Most foals will nurse for a short period of a time (minutes) but very often the first week or two of life. If the foal suckles for more than 30 minutes at a time, it may not be receiving enough milk. Supplemental feed or milk replacer may be required.
A healthy foal will grow rapidly the first 2 years of its life achieving 90% or more of its full adult size. Weight gain may reach up to 3 lbs per day. By two weeks of age, the foal may show interest in grain and may begin to nibble his mother’s feed. This added solid food to the diet allows the foal’s digestive tract to begin to mature. The foal may be seen eating feces (caprophagy) and this is normal. This behavior allows the introduction of microflora to the foal’s digestive system. By 8-10 weeks of age, the mare’s milk alone may not adequately meet the foal’s nutritional needs. Complete grain and hay may need to be added to the foals diet to satisfy the nutritional demands for growth and maturity.
FOAL FEEDING GUIDELINES
1. Provide high quality hay and grass free choice. Clean water should always be available.
2. If grain is fed to the foal, supplement with a quality commercial foal feed from weaning through the first year of life.
3. Start by feeding 1% of a foal’s body weight per day (1 lb of feed for each 100 lbs of body weight) or one pound of feed per month of age.
4. Weigh and adjust the feed ration based on growth and fitness. A weight tape can help you approximate a foal’s size.
Foals are commonly weaned at 4-6 months of age. Once the foal is no longer nursing, a 500-600 pound weanling should be eating between 2-3 % of its body weight in feed and forage a day.
VACCINATIONS AND DEWORMING
If the mare was vaccinated and dewormed approximately 45 days prior to foaling, your foal should be “vaccinated” after ingestion of adequate amounts of colostrum. This immunity will wane by weaning or approximately 6 months. At this time, your foal should begin his or her first series of vaccinations to protect your foal from life-threatening diseases. We recommend that you submit the foal’s fecal sample for analysis and the proper dewormer can be given to your weanling. A complete oral exam should be included in his/her first veterinary exam at weaning.
1. Limit stall confinement. Foals need lots of exercise and we recommend at least 10 hours of pasture time per day.
2. Do not force exercise due to the chance of joint damage.
3. Rest a foal if it appears that the foal is exhausted and is unable to keep up with the mare. Once the foal is rested, he may return to exercise.
4. Keep the foals hooves trimmed in order to encourage proper bone development and foot balance.
5. Provide a clean, safe, and quiet environment for the foal to rest. Check the foal’s stall for loose boards, protruding nails, wire, broken equipment and any other hazards.