The status of the mare and foetus in relation to readiness for birth was assessed by measurement of the electrolytes sodium, potassium and calcium in mammary secretions pre-partum.
Sixteen Thoroughbred mares were allowed to foal spontaneously and the ionic status of their mammary secretions was measured over three to five weeks pre-partum. From these measurements, a scoring system was developed where an ionic score of 35 points or more suggested that the mare was within 24 h of foaling. On the basis of this ionic score, 10 pony mares were induced with either oxytocin or fluprostenol and assessment of foal maturity was made by physical, behavioural and physiological criteria.
Eight pony mares, induced when the ionic score was 35 points or more, delivered full term foals; two mares were induced when their scores were 30 and 20 points and delivered a full term and slightly immature foal respectively.
These results suggest that foetal maturity may be related to electrolyte concentrations in mammary secretions and that an ionic score of 35 points or more may indicate that induction would be successful in terms of maturity of the newborn foal.