Calving is a calm affair compared to foaling

File photo.

About this time of the year, I usually get a call from Dermot, so it was no surprise when the call eventually came.

Due to the way his day pans out, he likes me to visit in the late evening, and that suits me too.

Following years of anguish and interference with his lifestyle, and the way he could plan out his day, Dermot came across a little device that was to change his life and the lives of his family too.

Dermot has quite a number of brood mares, and every year, when they came to foaling, the trouble started.

Unlike cows and sheep, the mare is very aggressive in the act of foaling.

In the run-up to the foaling, the owner has a predicted date of foaling and is watching the mare. Usually they can see her “bagging up”, that is they can see the udder enlarging, as the milk producing cells in the udder start to awaken, in anticipation of the foaling.

Some mares do this gradually, while more can do it all of a sudden, and have the foal on the ground before you know it.

Dermot is an old hand at this game, but he still gets very edgy around this time of the year, because even the best of them get caught out by the mare sometimes.

You hear stories of people watching a mare through the night, with nothing happening, but as soon as they pop down to the kitchen to make themselves a cup of tea, the mare starts pushing.

Once the mare starts this phase of the birthing process, things progress at an enormously accelerated rate.

If the presentation of the foal is not correct, things can go horribly wrong in a very short space of time.

With cows, this part of the calving can take a few hours, and there is no major panic, but with the mare, we are talking about minutes. Once the presentation is wrong, the poor foal generally cannot come out.

Things like a leg back, or a head turned back, can be common place, and every now and again, we might see a foal coming with its head and front legs presented normally, but with the addition of a hind leg coming as well.

These cases are serious and need prompt veterinary intervention. The mare has to be anaesthetised and manipulated so that the presentation of the foal can be corrected and a normal presentation assumed.

It is little wonder then that Dermot was delighted with his little device, called the foaling alarm. The main part of it is no bigger than your thumb, and this has to be stitched on to one of the lips of the mare’s vulva.

There is a pin mechanism inserted into this device. The pin has a loop of stitch attached to it, and this loop is stitched on to the opposite lip of the vulva.

So when the lips of the vulva are pushed apart, as at foaling, the pin is pulled out of the device, and an alarm is sent to the mobile phone of the owner.

Up to four numbers can be contacted at the one time with this message, so the mare should be able to receive immediate attention.

It means that the mare owner does not need to be watching over the mare 24/7, and can get on with other things during the day and can also get a good night’s sleep.

Quality of life is paramount, in all walks of life.

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