Using aggressive feeding practices for maximal growth in young horses can be a common cause of physitis, an inflammation of cartilaginous growth plates.
What is the best way to nourish weanlings and yearlings when they are kept in stalls due to injuries, sometimes for long periods of time?
Weaning methods range from the “quick and clean” approach, where the foal is completely separated from the mare in one step, to various procedures in which the weaning is more gradual.
A foal is driven to stand within an hour of birth and nurse within two hours. How do you know your foal is nursing enough (or too much) and growing appropriately? When should “real feed” be introduced?
Pushing foals for fast weight gain can be a recipe for bone problems, so managers should keep track of weight and adjust the foal’s diet to keep a smooth, steady growth plane.
Nursing supplies 100% of the nutritional requirement for six to eight weeks after a foal’s birth. Mare’s milk is 98% digestible and is thus the perfect food for young foals. By nursing as often as 10 times an hour on the first day, a foal consumes about 15% of its body weight in colostrum and milk.
In the rare cases when mares ignore, reject, or even attack their foals, managers must intervene quickly to make sure the foal is fed and protected from injury. A common problem is an overly full udder that is sensitive to pressure from the foal’s attempts to nurse.
“Mealtime” means different things to different animals: toddlers despise it, chefs drool in anticipation, hibernating animals abuse it prior to winter, and athletes covet carb-rich meals before competing. For foals, their first meal could mean the difference between life and death.
Many of the minerals needed by the newborn foal for the first month or so of life are actually given to the foal by the mare in utero before it even starts nursing. Ideally, from then on foals initially derive all of the nutrients necessary for growth and development from the mare’s milk and forage.
Because a number of factors are involved in foal growth rates, management and feeding practices that are successful in producing large, healthy foals in one country may not produce exactly the same results in other regions.
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