Foals can be a lot of work, but it is important to monitor them closely. Foals should drink up to 25 percent of their body weight in milk daily with an average weight gain of one to two lb/day. The main component of a foal’s diet is milk but they will often try sampling the mares feed in the first few months. At about three months of age you should begin the transition onto a solid diet (creep feeding). Talk with your veterinarian and feed store about the type of creep feed you need. It is important that your foal’s diet is balanced to avoid excess growth/weight gain and progression of developmental diseases.
Foals receive protection from disease from the mare’s colostrum. Over time this protection wanes and the foal will need its own protection. Timing of vaccinations are critical in ensuring that your foal is completely protected. If they are given too early, maternal antibodies from the colostrum make the vaccines less effective but given too late, the foal can be unprotected from deadly diseases. Another critical factor is that the vaccination schedule differs for the foal depending on if the mare was up to date on vaccinations or not when the foal was born.
A regular deworming schedule for both mare and foal is important. Threadworms (Strongyloides westeri) are transmitted through milk and foals are exposed to other parasite eggs in the mare’s feces.
Vaccination, nutrition and deworming schedules should be designed with your veterinarian to ensure that your foal stays happy and healthy.
column by DR. KATIE HENNESSY
BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine. After completing an advanced internship and working as an Associate Veterinarian, she is currently practicing at Polk Equine, LLC. Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.