by Dr. Jim White originally for Today's Farmer magazine, MFA's member magazine.
Foal health starts with good nutrition. Here is the TOP NINE ways to help your foal have a great start in life.
At eight to 10 weeks of age, mare’s milk alone may not adequately meet a 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 importance. Following are guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners to help horse owners meet the nutrient needs of young horses.
The foal’s first months of life is a time of rapid growth and digestive changes, and a time when nutrition plays a critical role in skeletal development. To achieve each foal’s genetic potential, you must provide feed to complement their changing digestive system in a form they can absorb and meet their nutrient needs of proteins, fats, calories, macro minerals, trace minerals and vitamins.
A common management practice in the past has been to allow nursing foals to eat with their dams. Unfortunately, the foal under two months of age has little ability to digest the higher fiber feeds of adult animals. Young foals have a digestive system geared up to take advantage of milk, but that changes over time. When a foal is between three and four months of age its digestive system changes to better handle cereals.
Nutritional shortages can develop from the decline in the mineral density in mare’s milk. If this is the reason, the foal will begin to show signs of developmental orthopedic disease between two to four months of age.
To help ensure adequate consumption, offer a creep feeder for the foal during its first week, then find a way keep foal and mare feed separate.
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