ended up buying a type of test that was for saliva and urine and had a range from 4.5 to 9.0. The article suggested this range would work, and it did work fine. Included on the outside of the package was a color chart with .5 gradations which was helpful in getting an easy and accurate reading.
While this test is indeed simple and inexpensive, it does require one thing that may not be easy for all mare owners. You have to have a drop of milk! Fortunately, my mares allow me to handle their teats, so I was able to express a single drop onto the test strip. I measured the mare’s milk first thing in the morning so that the 24 hour window would allow me to sleep through the night without worry.
In my case, the mare foaled within 13 hours of the pH of the milk dropping, so no sleepless nights at all (just one late night). What an incredible gift this test is!
1) “A new way to predict foaling,” Equus, Volume 427, April 2013, p. 17.