Weaning foals from their dams should take place when the foal is between 4 and 6 months of age. The decision on when to wean should be made based on the nutritional needs of the individual mare and foal, as well as the use and future plans of the mare and foal. In addition to deciding when to wean a foal, an owner must also decide how to accomplish the weaning. Several methods have been studied in controlled environments and used successfully. One method might work better than the next depending on the set up of your facilities, your available time, and the number of mares and foals.
The arrival of a new foal is an exciting time for a horse owner. A lot of time, effort, and money have been invested in order to reach this point. You have also potentially lost a lot of sleep waiting to watch your mare as she foals, so that you can assist if necessary. You’ve done everything you can to ensure your foal gets the best start to his life. It is important to continue this level of interest and care as your foal grows throughout his first several months. This is the most rapid period of growth, with most light breeds of horses reaching about 40% of their mature weight by six months of age. The dam’s milk will usually serve as a complete nutrient supply for the foal for the first six to eight weeks of life, but he will quickly seek solid sources of feed to supplement his diet.
Spring is the time of year we are anxiously awaiting new foals. What are some things we can do to make sure our foals are born healthy?
- First, we need to make sure we are supporting the mare’s nutritional needs during and after pregnancy. As long as your mare was in good body condition before getting pregnant and throughout the winter, she should not need any additional calories through the first 7-8 months of pregnancy. After that, the foal gains weight rapidly causing your pregnant mare to require approximately 20% more calories, and additional protein, calcium and phosphorus. These requirements can be supplied through a good quality hay and an appropriate mare and foal feed supplement such as Calf-Manna intended for pregnant mares. Fescue hay must be strictly avoided during the last 60 days of gestation as it contains a toxic fungus that causes thickening of the placenta, retained placenta, prolonged gestation, difficulty in foaling, and failure to produce milk. The broodmare's nutritional needs after birth during early lactation increase to nearly 70% more than before pregnancy. As always, all increases in feeding should be made gradually.
- Second, we need to vaccinate the mare appropriately. Your mare should be vaccinated against Equine Herpes Virus at the 5th, 7th, and 9th month of gestation to prevent miscarriage due to EHV-1. She should also be given all her routine vaccinations (boosters) 1 month prior to foaling to ensure that the foal is protected at birth against preventable diseases. If the mare is not vaccinated, the foal will be susceptible.
- Third, we need to make sure that we take special precautions around the time of foaling. The paddock should have adequate shelter and fencing to prevent the foal from getting stuck in or under the fence, or the foaling stall should be bedded with straw. If you are lucky enough to witness the foaling, the foal should present front feet first, with the nose appearing between the two feet. The foal should be delivered within 30 minutes, standing within 2 hours, and nursing within 3 hours. If not, your veterinarian should be called immediately. After birth, you should carefully examine the foal and dip the umbilicus in an iodine solution. If the umbilicus is bleeding, you can tie it off with dental floss or thin string. If all is normal, the mare, foal, and placenta should be examined by your veterinarian within about 24 hours after birth. A simple blood test (IgG) will be taken to ensure the foal is nursing adequately and that the mare is producing good quality colostrum.
Keeping these things in mind, and following your veterinarians advice regarding any special circumstances, you can enjoy watching your foal grow up happy and healthy!
Calf-Manna Mare and foal feed supplement, is formulated to meet the special nutritional requirements of broodmares, especially during the critical last months of pregnancy and through lactation. Calf-Manna has an appetizing flavor, so you can be sure mares will eat it and absorb those vital nutrients!
Spring is right around the corner and with that comes the birth of many newborn baby animals, including one of our favorites…foals! If you are expecting a foal this spring, learning about the importance of colostrum may make all the difference in your foal's life.
Meet Rebecca Phillips, owner and operator of DezRay Arabians a training, boarding, and breeding facility in Waterloo, Illinois. Rebecca competes with both her clients and her own Arabians at the National level, and barrel races Quarter Horses in her free time. Calf-Manna Performance Supplement has been a staple in her breeding program for many years, it's a tradition passed down from her parents.
The babies are coming, the babies are coming!
Foaling season is fast approaching, if not already in full swing for some; and so yes indeed the babies are coming. There is so much preparation to do and so many precautions to take that it can literally make your head ache and your stomach churn. Of course one of the more serious maladies, foal pneumonia, can really do a number on your cranium and gut if you are not keenly dialed in on safeguarding against it.