Newborn - Yearling
When a horse is first born, they need very specific nutrients to nourish their systems. Typically, these come from their mother, but sometimes additional nourishment is needed from an outside source.
A healthy foal born to a nurturing mother will typically stand and nurse fairly quickly after birth. During the first few hours to days of life, the mother will produce colostrum, which is a antibody rich first milk that will help protect the foal from disease. After this feeding, the foal will continue to nurse from its mother and the mare’s milk to evolve to provide the foal with all the nutrients it needs for sustenance.
Many times, a mare’s milk is enough to sustain the foal until they begin to show an interest in feed, but if a foal is suckling for more than 30 minutes at a time, supplement feed or a milk replacer may be necessary.
When a foal is 10 to 14 days old, they may begin to show interest in solid foods and their digestive systems can quickly adapt to these new dietary changes. From two to ten weeks old, a foal may continue to nurse and eat solid foods. After ten weeks old, a foal may need to be given more solid food to increase growth and nutrition.
Foal Feeding Guide:
Free Choice high-quality hay and/or grass
If more weight is needed, supplement free choice roughage with a high-quality, balanced grain at weaning
Divide daily rations into two-to-three feedings
Feed grain concentrate at a rate of one pound/100 lbs of body weight
Provide clean, unlimited water
Do not overfeed
Between four to six months of age, a foal will need to be weaned from its mother. After a foal is three months old, a mare’s milk supply will begin to decrease, which starts the natural weaning process. During this process, the foal’s grain ration should be increased over a two to three week period to counteract the decrease in milk supply. After weaning, the foal weanling should each 2-3% of its body weight in roughage and feed concentrate per day.
It is important that a weanling and yearling have a high protein diet, so plan on feeding a grain containing 14 to 16% protein. A high protein content will help a foal grow strong bones and muscles. As always, be sure to provide free choice roughage, and ensure that this is the majority of the diet.
For more information, please contact your veterinarian.
AAEP. “Foal Growth: Special Care and Nutrition.” AAEP, 2017, aaep.org/horsehealth/foal-growth-special-care-and-nutrition.