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Milk Test Strips as Foaling Predictors

I Am Ranch Miniature Horses is sharing with you what we do to maintain the health of our horses. This is not intended to direct you on how to care for your horse. The intent of this is only to share what we do, and raise questions for you. We advise you to consult your veterinarian before making any changes in your horse's health care. The information found on our website is not to supersede the advise of your veterinarian. I AM Ranch Miniature Horses cannot be held liable for the care of your horse(s).

Milk test strips are really just strips that folks use to test the total water hardness in swimming pools. Remember that this predictor of foaling must be read and interpreted in concert with all the other signs of foaling. Click here to read the signs of foaling that we have observed. It seems that most of the "signs of foaling" vary from mare to mare, but the changes in the milk just before foaling are the most reliably consistent factor.

After testing numerous mares, I prefer the EM Quant Total Hardness Test strips. They are about 98% reliable When the strips have failed to predict a birth (2 times after testing many, many mares) the mare has had a dystocia (malpresentation of foal). Thus far, it has also been false positives and never a false negative.

Total Hardness Strips: I bought ours from Nurenberg Scientific Supply in Portland for about $60 for 100 strips. They can be ordered by phone at (503) 246-8297. I cut our strips in half to make them last longer. Keep the test strips in the frig, per the manufacturers directions. They can be used from one year to the next, but keep them sealed and refrigerated. These strips give you details about the changing calcium level in a mare's milk. There are 4 squares on the strip. If all 4 squares change color within 60 seconds after dipping, I know we will meet baby within 24 hours. My adrenalin rush keeps my up all night to watch the cameras and spread straw. Read more about the procedure below.

Click here to see a movie of us testing a mare's milk using the Total Hardness Strips!

Click here to see another movie of us testing a mare's milk using the Total Hardness Strips!

Procedure for both types of strips:

  1. Rinse all utensils to be used with Distilled water to remove any calcium particles that are present from your tap water. Test at room temperature. In a cold temp., the speed with which the chemical reaction occurs can be slowed. Measure precisely.

  2. Milk the mare into one cup. Don't overmilk. For miniatures, we add .5 cc milk to 3cc water. (For big horses, use 1cc milk to 6 cc water) 

  3. Measure 3 cc of distilled water into a second cup. Keep the distilled water clean. 

  4. In the small syringe, draw up .5 cc of milk and squirt it into the 3cc  of water. FLUSH the syringe in the distilled water at least once. This is such a small sample that it can affect the test if you leave milk in the syringe.

  5. Dip each strip for 4 seconds, which which has four color blocks on it, and    time exactly 1 minute. Hold your breath and read the results.

Analysis of the "Total Hardness Strip": (the blocks change from green to purple)

  • 1-2 blocks changed -- Rest easy tonight. Sleep while you can to store up for your night of mare stare! Your mare is not even close. The milk will be clear sticky fluid or slightly cloudy, and probably hard to get. Test every other day.

  • 3 blocks changed -- Pick up testing your mare to daily, but always test at the same time. The milk will be cloudy, and may almost be white. In my pre-milkstrip days, I would already be losing sleep, for the mare will look ready to pop right now

  • 3 blocks change right away, 4th changing if strip is left out after 1 minute -- Not yet. Continue as above...

  • 4 blocks changed WITHIN 60 SECONDS -- Spread the straw, put on the coffee pot, get your foaling kit in order, hook up your trailer. I will be having my daughters with me in the bedroom helping me watch the cameras! You are within 48 hours of foaling, probably closer to 24 hrs or less. The milk may be white. The faster the squares change, the closer you are!

We were testing with just one type of milk strip (Total Hardness) and had 100% success rate until Jewel came along. One night we tested her milk and confidently said we were having a baby after making a funny Pink Panther video. We were very confident until morning came and Jewel still was hiding her little one. Five more nights went by with the same result. A breeder friend encouraged me to also test her pH levels. They quickly revealed that her pH level was too high for foaling in the near future. Ironically, this breeder friend also had great success with the Total Hardness strips until her mare, Crystal, fooled her. This makes me conclude that one should not name a mare after any gem!

Prior to Jewel's pregnancy, we were only using the Total Hardness Strips. To read a 'case study' of a mare close to foaling, click here... This page was made before Jewel.

To see our documentation of the milk strips and photographs from 2007, click here..

You can read about our Jewel's progression by clicking here.

Of course, we look at all the other signs of foaling and take them into account with every mare.

We still only test using only the Total Hardness Strips above, but every now and then, we will use the "hth 6-Way Swimming Pool and Spa Test Strips" also. (Click here to see a video where we use BOTH strips on 2 mares) The Total Hardness Strips have 4 squares that reveal Calcium levels, and over time, they have been clearer and easier to read.

hth 6-Way Swimming Pool and Spa Test Strips-

These only cost about $10. They test calcium levels in addition to the pH but this strip only has one square to illustrate calcium level. That is why, I rely on the "Total Hardness Strips". The procedure for testing with this 6-Way strip is the same, so it is easy to test both at the same time.


Click here to see us testing a mare's milk using the 6-Way Swimming Pool Strip

Analysis of the 6-Way Swimming Pool Strip:

If it is your mare's big night, the calcium levels must be high and the pH levels must be low. The pH levels are indicated by the 3rd square on the strips. In this photo, the mare is not ready which indicated by the reddish pink color. When she is ready to foal, the pH level will be below 7.2 and the square will be more orange.

The calcium level is also tested by this strip and is indicated by the purple square (far left square). They are purple in this photo which means that the calcium level is high. But both indicators need to change correctly for me to lose sleep.



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