By Chuck Maker DVM
A healthy foal will grow rapidly, gaining in height, weight and strength almost before your eyes. From birth to age two, a young horse can achieve 90 percent or more of its full adult size. The nutritional start a foal gets can have a profound effect on its health and soundness for the rest of its life.
At eight to ten weeks of age, mare’s milk alone may not adequately meet the foal’s nutritional needs. As the foal’s dietary requirements shift from milk to feed and forage, your role in providing the proper nutrition gains in importance. Following are guidelines to help you meet the young horse’s nutritional needs:
- Provide high quality roughage (hay and pasture) free choice. Ensure appropriate mineral supplementation according to the pasture provided
- Supplement with a high quality, properly balanced grain concentrates at weaning, or earlier if more rapid rates of gain are desired.
- Start by feeding one percent on a foal’s body weight per day (i.e., one pound of feed for each 100 pounds of body weight), or one pound of feed per month of age. Weigh and adjust the feed ration based on growth and fitness. A weight tape can help you approximate a foal’s size.
- Foals have small stomachs so dividing the daily ration into two to three feedings.
- To reduce the chances of developmental problems make sure feeds contain the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, energy and protein.
- Use a creep feeder or feed the foal separate from the mare so it can eat its own ration. Avoid group creep feeding situations.
- Do not overfeed. Overweight foals are more prone to developmental orthopedic disease.
- Provide unlimited fresh, clean water for the mare and foal.
- Provide opportunity for abundant exercise.
The reward for providing excellent nutrition and conscientious care will be a healthy foal that grows into a sound and useful horse. Give us a call at Alpine Animal Hospital (970.963.2371) for more information about providing proper nutrition for your foal and ensuring the best athletic outcome for your investment.